Paul Brian McCoy: So Utopia started off with another epilogue this week, opening on Steven Robertson as a fast-food employee named Terrence who is apparently not very good at his job, but great at taking abuse from customers.
As soon as he appeared, though, Dr. Girlfriend and I knew exactly what was going on, because you don’t just cast Robertson as an abused nebbish. He’s going to do something awful before everything is said and done.
Kelvin Green: Yes! I have only seen him in Being Human but there he was a sneaky, nasty type.
Paul: He was also a pretty horrible character in Red Riding.
Kelvin: I never got around to watching that.
Paul: And the twins from Luther series 2.
Kelvin: Oh! Did he play the twins? I’d forgotten that. He is good at playing creepy roles.
Paul: He certainly is. There’s something quiet and frightening behind his eyes. And watching him prepare to kick off the Russian Flu Apocalypse was chilling.
Kelvin: Yes, in some ways it was more effective than the scene in the previous episode, perhaps because it was so calm and measured and there was no overt violence.
Paul: Just the subtle, silent threat. Sitting alone in his green apartment. Waiting. Every night, waiting.
They’ve done a very good job of selling the viewpoint of the conspirators, and showing them as dedicated to their cause. They’re fanatics but they can’t be dismissed as maniacs.
Paul: Not easily anyway.
Kelvin: Yes, their argument is persuasive and the conspirators themselves seem like calm and reasonable people. They’re good villains. Of course, it all gets tipped upside down in this episode.
Paul: It does. That Grant. What a massive pain in the arse.
Kelvin: Oh yes. He’s messed everything up and has been even more annoying than Ian while doing so!
Paul: I did love the dynamic between Grant (Oliver Woollford), Pietre (Neil Maskell), and Carvel (Ian McDiarmid) on their road trip to nowhere. All three having their own weird emotional cravings that aren’t being satisfied.
Kelvin: Yes, that was an interesting approach. Grant wants to become an inhuman killer like Arby (perhaps to escape the pain of his upbringing), Arby wants to be recognised by his father, who in turn thinks Grant is him. And then their cover is that they’re a family on a trip.
Those bits where Carvel and Arby were talking to each other through Grant were so sad.
Paul: They were. The whole “Why did you leave me?” “You weren’t human. You were horrific,” just broke my heart.
I think this episode was maybe the best directed one yet by someone other than Munden. The way the long shots emphasized the oppressive, low-hanging clouds was a stark contrast to the fluffy clouds and blue sky representing freedom. Doom is coming.
Plus director Sam Donovan got to work in a lot of nice emotional bits.
Kelvin: Yes, it felt very Shakespearean to me. Like a stage play, but not in the negative sense that term tends to imply.
Paul: It was very efficiently written as well, with Dennis Kelly the sole writer again. No fat, all lean. Leading up to the big convergence of characters.
Kelvin: Well, there was one little bit that seemed a bit wonky to me.
Paul: Go on.
Kelvin: I’ve watched this series enough to know that there may be a follow-up explanation but that bit where Milner (Geraldine James) leaned over to Pietre and tried to win him over with that “Jessica has always been the favourite” seemed to go nowhere and have no significance.
Paul: I think that was just her getting more and more desperate. She was trying to work her magic on every single character she spoke to this episode; trying to appeal to their perceived weaknesses. I think with Pietre, it was the most bold-faced and desperate so it stood out.
Kelvin: Perhaps you’re right. In a lesser series it would have led to a predictable betrayal and I was maybe looking out for that, so when it didn’t happen it seemed like an orphaned scene. But of course, Utopia is never predictable.
Paul: Speaking of unpredictable, Becky’s (Alexandra Roach) alive and well.
Kelvin: Yes, and sort of unexplained. I don’t know how I feel about that. It almost feels like an omission but again I have learned to trust this programme.
Paul: It’s like that only-mentioned-but-never-seen police threat to her back in Series One, while Ian (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) spent the night in jail. She seems to get a little shorted sometimes.
Kelvin: That’s true. She lacks backstory too, and we never really found out what she was doing when on the run between Series One and Two.
I’d be happy with a spin-off covering all that missing time, with lots of swearing.
Paul: That would be cool. Honestly though, only Jessica (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), Pietre, Carvel, and Milner have much backstory. Everyone else just kind of sprang into being at the beginning of the series.
Kelvin: That’s true. They are the core of the series, even if they aren’t the main characters. Or at least weren’t at the start.
Paul: When Pietre said last week that “It’s all about family” that’s really true. But the madmen and killers are rebuilding theirs while the normal people’s families are all falling apart.
Kelvin: Yes, that’s interesting, isn’t it? This episode — and the second series — have all been about getting that core family together again.
Paul: I forgot about Michael (Paul Higgins), though. He’s built a family over the course of the series, but this season has been all about the threat of losing it. And how about that rescue?
Kelvin: Ah yes, Michael in his action moment. Given his paralysis so far, any action would have been significant!
Paul: But even here, it’s his wife Jen (Ruth Gemmell) who takes real action, getting them the codes to escape. He tries, though. His heart’s in the right place.
