Utopia (UK) is a conspiracy thriller for the ages

Wilson Wilson
Wilson Wilson

Looking to satisfy that conspiracy thriller itch? Look no further. UK Channel 4’s Utopia (not to be confused with the terrible Fox reality series) will scratch that itch, and then some. 

2014’s International Emmy Award winner for Best Drama Series features a villain named Mr. Rabbit. If it sounds crazy, it’s because it is. In Utopia, a group of assorted individuals come together in search of a comic book manuscript that may hold the details of a terrible conspiracy. Ruthless serial killers and corrupt government officials chase them as they uncover the truth. I won’t spoil any more of the series’ premise, but suffice to say that it’s pretty batshit in all the right ways.

Utopia is pretty fantastic. It’s well directed, beautifully shot in a highly stylized and colored visual style; in fact, it’s one of the best and most interesting looking TV shows of recent memory. It basically looks like a live action comic book, which is fitting, given the plot.

It’s a twisty-turny maze of a show, and at times it focuses too much on the shoehorned-in romance melodrama, but on the whole it’s a show that was very exhilarating to watch, each episode leaving me wanting more. There’s something to be said for that in the modern era of binge-watch TV. and Utopia has it in spades.

Another key factor in the success of the show is the incidental music and scoring composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer. Though a relative newcomer, his scoring plays like that of an old pro. his music is chilling and sparse, and electronic, capturing just the right tone to match every moment. The show’s uptempo electronica theme song, with its weird echo sound effects, creates a demented inversion of a leitmotif, recurring throughout the series in key moments. It’s the level of detailed scoring usually reserved for film rather than TV, working to enhance the cinematic experience of the series.

Though there are no high profile actors in the series, there are a number of actors who may be familiar to viewers of British TV and film, including Paul Higgins (The Thick of It), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Misfits) and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions). The cast is, for the most part, quite good – there are no real standout performances to be called out, but there’s rarely a moment where anything stands out as bad either. Even child actor Oliver Woollford manages to perform quite well in the show, and I say that as someone who often despises performances by child actors.

The series as a whole is a fast-paced, highly visceral and highly violent philosophical meditation with dystopian overtones. Though cancelled after two seasons, it ends on a very strong note, and an ending that is as definitive as one could ask for. At just 12 episodes, Utopia is a quick watch deserving of more attention. And attention, it is getting – Utopia is in development at HBO, with David Fincher at the helm and Gone Girl collaborator Gillian Flynn as writer. If that promising combination of director, writer, and network is not enough to excite you then I don’t know what will.

Wilson: Bloody hell, you sound about 10.
Becky: Close. He’s 11.
Wilson: What? Really? You said that you owned a Porsche and that your girlfriend was a super-model.
Grant: Yeah, I’ve got ambitions.

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