This Utopia review contains spoilers.
“Have you ever been in a genocide?” Milner asked Carvel years ago at that black tie summit for the brainy and powerful. This week’s episode delivered his answer. Yes, Philip Carvel has been in a genocide. He escaped one as a child under the most traumatic conditions and thenceforth pledged to use his powerful mind to stop anything like it happening again. Eat your heart out, Magneto.
The results of Carvel’s quest to suppress human violence have been ironic to say the least. Not only did his experiments on his infant son create a killer who sees murder as nothing more than “unscrewing a bottle to get to the water”, they also turned Carvel – a concentration camp survivor – into a Mengele-like monster. His first attempt to save humanity created its wheezing, traumatised scourge and his second attempt is set to kill millions.
Not, as we learnt this week, indiscriminately. Thanks to Carvel’s adjustment, one race in particular will survive. The man who once asked “Why not choose?”, chose. Whom he chose is information to which Utopia’s increasingly chaotic second series is still holding on. There were enough answers in this week’s eventful episode to leave that question for another time.
For one, we found out precisely why the shark-cat video intimated impending doom to Carvel with an engaging opening sequence straight out of a spy thriller. The murder/suicide of that Georgia sleeper agent’s family (ticker-taped along the bottom of last week’s viral video) was a characteristically captivating and horrible start to the episode. Geoff’s announcement really did push the big red button last week it seems, and now Janus’ cogs are turning in earnest. Will Utopia’s Scooby gang thwart it again? We’ve two episodes of this series to find out, and any number of twists and deaths between now and then.
Let’s not forget laughs too. Despite this week’s holocaust and mass murder content, Utopia still found time for a gag or two, provided courtesy of Ian’s comedy escape from that (not strictly necessary) mission to the TV network headquarters, and Marius the tetchy translator, who met a very messy end.
Totting up this week’s messy ends, things kicked off with the Georgia family, before we bade a regret-free farewell to Donaldson (a nasty piece of work who’ll be mourned by no-one except a now Thoraxin-less Becky) and a more regrettable one to Marius (whose death warrant was signed the moment he entered that hotel). Next came Ian’s brother and those CIA agents to prove Lee wrong about Wilson’s ability to pull the trigger.
Narrowly avoiding being blown to bits were Milner and Ian, both of whom had guns pointed at them by the Carvel siblings, and both of whose executions were stayed – Milner’s by information, and Ian’s by Grant’s intervention.
Jessica and Arby were each as unpredictable as the other this week, both revealing sides they didn’t quite show in series one. Arby’s paternal affection for Grant and Jessica’s girlish infatuation with Ian showed Carvel’s kids to be more than just killing machines.
On the subject of Jessica and Ian, Utopia being the kind of show to nurture suspicion in its viewers, all the talk of Jessica’s sterility this series prompts me to wonder whether their bunk-up will reveal another story? Was Jeff Goldblum right in Jurassic Park – will life find a way and put a spanner in Janus’ plan?
It was Arby though, who gave us the key to unlock the theme of this week’s episode with the line “This is all about family”. He’s right of course. Family, and the loss of it, has motivated the behaviour of just about all of Utopia’s players so far. Carvel watched the Nazis kill his family (before destroying what was left of it himself in a misguided attempt to correct humankind’s flaws), Arby and Dugdale are both collaborating with The Network to protect their partners and adopted daughters. Becky’s father died of the Deels she inherited, dragging her into this mess…
Others still have had their already-depleted families destroyed by The Network – Wilson’s father was murdered, Grant’s mum thinks he’s dead, Ian’s brother was executed as part of Wilson’s training. And at the heart of it all are Philip, Arby and Jessica, a front-runner for TV’s most dysfunctional family since the Lannisters. Now that his kids know that their father is alive, a reunion is on the cards for the Carvels, and we’re lucky enough to have front-row seats.