Utopia (2013): Utopia: Episode #2.4
July 30, 2014 10:53 PM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

A shocked Dugdale reluctantly agrees to harbour Jessica, but who should be scared of who? When Dugdale visits Jen and Alice in a secret prison it's clear he will do whatever The Network asks in order to keep his family

Spoilers below:

So Anton is Carvel; his adjustment is to allow one race to survive, but which one? Donaldson falls off a chair and dies, he takes a bullet in the head as well. Wilson Wilson makes a very small start at population control, deftly killing two MI5 sentries and Ian's brother, at Milner's orders. She hopes to draw Ian to their mother's house. Milner finds herself at the wrong end of the gun at Dugdale's, but Jessica is held back by the revelation of her father. Arby takes along Grant and Anton on a trip.
posted by Gyan (19 comments total)
This episode was full of 'holy shit' moments for me. I really enjoyed it and it definitely combined the Utopia key ingredients of incredible violence shot from disturbing, dissociating viewpoints and total 'whaaat' plot twists. The full extent of the Network's plans grow ever more horrendous, while at the same time they have the horrible disquieting sense that, however grim their methods, they might just be right. It's a really grim message. Milner's little speech to Wilson in the food court was terrifying, but for about four different reasons. She's terrifying as a person, her brainwashed cropduster pilot is equally terrifying, but her logic is also insidious.

The final Carvel reveal was pretty amazing. Poor translator guy.

Why did Pietre flip out and try to kill everybody?

Also, thanks for posting, I'm behind on watching these.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:46 AM on July 31, 2014

Ben let Pietre smuggle out Amanda & Tess in exchange for him clearing up loose ends and maybe bringing Anton back to Milner.
posted by Gyan at 3:07 AM on July 31, 2014

Right - but he seemed to become a lot more violent when he found out that Anton was actually Carvel...
posted by Happy Dave at 3:26 AM on July 31, 2014

Daddy issues, I'd guess.
posted by Gyan at 3:51 AM on July 31, 2014

I didn't enjoy this ep as much as previous ones, but I'm not sure if that's because of its actual content or where it signals the show is going. Some thoughts:

- Obviously Donaldson was going to die fairly soon, what with Arby/Pietre needing to get his family safe and D being the price, but his death seemed hella abrupt. I feel like Becky's Deel's storyline needs closure, and I don't see how that's going to happen now, especially with Anton going off with A/P. There don't seem to have been any more scenes with her taking thoraxin, or of her showing symptoms of the Deel's; with only 2 episodes left, where are the show writers going to take this?

- This episode really marked the start of me being freaked the fuck out by Jessica. She was engaging in some nice headfuckery with Ross, the interrogator in the second episode, but whatever she was doing with both Ian and Dugdale... Bizarro. But now Grant's got Ian's coat, with Jessica's phone hidden in it (presumably with Find My Phone on it so that she can track it), so we're being set up for a nice big family reunion there, if Grant stays with A/P and Anton/Carvel. It's unclear whether or not A/P is bothered about returning his dad to the Network's clutches. Super interested to see how that plays out.

- How in the blue fuck did Wilson manage to perform two head shots, at some distance, in quick succession like that? Yes, I know this kid is meant to be the font of all knowledge, and it's not inconceivable that he'd have somehow done some target practice somewhere, but he's under incredible stress, with a firearm he's not used before... the precision of that just annoyed me. But I guess he's properly gone over to the dark side now. So interesting that, after the scene in episode 3 with Lee where he was being physically threatened but still unable to shoot, that Milner's little pep talk somehow gave him the push he needed to do the (relatively speaking) unnecessary deed.

- I really loved the scenes with the translator; thank god for some fleeting moments of humour.

- Re: Anton/Carvel's reveal about the adjustment he made: I spent so long last night trying to figure out where this is going. He said he was concerned with evolution specifically. This would seem to suggest that a fair degree of genetic variation would need to be preserved, rather than focusing on keeping one specific type of human around, but I have no idea how genetic variation plays out within racial types, especially as "race" (as he points out in the first episode of this series) is not a biological concept, but a cultural one. Whatever change he's made, I'm willing to bet it has nothing to do with what we might think of as a "race".

- Re: the reveal about Anton/Carvel's background: I hate shit like this, it just feels like a massive retcon. So hard to put my finger on exactly why, but everything we learned about him in this episode seems to fly in the face of not only what we were shown in the series opener, but the entire concept of who he is. The trajectory and logic don't hold up for me. You wanted to make sure something like the Holocaust never happened again, so you teamed up with a shadowy international organisation to put in place a plan that is not only going to kill thousands of people (since he seems to have full knowledge of the Russian flu scenario), but also sterilises billions. Right.
posted by catch as catch can at 8:11 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also, is this a massive plot hole or what: ok, they've got Janus. They took it from Jessica's blood. They were holding off on deploying it to the rest of the world bc they don't know what the adjustment is. They said they could figure it out if they cut her brain open. What is preventing them from sticking Janus is some other poor sap, and then cutting his brain open to figure out the adjustment?? I don't really understand what the hold up is.
posted by catch as catch can at 8:34 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

playing off of CACC above, wouldn't it be crazy if the alteration sterilized all men and the human race has 1 lifetime to figure out how to (artificially, I'd assume) help a woman fertilize another woman. That could have the drastic effect on population that he wanted, I think, and be an interesting twist?

or maybe parthogenesis, artificial wombs, etc. Wonder what Carvel did to stop them from dusting off sperm from before the virus was released and using that. Maybe not so viable after all.
posted by Strass at 9:03 AM on July 31, 2014

e: the reveal about Anton/Carvel's background: I hate shit like this, it just feels like a massive retcon. So hard to put my finger on exactly why, but everything we learned about him in this episode seems to fly in the face of not only what we were shown in the series opener, but the entire concept of who he is. The trajectory and logic don't hold up for me.

