There were points during episode 4 of Utopia when I was slightly worried that the show had lost its momentum. Ian, Becky and Wilson were stuck in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting for further instruction from Milner, and there wasn’t much else really happening. But that didn’t last for too long, and there’s enough plot progression in the episode to keep Utopia consistently excellent viewing.
The best thing about Utopia is that remains (at least for me) very unpredictable. The dots that are being joined as the series progresses aren’t obvious, and a lot of the characters are finding that their positions in the game are changing in ways they couldn’t have foreseen.
The biggest change comes for the hitman (Neil Maskell) who, instead of bringing the Utopia graphic novel back to his bosses, decides to keep it and read it. He discovers that he is actually in it, as a child who is experimented on and generally mistreated. It makes him realise that he’s been lied to his whole life, and takes matters into his own hands, turning on his boss (Stephen Rea), who tells him that Arby isn’t actually his name (Pietre is), it just stands for ‘Raisin Boy’ because the people experimenting on him forgot his name, and just used a nickname based on the sweets he would eat. So suddenly he’s not on the side he once was, and gives himself up to Jessica Hyde, with the Utopia graphic novel to give to her.
But Ian, Becky and Wilson don’t know about this, so they are still on their own, and still on the run. Glenn and Alice are with them too, and unsurprisingly, Alice is in shock after seeing her mother executed in front of her. The group don’t know that Glenn has drawings that he’s done based on what he saw in the pages of the graphic novel, but when they do find them, they are able to piece the information together (or believe that they have) to identify Mr Rabbit.
They travel to an apartment to confront the man they believe to be Mr. Rabbit, only for things to go a bit wrong. He doesn’t have much information that can help them, and they are interrupted by someone buzzing his intercom. Glenn is left holding a shotgun at the man while the others decide what to do, but he then gives the gun to Alice. Before anyone has made a decision, Alice has shot the man in the chest, and they have no choice but to drag the man at the door inside, who happens to be Conran Letts (Rea).
The image of a pre-teen girl holding a shotgun is the kind of visual that Utopia has shown on-screen without hesitation. There is a lot of graphic violence in the show, and it doesn’t shy away from content that many will consider controversial. But it adds an impressive atmosphere to the show that many other series lack, and it’s one of the things I enjoy about it.
Michael Dugdale (Paul Higgins) is still trying to get himself out of the messy hole he’s been dropped into, and visits Donaldson again, this time with a piece of finger that will allow Donaldson to run tests and discover if Russian flu actually exists. Donaldson is a scientist who has been discredited before, claiming that SARS never actually existed, and that when he tried to tell people that, it was revealed that he had a drug problem and spent a lot of time with prostitutes (something that is actually true, but that he’d rather had been kept secret). He tries to get away from Dugdale when he discovers that the Russian flu hasn’t killed anyone (the people in Shetland were poisoned), but Michael gets the information from him and faces the MP who is making his life miserable. But the MP again warns him of the consequences of his actions, and then gives Dugdale’s wife photographs and a DVD of what Michael has been getting up to with prostitutes.
So it ends up being another compelling, excellent episode of Utopia, with the story continuing to build to a climax that I still can’t really guess at. Everything about Utopia is working, and it’s something you should definitely be watching.