Kelvin: Yes, that was fitting. Even during the rescue, it’s his wife who takes control when he gets lost.
I love Michael.
Paul: My favorite bit there was him asking Alice (Emilia Jones) if she could make herself sick and when she says “I feel like vomiting all the time” his response is “Good girl!”
Kelvin: He’s such a classic British protagonist, of the Basil Fawlty or Arthur Dent sort, thrown into events beyond his control and facing them with a sort of lovable incompetence.
Paul: That’s perfect. So true.
Kelvin: He’s sort of out of his genre too. He’s someone out of a sitcom, thrown into an apocalyptic thriller.
Paul: It’s kind of the same for all the civilians in the show. Even Geoff (Alistair Petrie), when you think about it. I was a little surprised that he didn’t have a larger part to play or a more, I don’t know, aggressive response to his situation. That ransom demand was pretty hilarious.
Kelvin: Oh yes, so sad and pathetic. Although it gave Wilson (Adeel Akhtar) an opportunity to show off his trivia skills.
Paul: It was a nice touch.
I was also impressed with the use of color in the costuming for Wilson and Leah (Sylvestra Le Touzel). A study in contrasts that together make one Mr. Rabbit.
Kelvin: I didn’t spot that! This would be a good point for an illustrative screenshot, I reckon.
Paul: [note to self: grab illustrative screenshot] There’s not another show on television that I’m willing to work this hard on.
Paul: Ta dah!
Kelvin: I loved that little scene in the pub — and so many important scenes in this programme have been set around a table in a pub, I notice — with Leah and Wilson working out that they were in charge of the conspiracy.
Paul: It was so well done. Even if it did take me a second viewing to figure out the whole “Ice/Alice” train of thought. First time through, I had no idea how Wilson and the police knew to show up at Dugdale’s.
Kelvin: Yes, I was wondering why they were banging on about ice until they got to the bit where Wilson worked out what it meant.
Paul: Dennis Kelly was rocking the wordsmithing this week.
Kelvin: “Eat my fucking chip!”
Paul: That was amazing!
Kelvin: I didn’t watch series one again in preparation for this series so were there any hallucinations of that sort back then?
Paul: Nope. Deel’s and her guilt are teaming up to go all Lady Macbeth on her this time around.
Kelvin: I did say “Shakespearean” earlier! This episode did remind me of Macbeth.
Paul: Or Lear.
Kelvin: Yes, all that bleak moorland. I find it interesting that Becky’s hallucinations are all about death. Given that the near extinction of humanity is on the cards.
It’s almost prophetic.
Paul: But all bloody and violent.
What did her dad do for a living? Do you remember? How did he get Deel’s in the first place? Was he involved somehow?
Kelvin: I don’t recall. And Milner’s son had Deel’s too, didn’t he?
Paul: So she said. I doubt that was really her son.
Kelvin: There was no sign of the son in the prologue episode and it seems that Milner only has eyes for Carvel — or his brain — so you could be right there.
So the mystery of Deel’s is still out there.
Paul: Just did some quick research and while it wasn’t explicitly stated, all the way back in Series One, Episode One, Becky explains that Deel’s just appeared suddenly and the only common denominator in the sufferers was that at one point or another they had all worked at Corvadt. Then she just drops that her dad had Deel’s and died of it.
Kelvin: Interesting. It’s the biggest unanswered question for me. Is it a precursor or form of Janus, I wonder? It’s a bit slow to be a way of getting rid of people the conspiracy wants dead.
Paul: I think it was an experiment in passing on the disease from generation to generation. That was then worked into Janus.
Kelvin: That makes sense.
Paul: They’re just more collateral damage.
Kelvin: I wonder what answers we’re going to get in the next episode, given how climactic this episode was. This could have been a finale.
Paul: It could have. I hope we don’t suddenly jump forward ten years and everyone’s dead but Jessica and her (surprise! I’m not actually sterile) half-black baby.
Kelvin: I was thinking the same thing! I could see the next episode being the post-apocalyptic one.
Paul: Not that it wouldn’t be awesome, but I want to see them get to a place like that.
Kelvin: Has a third series been announced? Oh, it seems that Kelly has plans for series three and four.
Paul: Fingers crossed!
Kelvin: So that would suggest we’re not doing the apocalypse next episode.
Paul: I doubt it. I fully expect that we’ll see more of Terrence before all’s said and done.
Kelvin: Yes, it seems that the only way to stop the end of humanity is to track down Terrence and his chums and stop them, but surely that’s beyond this gang of misfits.
Paul: I doubt they’d waste Robertson on a one-off appearance. They just have to stop Terrence, though, but you’re right. I’m not sure how they could pull that off.
Kelvin: There are more Terrences around the world, are there not? Or have I misunderstood the details of the plan?
Paul: There were three, but Milner was only to call one to set off the flu epidemic.
Kelvin: Ah, I see.
Paul: Backups. Can’t have a random car crash or burst appendix killing off our only hope for apocalypse.
Kelvin: Good point. You should work for the Network!
