Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Utopia, Season 1, Episode 3

At Corvadt office, the boss man, Conran Letts,  has to make a difficult decisions – prompted by the nameless-yet-sinister Assistant who is played by James Fox so has an instant aura of authority. He makes a call…

And Arby picks up his phone, eventually, still maintaining the creepy. He pulls on gloves then takes out his gun from his yellow bag. He goes to the school where Grant was attending and runs into the headmaster who tells him, completely unasked, that Grant is missing (not unexpected given his home life). Arby asks how many people are in the school, since it’s after hours. The headmaster sums up the few remaining and Arby shoots him in the head. A woman sticks her head out of a room, gasping in shock – and Arby shoots her too. He follows her falling body into the room where we can hear screaming; the 4 members of the geology club are also shot. A boy comes in and sees the headmaster’s body and wisely runs. Arby follows him and we hear more gunshots.

He reaches the last boy who cowers when he points the gun. Arby pauses in silence, only his breathing and convulsive swallow making any noise. He rubs his eye – is he genuinely bothered? Then we hear another gun shot.

Well… damn. That scene was incredibly powerful. Hardly a word spoken, and so much power and emotion conveyed.

Back to the main group and they arrive at an isolated cottage where they’re staying – and Becky thinks they have to wait for Jessica to help them break in. Wilson and Grant protest they know how to break into houses to which Becky, rather shocked, asks if she’s the only one who doesn’t know how to housebreak. Wilson offers to teach her *snerk*

Inside Becky gets Garth a sandwich and examines his leg – she speaks to him as a child and he responds rather more adultly than she expects. She asks him about the manuscript (which he left with Alice) and he gives some hints – more information about Caville and the man known as the White Rabbit. Wilson and Ian seize on the fact Garth can get them the manuscript but Becky emphasises they have an 11 year old boy who saw someone murdered and has been on the run, all alone, for several days. She wants to go softly softly – and doesn’t trust Jessica at all.

Which is when Jessica arrives and wants to search Grant and get her hands on the manuscript no matter what. Becky stands between them, Ian tries to get her to sit down which leads to another argument – and the news comes on with the school shooting. Grant has been framed as the main suspect behind it.

Flash to Arby – and it seems even the emotionless killer is feeling troubled over this one.

The main group is stunned by what the Network has done – Becky questioning how they could kill 8 children. Jessica angrily speaks up – they have made Grant instantly recognisable and easily findable across the country – and the only paid a few lives to get it. That’s how the Network works – death is meaningless to them.

Later Becky and Ian have sex – when Ian is initially reluctant Becky snarks about Jessica being his girlfriend and him “following orders”.  Grant overhears them.

The next day Jessica talks to Grant, about her father who wrote Utopia, about growing up on the run. She talks about how Becky and the others treat him like a child, because they’ve had the luxury of childhoods – neither she nor Grant has. They’re good people but don’t understand them – she asks Grant to show her where he hid the manuscript.

He goes with her and she fills in more details of her past – how she went on the run aged 4, she was raised by a guard who taught her how to fight, steal and survive – and how he was tortured and killed in front of her when she was 10. She has not had a happy life.

When Wilson and Ian check on Grant (after finding more real world disasters linked to what is depicted in the comic – this time the Bhopal disaster), they find him missing. They decide to try and contact the MI5 agent they learned about last episode – but Wilson finds, unlike television, it’s actually pretty hard to hack security services, leaving Becky to suggest they call them. On the phone. Which they think they can’t trace in less than 40 seconds because of something Wilson saw on Spooks. They call her – and get through to her; but she doesn’t recognise Jessica’s name. Wilson hangs up.

As soon as he puts the phone down, it rings. Milner tells him that line was monitored, this isn’t – wherever they are, run! She arranges where they can meet – and tells them to avoid CCTV. They drive off – and a man in a car follows them.

They arrive at the abandoned church and Ian and Becky have an awkward relationship conversation and the man who is following them appears with a gun, shouted profanity and a lot of shaking. I don’t think he’s Network, somehow. And Wilson points a shotgun at him. Whether either of them can bring themselves to shoot the other is rendered moot when Ms. Milner enters the church and shoots the man in the head. As an MI5 operative, it appears she has absolutely no problem pulling the trigger. Her first concern is retrieving her bullet (alas, it didn’t come out the front of his head so she has to go digging for it).  Second is politely introducing herself to Wilson. Third is getting him to shoot the man in the head, since she has officially signed out the gun, she needs to cover her tracks.

Of course, Wilson having fired off both barrels of his shotgun, she then takes it off him, holds him at gun point and inquires if the meeting is a trap.

Getting past that, they talk and Milner tells them she can’t protect them; she’s not representing MI5. Becky reveals why the Network wants Utopia so badly – it has the identity of Mr. Rabbit. Ian tries to back out and Milner adds some extra incentive – Caville (Jessica’s father and co-founder of the Network) was a eugenicist. A eugenicist who believed in purifying the species and weaponised diseases. When they try to walk away anyway she tells them she can’t act alone – and gives Becky a phone with one number on it – hers.

On their little tour, Grant and Jessica continue to bond with all the nefarious skills she can teach him – and he gets a hair dye and eye-liner make up to change his appearance, much to his annoyance. He also sees his mother’s televised appeal for him to come home which adds a little more pathos. Jessica’s solution is to get Grant drunk from the mini-bar and, when drink, ask him about the manuscript. She brings out some threats – and Grant is noisily sick after all the booze he’s drunk. Afterwards he collapses in tears over the toilet, crying for his mum - and Jessica carries him to bed and holds him while he sleeps.

