Violence has been a part of Utopia from its very first scene, but none of it is quite as shocking as the violence that takes place at the start of episode 3. When Neil Maskell’s monosyllabic, mouth-breathing hitman visits a school, you know something bad is about to happen, but it’s still a shocking scene to watch as he executes the headmaster before turning one murder into a killing spree and shooting teachers and pupils alike.
There is one moment when he hesitates, as a lone child hides his face and scatters some sweets, something which seems to trigger a memory in the hitman, but he ultimately finishes the job. It’s a very harsh thing to throw out at a viewer at the beginning of an episode, and the worst part of it is that it was all just a front to frame Grant, the boy with the Utopia manuscript, as doctored CCTV footage is leaked to the press to make him one of the most wanted man in the country, in the hope that he’ll be in police custody sooner rather than later, allowing The Network to get him and the manuscript.
After that footage is shown on television, Alice, the girl Grant gave the manuscript to, goes to the police with her mother, and she ends up back at her home with the hitman demanding to see it. But Jessica and Grant have gotten there first, and after he kills a police liaison, Grant tells him he has the manuscript in an attempt to protect Alice. Jessica is forced to give up the manuscript (although she gives some pages to Grant) and has a face-to-face with the hitman, who seems mesmerized by her. Grant and Alice are able to escape (they are picked up by Ian, Becky and Wilson), while Jessica is left behind.
Michael Dugdale is still trying to find a way out of his problem, but is unable to acquire a sample of the vaccine and get it to the doctor he was told to visit. Desperate, he makes his own way to Shetland and heads into the quarantine zone to try and get some evidence for the doctor to examine. He hacks off the finger of a victim, but when he returns home, one of his colleagues is already there. When they are alone, he makes it clear to Michael that he can’t win (he tells him his wife would be raped if he continues to search for answers), and takes the finger from him. But Michael has kept a piece of it anyway. Again in this episode, the connection between Michael’s story and the hunt for the Utopia manuscript is not fully explained (although Maskell’s hitman has a relationship with Stephen Rea’s character, who is manipulating Dugdale), but Michael’s story is compelling enough that it doesn’t need to be yet.
After Jessica and Grant go off together, Ian, Becky and Wilson decide to get in touch with Milner, the woman The Tramp told Jessica to contact. They arrange to meet at a church, but before she arrives, a man with a gun turns up and threatens Ian and Becky. Wilson has a shotgun, but is reluctant to fire it, but Milner turns up and shoots the man in the head. She needs to retrieve the bullet so the murder can’t be traced to her, so Wilson has to shoot the man in the head twice to cover her tracks. Milner explains who The Rabbit (a man identified in the Utopia graphic novel) is, and why his identity is so important to The Network.
Utopia continues to be a well written, compelling and atmospheric drama. There’s a real sense of danger and threat in all strands of the story, and there’s enough mystery surrounding it that you can’t really predict where it is going to go next. This is definitely must-watch television.