Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Utopia, Season 2, Episode 1

An old fashioned Italian news report and then to Rome in 1979.

Ok, that’s an odd way to begin a new season, but then Utopia specialises in odd.

A very young Jessica is with her father. Said father speaks with a source who claims to have the identity of Mr. Rabbit (who was revealed last season to be Ms. Rabbit). She is quite terrifyingly menacing and not happy (I think she actually is Ms. Rabbit) – because the file has come into their hands, almost by chance, and Jessica’s dad, Phillip, is the one who sent it. He tells her he’s complete Janus. He’s desperate and very stressed as he tells her he’s changed it – and he can never use what he’s made.

Someone walks up and shoots the driver. Possibly-Ms-Rabbit doesn’t even blink. Almost-certainly-Ms.Rabbit demand Janus by the end of the week – or she will torture Jessica.

5 years earlier, in London, with shortages and strikes and powercuts and Phillip all dressed up when an Eastern European woman carrying a baby enters the house and demands to know what Phillip did to Pietre (probably Arby) who she has taken to the doctor. We have definite confirmation that Phillip is his father. She thinks Phillip is doing something to Arby and violently attacks Phillip – at the same time Phillip suggests she’s delusional and has stopped taking her medication. The baby watches on from the playpen.

Probably not the healthiest childhood.

Phillip is taken to a rather ritzy do in a rather impressive castle with lots of rich looking people and raaaather a lot of booze which he is quick to make full use of. In his tipsy state he shows his great knowledge by cutting into someone’s conversation to explain why their cure for malaria will fail. Ms. Rabbit (almost sure) joins him when she notices that this exclusive party – held every 4 years to ensure big important people can talk to each other on the quiet – and all Phillip is doing is drinking. She pokes him on malaria and he explains why he doesn’t want to cure it – the human population is growing exponentially and rapidly overwhelming the planet’s capacity to support it; he’s intrigued that she actually agrees with him.

Of course, she’s way more awesome than that – when he declares that humanity is the only disease on the planet in need of curing she invites him to join her throwing herself off the balcony. She teeters very unstably over the edge and asks for his answer to the problem of humanity (also referring to having experience with genocide, so not a great fan there). He does have an answer – and they spend all night talking about it.

Back to his domestic life and he and Brosca  try to interest Pietre in a rabbit. He just stares into space

Milner (Ms. Rabbit’s non-bunny identity) arranges for Phillip to meet some very important scientists all of whom are extremely impressed by him, much to his shock. They’re implementing his grand plan, Janus, and he is all very excited – with also hints of his separateness, the god complex they’re getting from playing with human lives.

Which we see even more clearly when he explains Janus – it turning off human fertility except for the select few they spare – with “advantageous genetic traits”. Eugenics – by infertility rather than direct slaughter – Phillip seems to think this means it isn’t genocide. Even Milner asks if they can just make the fertility random rather than specifically choosing who deserves to breed and sees the inherent wrongness of what he’s proposing

Phillip also starts experimenting on his son, feeding him chemicals and making him watch him kill Pietre’s pet rabbit. He still stares into space.

Other personal issues include both Phillip and Milner keeping their significant others in the dark about what they do. Brosca is still concerned by Phillip affecting Pietre, especially when she becomes pregnant again.

Work progresses in the lab until Milner tells Phillip not to come in the next day – there’s going to be a gas leak. And Phillip, with all his genocidal ideas, is horrified that she’s going to wipe out his co-workers. She mocks the idea that these people matter when saving a species, that people deserve to be saved because Phillip is attached to them.

Home life isn’t more reassuring with Brosca horrified when Pietre kills his next pet rabbit – and she finds a series of extremely unpleasant childish drawings – that look like dissections of a rabbit. Tom, Milner’s husband, is going through a painful withdrawal, dealing with addiction. There is a definite bond growing between Milner and Phillip which Tom calls “brain love”.

They get a genuine connecting hug when Phillip is arrested for harming his child. And you thought your relationship started on rocky foundations! Phillip admits he was trying to inhibit violence in Pietre… well. Um…  not quite how it worked out, now, is it? Milner doesn’t particularly care and is more focused on Brosca now being a problem. Phillip feels the same about alcoholic Tom.

When Milner has a problem, she deals with it. So when 50 people learn of Janus, they’re put on a plane with a bomb on it. And Tom has an accident in the bath. Brosca dies in childbirth… there’s no indication that Milner’s involved… but she does take the chance to focus Phillip on Janus. The girl is Jessica.

Now back to 1979 with the driver dead in the taxi and Milner’s ultimatum. Which Phillip ignores – he continues to leak documents identifying “Mr. Rabbit”; she guesses that Phillip can’t bring himself to destroy his work but fears it – so it trying to bring her down. We also see the young Assistant  (who never gets a name) with the new symbol carved in his torso.

Enter Minister Neave, member of government who has seen the leak, seen the cover up – and is quite willing to keep covering things up so long as they’re willing to play his game and help the Tories get in government. Which, naturally, they do, in very brutal and efficient manner.

Milner also steps up her intimidation of Phillip – having the man she intends to torture Jessica introduce himself in an incredibly creepy scene. Under all the stress Phillip frays a little round the edges – and seems to start writing his comics to hide Janus

Phillip is tortured while Milner looks on, tearful (the torturer is the creepiest man ever. He’s so… professional and reassuring). But Phillip has some allies – Christos, who manages to get him out during lots of alarms and a nuclear event – a rather extreme measure to take. Yes, it’s 3 Mile Island. They may have casused it.

 Phillip gets to the torturer before he can touch Jessica and kills him. Phillip runs with Jessica – and leaves Pietre behind.

Mr Neave is killed in a bombing. Milner clears up her tracks.

Milner seems to have wrecked her home when she realises she’s lost Janus – or lost Phillip, even the Assistant doubts which. Milner also realises that Jessica has Janus – or is Janus

Christos checks the broken Phillip into a mental hospital – under the name Mark Dane. Christos  takes Jessica to raise and train. Phillip completes the Utopia comics – and hangs himself.

You know Nothing, Phillip Carville!

Sorry, I had to. I’ve been holding that in ALL recap!

Tim McInery playing yet another secret services/conspiracy role?. He seems to always play conspiracy government types these days. Not that I’m complaining – he’s always absolutely awesome in the role.

Part of me wanted to say what was the point of this episode. None of this is new information. None of this advances what we’ve seen or the characters we’ve connected to. It’s backstory we already know to a current story that is already teetering on the edge of so many cliffhangers – to delay that story to give us unnecessary backstory is wrong. Right?

But… I can’t. Because it was so incredibly well done – immensely well acted, powerfully emotional, wonderfully woven with actual real world events in a way that truly perfect. I can’t say it was pointless because it gave the whole series a foundation of incredible events wonderfully presented in this single episode.

It may not have been USEFUL to any element of the main plot. But the plot is still richer to have it. And even it weren’t, it was so excellent in its own right to be worth the episode alone.