At the Corvadt headquarters, Conran has another job for Arby –he gives him the picture of Alice. The girl Grant gave the comic to. Arby agrees to go – but he’s troubled and asks what he was like as a child, when Arby was killing animals in a slaughterhouse (there’s a nice childhood). While Arby has killed ever since childhood, killing the boy eating the same sweets Arby eats has jarred him; he asks who his parents were. Conran tells him that he didn’t have parents – he was part of a “consignment” from Bulgaria – and adds that Caville wasn’t a kind man and was sometimes cruel “out of necessity”. Arby wonders if Jessica is like him, experimented on and he wonders why he feels nothing about Caville’s death (the closest thing he ever had to a father). Conran calls him special – Arby doesn’t feel special.

Milner does her research and finds out about Alice to pass on to Ian – but Ian still wants to know why he and the group should be involved (beyond trying to live not running for your life?) And Milner tells a story of how the Rabbit got his name – after a Chinese crime boss carved his name, Rabbit, into the man’s stomach and how, in revenge, Mr. Rabbit killed him and 265 other people to ensure no-one would ever find out who he was again. Well, he’s thorough. Without him, Ian & co can go home.

The police are interviewing Alice since her schoolfriends saw her with Grant – and they bring in their “new officer” to talk to her. Arby. And they all go for a nice drive (yes, all; Arby doesn’t get to take a child alone).

While they’re doing that, Grant takes Jessica to Alice’s house and they retrieve the manuscript, but
Grant doesn’t want to give it up.

Alice, Arby & co arrive looking for the manuscript – only it’s gone. Alice’s mother gets steadily more confused – until Arby shoots the social worker (or police woman). In the bathroom where Jessica and Grant are hiding, Jessica holds Grant back but he speaks up before Arby can shoot her daughter. Jessica fires her gun and announces she’s Jessica Hyde – and Arby knows who she is and what she’s capable of. He demands the manuscript and when they don’t give him it, he shoots Alice’s mother and then threatens Alice.

Garth begs Jessica and she says ok. She throws out her weapon and agrees to give him the manuscript. Both kids get out the bathroom window – but Jessica has hidden at least some papers in Garth’s clothes.

Jessica confronts Arby, she’s icily calm and he seems to be more and more agitated, even though he’s the one with the gun. She hands over the folder. He asks her about her father – Phillip Caville – and asks what he was like; Jessica doesn’t know, she says that’s why she wanted the manuscript. He lowers the gun and asks her the same question he has asked throughout – “where is Jessica Hyde?” then leaves her and walks away.

Outside, Grant and Alice are picked up in a van by Becky and Wilson.

To the department of health where Michael is crying over Anya being arrested for William the journalist’s murder. He calls in sick for work and goes to see Professor Donaldson – the man William told him about. He denies all knowledge – clearly he’s got the wrong person, now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run for the hills! Not entirely convinced by the whole running for the hills, Michael decides to follow Donaldson, using and abusing his position in the Department of Health to get past the guards. Eventually he gets Donaldson to admit he knows and convinced that Michael isn’t in the Network. Of course, since Michael doesn’t have either a body of one of those who died or the vaccine sample, there’s not a lot he can do.

Michael heads to the Shetland isles where the outbreak took place. There’s a quarantine but he has lots of Department of Health paperwork until he reaches the very isolated quarantine camp. He sneaks around the tents. He finds a room full of bodies and puts on a mask and prepares to take a sample - but has to hide when men come in and take their masks off.

I have a moment of love for Milner covering her tracks over the bullet. In Britain, the few officials who are allowed to carry guns (which isn’t many) don’t get to fire them off willy-nilly without accounting for every last bullet – so any shooting can be properly investigated and covered up dealt with.

Later we see him in a bathroom, cutting something, possibly himself. He goes home to find that Geoff, the minister, Network man and his boss is in his living room talking to Jen, his wife. They’ve been sharing their experiences of being on IVF. When they’re alone Geoff says to Michael that his wife is great, just great, “it’d be a shame to see her raped”. He demands Michael hand over what he has; and he gives Geoff a severed finger. Geoff then lectures him on the foolishness of using his own ID and how other members of the Network wanted to snatch him and torture and kill him – and Jen. But Geoff kept him because he’s useful. He leaves with an awesome threat “work with me and your life will be wonderful, work against me and it will be over”.

After he leaves, we see Michael has a second bagged sample.

I don’t like the rape threat here, it’s specifically targeted at a woman and completely unnecessary. They can threaten, murder, mutilation, torture, framing her for a crime – all things they’ve done – but because she’s a woman it has to be rape?

There’s some really powerful scenes here – the horror and impact of the school and Arby’s conflict is pretty incredible and some of the best acting and television I’ve ever seen.

I also like how the “bad guys” are humanised – with even presumed Network head Conran being disturbed and torn over ordering the hit on the school – even while Jessica says the Network kills people casually, there are some things that cost even them.

In fact, after seeing the icily inhuman Jessica and hearing of her desperate broken childhood, seeing her with Grant gives a powerful other side to her. Another broken child – whose really well acted with his childish vulnerability mixed with an adult toughness that’s really well done – and lost childhood they hit a real connection

And Arby? With his heavy breathing and monotone he is the very definition of menacing – but his damaged past, his desperately seeking a connection with Jessica, his attempts to be more human, his seeking his lost humanity and the incredibly well presented pain of him killing a child in whom he found an element of himself in – it was truly impressive.