Utopia: Episode #1.1   Rewatch 
June 23, 2014 11:37 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

With Channel 4 getting ready to broadcast Season 2 of dark conspiracy thriller Utopia in July this year (with some fantastic new cast members), the time is ripe for a rewatch.

In Episode #1.1, five strangers who only know each other as members of a forum that discusses a mysterious comic book known as 'The Utopia Experiments' are wrenched from their day-to-day lives after the manuscript for the rumoured 'Part 2' comes into their possession.

Hauntingly shot, with moments of grim humour and a jangling, minimalist soundtrack, the first episode is an intriguing opening to the first series.

I'll be posting an episode every couple of days until all six season 1 episodes have been covered, then I intend to post Season 2 episodes as they are aired.
posted by Happy Dave (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Previously on Metafilter.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2014


I hope I'm not spoiling anything for the rewatch, but what I hated about this whole series (first season) is that it could be interpreted as having an anti-vaccination message. (I'm pretty sure that's introduced pretty early on.)

I also think that it's pretty heavily influenced by comics writers Grant Morrison (for the heroes), and Garth Ennis (for the villains.) Overall it's a strange chimera; bright colors, quirky characters and occasional exceptionally horrific ultraviolence.
posted by Catblack at 12:07 PM on June 23, 2014


Catblack: "I hope I'm not spoiling anything for the rewatch, but what I hated about this whole series (first season) is that it could be interpreted as having an anti-vaccination message. (I'm pretty sure that's introduced pretty early on.) "

The specific conspiracies around vaccinations really get going around around episode 4, so we should probably save detailed discussion of those points in particular for that episode's thread.

However, more generally I think the series has a mixture of chemtrails-esque 'they're poisoning our environment' paranoia mixed with a particularly nihilistic/utilitarian worldview that is introduced later. It's the terrifying and deeply unsettling uneasiness of examining what the 'bad guys' have to say and wondering if there might be some truth in it. But again, more detail in later threads on that.

Catblack: "Overall it's a strange chimera; bright colors, quirky characters and occasional exceptionally horrific ultraviolence."

I think that's what makes the first episode so unsettling and compelling. The settings are incredibly quotidian and ordinary, but they are shot in ways that make them seem deeply odd, with long panning shots, wide shots that are composed like paintings and brutally violent things happening in strange, detached, background ways.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:31 PM on June 23, 2014


I loved this show, the DVD is sitting waiting a rewatch, which I probably won't have time to do so and keep up with these threads, but I may try. This episode features easily the most graphic scene of the series, the torture scene. I didn't love it. I probably could have lived without it, but what it did establish how very high the stakes are. I love that at this point in the story basically anything could happen. We know this comic is very important, but we really don't know why.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:37 PM on June 23, 2014


This is my favorite UK series of the decade so far. It looks so good (watch on the best screen you can), the plot was sufficiently unpredictable (certain people have unexpected things happen to them), and some of the characters - especially Arby - are unforgettable.

One thing. Episode 3 was controversial - and this is with a UK audience - because of the US Sandy Hook school shooting which happened a few months before. While I don't want to give spoilers, it seems wise to flag this up if you haven't seen Utopia. It unsettled me, but Utopia does get quite dark in tone at times.
posted by Wordshore at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2014


Wordshore: "One thing. Episode 3 was controversial - and this is with a UK audience - because of the US Sandy Hook school shooting which happened a few months before. While I don't want to give spoilers, it seems wise to flag this up if you haven't seen Utopia. It unsettled me, but Utopia does get quite dark in tone at times."

Yeah, I'll add a warning to the Ep. 3 thread.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:11 PM on June 23, 2014


Also: if you have an eye phobia, you need to stay the holy fuck away from this show.

Just sayin'.

As for the show itself, I loved it. I'm disappointed it's being remade by David Fincer for US audience instead of you now, just shown. They are speaking English after all.

Utopia is so amazingly well-photographed that its only serious peers are much more heralded US shows like Breaking Bad. It's THAT good. Really.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:33 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


So is this a rewatch thread? There's no tag. I'd love to start spilling but I want to be sure.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:33 PM on June 23, 2014


Yes, it is, added the tag.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2014


I was also a bit turned off by the vaccines angle. Because seriously, the last fucking thing this world needs is more nightmare for paranoid antivaxxers.