Didn't Carvel say no as well when asked if he'd ever been in a genocide in the first episode of this series?

I suppose maybe the story he recounted is what happened to his wife. Or maybe he isn't Carvel. Or maybe he'd just been reading some X-Men comics.
posted by dng at 10:16 AM on July 31, 2014

His response is "What?" So, ambiguous. But Milner's next line is, "I have." Is it her story he's recounting?
posted by catch as catch can at 11:05 AM on July 31, 2014

What is preventing them from sticking Janus is some other poor sap, and then cutting his brain open to figure out the adjustment?

I don't think they'd find out biologically what the adjustment is. The network believes that Carvel told Christos what the adjustment was and at some point Christos told Jessica. It was just hand waving that they have some way to read her memory or something if they cut into her brain.
posted by crashlanding at 3:33 PM on July 31, 2014

Is Anton Carvel? After the whole survivor reveal I had assumed that dispoved that theory. Note that Becky calls him Anton from then on, rather than Phillip. He does say that he put an adjustment in, but maybe Carvel got him to do so? I'm confused. Unfortunately no-one who can recognise Carvel has seen him yet (I don't think Petre counts).

Yeah Wilson being somehow able to take down two Mi5 agents annoyed me too. He hasn't even got depth perception! Apparently joining the Network gives one super powers.

Jessica is being a cross between manipulative and deranged here. I really wanted her to shoot Milner at the end, especially considering she doesn't even need Milner to find Carvel.

I didn't love the cold open, if only because if the Network really has that much power to brainwash people, why don't they use it more? The Network's power really does seem to fluctuate as the plot requires.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:54 PM on July 31, 2014

crashlanding, that doesn't at all jibe with the scenes from the last episode: Leah was strongly urging Milner to operate because they were running out of time, and they transported her to a medical facility where they certainly seemed intent on dissecting a bunch of her brain.

Cannon Fodder, I don't think the Roma reveal necessarily precludes Anton being Carvel; he said it occurred when he was 5, so he could well have ended up in England soon after and grown up there. I'm still wavering on whether he is Carvel, but don't think it's been disproved conclusively.
posted by catch as catch can at 12:46 AM on August 1, 2014

CACC: where they certainly seemed intent on dissecting a bunch of her brain.

In order to "read" the memory of what was told to her.
posted by Gyan at 1:09 AM on August 1, 2014

...sorry, is that made explicit somewhere? And, although plenty of the science of the series doesn't hold any water whatsoever, is that even a thing? I really had the impression they would be looking for physical evidence of the adjustment, not of her knowledge of it.
posted by catch as catch can at 4:37 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The physical evidence of the adjustment could be figured out by examining a sample of the vaccine itself. It seems they don't know exactly how Janus works, only that it does (supposedly). If that's true, then they would be dissecting her brain to recover the memory, not examine the metabolic products of the "vaccine", since they wouldn't know what to look for.

As for recovering memories from detached brain tissue, it's not a thing AFAIK. But neither is genetic population targeting in 1979.
posted by Gyan at 4:59 AM on August 1, 2014

Theoretically, it should be possible for the Network to find what Janus works on:

* Genotype Jessica's DNA to find Janus' DNA sequence
* Clone that DNA sequence (preferably through cDNA to avoid codon confusion) into bacteria
* Mass produce the Janus protein in bacteria and purify a large amount
* Get DNA samples
* Use chromatin immunoprecipitation and/or DNase footprinting assay to find regions of the genome where the Janus protein binds (you have to assume that Janus is a DNA binding protein for this to work, but I'm not sure how else it would select race via genetics if it wasn't)
* Genomes it is able to bind to are presumably the ones that will be affected (or perhaps vice-versa)
posted by Strass at 5:32 PM on August 1, 2014

I'm quite enjoying the characters who have, up to now, been almost devoid of affect (Jessica and Pietre, but also Milner, who has made a lot of technically compassionate-sounding noises, but purely performative) suddenly dealing with having emotions - Jessica's crush on Ian, Pietre's yearning for family, Milner's long suppressed passion for Philip Carvel. Fiona O'Shaughnessy in particular is a delight - the constant stream of thoughts and feelings that suddenly fly across her face in between bouts of emotionless mask.
posted by Grangousier at 6:31 PM on August 2, 2014

The bit about Romani/Romanian and the translator cracked my (Romanian-born) partner up.

"You still racist!"

I do have a minor quibble that sooooo many reasonably well-educated Romanians speak such terrific English there'd be no way someone making his living as a Romanian/English translator would have had quite so many cartoonish grammatical quirks. But the "Roma and Romanian are different, you racist!" bit hit so perfectly on the mark, that it didn't generate any real ill will.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:51 AM on August 7, 2014

I really enjoy the show, but a hefty chunk of the characters are operating for such odd or obscured motives that at times--even though I trust it all to be explained eventually--it feels like various people in the story are controlled by random number generators.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:52 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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