Paul: From your lips to Milner’s ears!
We should probably discuss the big family reunion and its aftermath.
Kelvin: We should. SPOILERS, people.
Paul: If anyone’s still reading and afraid of spoilers, I think they’ve missed the point long ago.
Kelvin: True. So Grant’s been going to the same beginners’ shooting school as Wilson, it seems.
Paul: Apparently purity of purpose leads to becoming a crack shot.
Kelvin: Handy tip there!
So yes, we have the whole central family together at last. Father, daughter, son, and… stepmother of sorts. All on a blasted, windswept heath.
Paul: And Pietre is so flipping happy he’s going to burst.
Kelvin: That scene with him and Jessica sitting on that rock was lovely. “You’ve lost weight.”
Paul: And the third passport being for her was a wonderful touch.
Kelvin: I did not expect that.
Paul: Same here.
Poor Pietre. The most damaged character in the show. The one who’s committed some of the most heinous acts of violence. The most sympathetic character of all.
Kelvin: Such a wonderful creation.
We say it every time but Dennis Kelly and Neil Maskell have done a great job with Arby/Pietre.
Paul: One of the most fascinating characters on television. Maybe ever.
Kelvin: An amazing character, and now bleeding out on a lonely moor.
Paul: That took me completely by surprise.
Kelvin: Me too. Carvel’s also been to shooting school.
Paul: Somebody finally took Milner’s bait. The way he cried out for Jessica to run while he emptied the gun in their direction was extremely disturbing to me for some reason.
It was like he wasn’t in control of himself anymore. Milner had taken the reins.
Kelvin: I hadn’t thought of that. It seemed to tie in with what we’d seen before: he thought of Pietre as a failed experiment and a mistake, but he loved Jessica.
Your reading of it makes sense too.
Paul: No doubt he didn’t want to shoot her too. But the way he just kept pulling the trigger was frightening. I don’t know if Pietre was actually intentionally shot or if he just stood still for it.
Kelvin: Or if he took the shot for Jessica.
Paul: Then that look of beatific happiness as Jessica is digging the bullet out of him WITH HER FINGERS!!!!
I really hope he’s not dead. I’m hoping for a Utopia tradition of “killing” Arby/Pietre in the penultimate episode only to bring him back next season.
Kelvin: I was about to say the same thing! Pietre is in many ways the heart of the series and Maskell is so good.
Paul: There was also a very nice piece of writing/plotting with the double reveal of what Carvel had done to Janus.
Kelvin: Yes, and Milner going “to heck with it” and going through with the plan anyway.
Paul: I didn’t think just leaving Roma people fertile was enough to cause Wilson and Leah to want to abandon the project.
So it was an intriguing mystery.
Kelvin: Yes, WIlson had been won over so it would have to be something big to make him change his mind.
Paul: And Leah especially. She was more gung ho than anyone, so long as the vaccine worked. Now that it doesn’t…
And here we doubted that Milner would stick with it just a few short episodes ago. So much for humanizing her.
Kelvin: Perhaps. Having Carvel back seemed to be the most important thing for her, so in a sense that’s still a human response.
Paul: A love story for the ages.
A brain love story for the ages, rather.
Kelvin: So we’ve got Romeo and Juliet in there too.
Kelvin: Stop ripping off Shakespeare, Kelly! Or, carry on doing it, because it’s working well so far.
Paul: If you’re gonna do it, do it up right.
Kelvin: Oh yes, very much so.
Paul: So do you think Jessica is going to be carrying Ian’s baby?
Kelvin: That seems to be the way it’s going, now that we know she’s not infertile. But who knows with this programme?
Paul: I think Ian may have turned a corner this episode, what with the walling up of Marius (Emil Hostina) (Hooray! More Marius! Sort of!) kind of symbolizing a walling up of his normal emotional reactions. Maybe he’s ready to step up and play in the big leagues now?
The speech he gave Wilson about trying to stop Janus was very well done. As was his breakdown when he found out his brother was dead.
Kelvin: Yes, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett did some good work this episode.
Paul: I really think this was one of the best episodes yet.
Everything just came together wonderfully.
Kelvin: I was a bit worried about Ian in previous weeks as he seemed a bit whiny and rubbish, but all it took was the murder of his brother! Handy tip there.
Paul: I’ll keep that in mind for my Network interview.
“How would you motivate employees under your management?”
Kelvin: “Human Resources” indeed.
Paul: Well, did you have anything else you wanted to talk about? I think my notes are thoroughly worked over.
Kelvin: You’re right, it was a very good episode. Everything did come together so well, which is why it felt like a finale. I can’t wait to see how they top it in the actual finale.
Paul: I’m literally on the edge of my seat. Really. While I type this.
Kelvin: TOO LONG TO WAIT.
Paul: I think after what I’ve said already I have to give this one 5 stars.
Kelvin: I agree. It was a brilliant episode. If I have complaints they are minor and few.
Paul: And I think we can also safely agree that yes, Grant is a massive pain in the arse.
Kelvin: Or the back, if you’re Milner.