Utopia episode 5 review

Review Louisa Mellor 12 Feb 2013 - 23:00

Utopia is nearing its finale, and the paranoid conspiracy plot has finally been revealed…

This review contains spoilers.

In a week where food contamination has been the topic on everyone’s slightly nauseated lips, Utopia is looking horribly prescient. Luckily for us, the unwelcome guest in our food chain is just a few rogue hooves and manes, not a protein that, when combined with its evil twin, provokes a permanent and hereditary genetic mutation that sterilises ninety per cent of mankind. Good luck spinning that one, Jeremy Hunt.

On the topic of evil twins, those harbouring suspicions that Arby and Jessica Hyde were peas in a decidedly weird pod were vindicated. We learnt that they share a dad - the infamous Mr Rabbit (the Pietre/Peter/Jessica Rabbit gag not lost on our commenters). We’ll have to wait until next week’s finale to discover whether Carvel fathered the pair in the traditional manner, or whether “the truth” about their origin resides in a test-tube. With no talk of a mother, my money’s on the latter.

Episode five saw the gang still holed up in their derelict mansion, just another of the boons uncovered by Utopia’s locations team. Contemplating the planet eating itself against the fading grandeur of something once beautiful but now sordid is a job well done. It just wouldn’t be the same if this was all going down in a tidy semi.

The house makes a handy corollary for the Janus project’s corruption of medical science; something that began with the higher purpose of curing disease and prolonging life now being used to stop the human race in its tracks. Instead of evolving into the techno-magic of Star Trek’s sickbay, Utopia’s medicine has given up on man. Bleak stuff.

Coping with her Luke ‘n’ Leia revelation was the least of Jessica’s worries this week, haunted as she was by a recurring nightmare (one that took the form of a Tim Pope video for The Cure circa 1983). The siblings took a creepy trip down memory lane, filled with death threats, gun-pointing, and from Arby, unnecessary exposition. Because every wheezy breath that escapes from Neil Maskell’s permanently open mouth screams the words “I’m like this because of early trauma”, him actually saying it was surplus to requirements.

The lowest-point dialogue wise had to be Milner’s clunky “Yes Becky. It’s Deels”, a moment of Mexican Soap Opera subtlety in an episode of otherwise good performances. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Adeel Akhtar were both convincingly desperate as pawns realising their hopeless position, while old hand Stephen Rea delivered his grave pronouncements on the future of man with enjoyable intensity. Keeping young Alice on the side lines after last week’s hysterics was a good move, though I had expected more to be made of the aftermath of her adventure with a shotgun.

The beautiful composition is still one of Utopia’s biggest assets. Pick a shot, any shot, and the chances are it could be repurposed as limited edition postcard to accompany the DVD, especially the tawdry Hopper-esque motorway café Arby calls his local.

Happily, the Becky and Ian romance was stalled in favour of proper plot development, of which there was plenty. It turns out that pretty much everyone’s working with The Network, whether by choice or coercion. Milner’s doing it because of her dying son, Dugdale’s doing it to give him, his wife, and his Russian prostitute a cushy way out of this mess, and Donaldson’s just after a pension plan. The Network have always known where the gang was hiding, but let them go about their business in the hope of recovering the manuscript.

Ah yes, the manuscript, from which everybody is searching for a different truth. Arby and Jessica want the truth about their origins, the forum gang want the truth about Mr Rabbit, and The Network want the truth about their genetic experiments. 

Having had the truth of those experiments laid out for us in no uncertain terms (it turns out that Dugdale and his wife’s C-plot IVF treatment held the clue to the true nature of the Janus project all along), you have to agree that Letts made quite a convincing case. Please don’t send me bad things in the post for saying so, but in the face of impending over-population doom, his extreme pragmatism appeared quite reasonable didn’t it? Didn’t it? Wilson Wilson agrees with me at least.

With just one more episode of Utopia to go, the draw-strings are gently pulling this lumpy sack of nastiness and paranoia to a close. The disparate plots have crossed over, the Assistant is now sitting in the big chair, and I don’t have a single clue how things will resolve themselves. “This might turn out nicely after all” said the Minister for Health at one point.

Somehow Geoff, I doubt it.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.

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