That said, I am interested to watch again because I want to see if, as it unfolds before me again, the central conspiracy still sounds so unsettlingly, terrifyingly reasonable. Not that a person would agree to it mind you, just that you don't have to be a crazed villain to at least consider it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:51 PM on June 23, 2014


I freaking LOVE this show. The visuals, conspiracies, British accents, a talented cast... What more could you want? Oh yeah, a gripping plot and really visceral storytelling.
posted by Strass at 12:01 AM on June 24, 2014


DirtyOldTown: "I was also a bit turned off by the vaccines angle. Because seriously, the last fucking thing this world needs is more nightmare for paranoid antivaxxers."

This episode really plays with that though, as Wilson Wilson is basically painted as an out-and-out tinfoil hat wearing loon.

The irony being, of course, that the actual conspiracy is much crazier than the ones he's been imagining.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:58 AM on June 24, 2014


This show was the most Invisibles show ever made thus far. Maybe I wasn't paying attention enough but I didn't notice an anti-vaxx message.
posted by Kitteh at 6:00 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


As this is a rewatch, we can also think about whether the plot makes sense.


SPOOOILLLLEEEEERRRRRSSS (just in case)

We know from the ending that the actual goal is to obtain Jessica Hyde, who's blood contains the formula they need.

So what is going on this first episode? I can think of two hypothesis

1)The book is deliberately released, intending to draw Hyde out of hiding. This is a high risk/reward scheme, as the book does contain details of the conspiracy, but they do need Hyde. Unfortunately a fan buys the comic instead of Hyde. The fixers are sent to track him and the book down, and kill everyone related to it. Once they have the book again, they'll use it to draw out Hyde. They also check whether any of them are wokring for Hyde.
2)The book reappears, and Mr Rabbit assumes that this is Hyde's doing. Rabbit makes the assumption that Hyde has been working with others, so assumes that they will know where Hyde is. Its not until later that she realises her mistake.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:58 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


What more could you want?

Dont forget the awesome bonkers score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer. The music had me grinning like an idiot. Bouncy squelchy dub for a conspiracy drama on paper sounds obnoxious but it fits wonderfully.
posted by Ness at 3:15 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Please tell me I'm not the only one who sat through the whole episode confusedly expecting to see Jessica Hynes (of Spaced) show up at some point, only finally remembering her correct name once the credits had stopped.
posted by forgetful snow at 9:02 AM on June 26, 2014


Reminder - Season 2 has begun, Fanfare thread here.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:32 PM on July 15, 2014


Just finished watching season1 today. Beyond the great cinematography, the ultraviolence and whacked out conspiracy of a plot - for me, what makes the show is Cristobal Tapia de Vee's atmospheric soundtrack which absolutely sets mood and ratchets up tension. Most excellent.
posted by hoodrich at 9:00 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've rewatched the first 5 episodes, and I'm highly impressed with it. It was better than I'd remembered. I recall the violence being a tad more shocking, but if you can get past the first episode's torture scene (which is utterly gruesome) that's about the worst of it. The rest of the violence in season one is shocking but mostly because it comes at unexpected moments.

The soundtrack for the series (especially season one) is amazing.

I remembered season one as a lot of running around after a macguffin, but upon rewatch I see that it's a lot of amazing character development during that running around. I am noticing some plot holes here and there, mostly in the 'how could they have known to go there?' sort, but it doesn't really detract from things overall.

I've heard David Fincher wants to do a remake, and you can see his influence on the director of the first season. That is, if you like David Fincher films, you must see this show. I really hope that if he does, it's not a remake, but a parallel story that covers the same time period as both seasons with different protagonists, because you absolutely cannot recast the ensemble they found for this series. And they absolutely deserve another chance to resolve their stories, each of them.

I don't know how they did it exactly, but within the first ten minutes of his introduction, Wilson Wilson became my favorite character. Which makes him so great as the series goes on. Superb performances throughout, too.
posted by Catblack at 9:10 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


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