Let’s get the elephant in the room out the way first. This is not, nor will it ever be, as good as the original Utopia. No remake could surpass that which already puts this on a difficult slope to ascend.
Those unfamiliar with Channel 4’s 2013 series should definitely check that one out but there’s just enough here to enjoy if you can go in with an open mind.
This is far from perfect though, and the first episode alone shows a glossy, almost studio-driven blandness to the entire production.
Episode 1 of Utopia begins with almost-married couple Ethan and Olivia inheriting the latter’s grandfather’s house. Only, as they head inside they find the place full of clutter.
Within the walls are a whole load of graphic comic books depicting gruesome scenes. Believing this comic could be worth something, Ethan starts looking around for more. It turns out Utopia is the sequel to a previous cult-comic hit called Dystopia. Texting it out to the world, a whole group of super-fans receive the notification and prepare to head there to learn more.
Among them is middle-aged Wilson, who asks his Father for 30 dollars so he can head across town. He’s joined by a whole group of enthused comic book fans who eagerly await a glimpse of Utopia. Wilson looks upon the original manuscript and is told – among others – to make a bid for buying it from them.
Ian meets Becky at the event, his long-time love interest, and the two start hitting it off. Together they agree not to speak about Utopia and start to learn more about their lives.
They’re both interrupted by Samantha who leads the group into examining the pictures for Utopia. This ultimately winds up in some pretty heated debates about the symbolic meaning of the leaves.
While all the group await who’s going to win the bidding, someone named Carson arrives in the room with Ethan and Olivia. He sits before them and throws down $20,000 to sell up right now.
Realizing they need Grant to help them out, this resourceful little kid arrives at the hotel and manages to get a card for the penthouse. He purposefully heads up but he’s not the only one. Two menacing figures – Rod and Arby – head upstairs with a gun, intending to drug the group after learning the manuscript for Utopia has already been sold.
Up in the penthouse, Grant manages to sneak in just as Carson arrives with his date. Joining them are the two thugs from before. They ask for the manuscript and things quickly turn from bad to worse. Driving a knife into Carson’s hand, they learn the manuscript is in the bedroom.
Only…it’s not. Grant has it and he bolts from the hotel as the two men bemoan their luck. Instead, they head back to the penthouse, killing both Carson and his date before asking for mental health screenings on the list of people who have seen Utopia.
One by one they go down the list, knocking on doors and killing everyone while crossing their name off the list.
As they leave the building, a mysterious woman arrives demanding to know where Utopia is. Speaking to a sedated Olivia, she reveals that she’s Jessica Hyde and part of the story being written about.
The Episode Review
With a relatively slow opening, this episode does take a while to get going. As mentioned earlier, this doesn’t hold a candle to the original series and will almost certainly be one of the most polarizing shows of the year.
Having said that, this is actually quite entertaining but there’s a sickly American sheen to this one that feels very corporate-driven. The music is uninspired, the plotting is relatively simple and so far none of the characters really stand out.
Hopefully the show can pick it up from here but so far this feels very mediocre and formulaic.
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