Thursday, July 17, 2014

Utopia, Season 2, Episode 2

As is common with Utopia radio in the background reminds us of a growing resource shortage in the world as a man goes to visit Jessica Hyde in her cell. Her guards show cuts, bruises and bite marks and they hand him a long taser to go see her. Jessica isn’t taking being imprisoned lying down

The man is Ross, there to interrogate Jessica after she killed the last one (who was also a torturer). The guards are very very very wary of her. She asks for a book – the Bible. Milner is watching the interrogation through CCTV and the reason for the questioning is revealed – Phillip put Janus in Jessica, but he changed it before he did. They’re making Janus, getting ready to distribute it in a fake vaccine – but it seems to perfectly work. They can’t see what Phillip changed. They can’t use it until then. He claims they can cut open her brain to find the truth – but he is stopping them because he’s a good guy. He continues to appeal to Jessica, to play the good guy after months of abuse.

Cut to a nice normal street and Arby – Pietre – walking down it with an ominous yellow bag. He enters a home and asks a little girl if her mummy’s home. He reaches into the bag and pulls out… a toy. The girl hugs him and calls him “Peter” (he corrects her to “Pietre”. His real name). Ok Utopia, that was an excellent fake out. Said mummy comes in and they’re a happy family with massive amounts of cuteness.

Which may come to an end when Lee finds Pietre. He’s still alive, but not entirely unscathed. Pietre takes him home for dinner – and Pietre’s super unhealthy diet of fried everything is now replaced with quinoa and leafy greens. He’s living a happy life as a plumber, while Lee is having trouble coming to terms with what they did. But lee isn’t out of the organisation, nor does he think Pietre can be – they want him back. And when Pietre’s family returns the menace is very very clear.

Ian is back to his boring IT consultant job. So boring he actually sticks his tongue in a stapler; because having one’s tongue stapled would actually be more interesting than his job. His co-worker, Joe, very supportive of Ian (who disappeared without explanation and he now sees as self-harming). Awww he tried. He is searching for Becky using CCTV. He tries to tell Joe the truth and is just laughed off – but it’s clear Ian thinks they’ve won.

Grant is living with him – and the kid has done some growing up (child actors shoot up so fast) and Grant is doing a bad job of staying under the radar for someone who is supposed to be dead. But then, he’s also struggling with the fact his mum, his friends, everyone thinks he’s dead and he’s supposed to become this whole new person. Ian still has faith in Milner (oops) despite her being completely out of touch. When grant tries to leave Ian tries to stop him – and Grant kicks him and Ian punches him back. Things are… fraught. Definitely fraught – and they both miss Becky

Geoff, head of the health department, holds a press conference. Corvadt (part of Milner’s organisation) has gone bankrupt, but since it’s the only company that makes the vaccine for the fictitious Russian flu, he’s decided to bail them out. And Michael – Michael Dugdale, the beleaguered civil servant from season 1, is the new interim CEO.

This, Michael makes very very clear, does not mean they are now friends. Not at all. He moves into the assistant’s office feeling so very out of place, as he does at home, alone, with his very unappetising microwave meal.

Wilson is in a meeting with Milner – and he knows she’s Mr. Rabbit. Why? Because despite everything they did to Wilson (tortured him, removed his eye, killed his father) he still joined their side and betrayed his friends: he’s a convert to Janus. Wilson is a recruit though he’s still unsure if he can do what they want – especially with the litany of crimes Milner has committed. She reassures him – before Arby and Lee enter the room.

Milner hugs Arby, talks about Phillip, his father, and gives him a job; someone who knows too much. But Arby pushes his real name, Pietre, and doesn’t agree with the lavish praise for Phillip. Milner’s sure Pietre will join them – but has a SWAT team sent as well, just in case.

The man they’re targeting, Christian Donaldson, is trying to talk Becky down from a ledge. He offers her a year’s worth of treatment for her illness – Deels Syndrome. She wants her to help him investigate a Dr. Tony Bradly selling his book in a shop – Christian considers Tony a complete fool and his book truly brilliant book on Deels Syndrome. Christian wants to find out where Tony stole his info from (because he’s not smart enough to have done it himself) and use his far better brain to write an even better selling book

At least he’s honest about being a mercenary.

So Becky seduces Tony back to his house – and Christian barges in with a gun. Neither of them respect each other’s scientific credentials until they hear knocking – and find, in the cupboard under the stairs, a whole hidden chamber. It’s locked and inside is an old man – he just wandered into Tony’s class and started scribbling brilliant science about Deels – he doesn’t speak English but answers to “Anton.”

Over to Geoff, Wilson, Milner and new conspirator (a charity head with a rich husband) called Leah who have a plan to spread the Russian flu vaccine to the entire world – using crafty PR and the huge cost being underwritten by fake charities – and generous rich people leaving vast sums in their will. And then dying in a tragic coincidence. The plan is to delay the vaccine’s release in England so the whole world is vaccinated at once. Geoff balks – delaying a vaccine in the UK for the sake of foreigners getting it is political suicide and will destroy his career. Milner finds this amusing since the only reason he has a career is because of them – now be an obedient little minion

Jessica’s interrogator continues to play the good guy – he gets her a cell, with windows, able to see the clouds (she had drawn clouds on the wall of her old, dark, lightless cell). It has running water. But then she reveals that she doesn’t actually know what the adjustment is Phillip made, she was never told. She only pretended to know so she wouldn’t be killed out of hand, despite 5 months of torture. She shows off the wounds from her torture while discussing how Ross’s attempt was different, his good guy act to get in her head.

Which he failed to do – as she proves with that running water, her shirt – and the taser he’s carrying. Ross is unconscious; she says she’s in his head as she wraps a rope around his neck.

Ian finally gets a match for Becky and he and Grant hurry out. Becky is part of the most inept kidnapping ever, as she, Christian, Tony and Anton go to an abandoned building. Ian and Grant also sneak in – as does Pietre and, separately, the SWAT team.

Pietre catches Grant – but seems to be protecting him from the SWAT. He calmly questions and takes down the first SWAT man, with the man’s own gun. He tells Grant to follow him which is a pretty big request considering the school shooting Pietre did in the first season (blamed on Grant).

Becky runs into Ian and is bemused as to why Ian tracked her down. Awkward reunion interrupted by 2 SWAT men and Pietre killing them both. Well that breaks the ice. He calmly tells them to wait while he finds the last one. (Grant joins Becky and Ian). The last SWAT member fires on Christian and Donald (they have their wrists tied together as part of the inept kidnapping) which becomes more inept when Tony falls to the floor, apparently having a heart attack, leaving Christian trying to drag his body – but Pietre gets the last SWAT member first

Pietre leads them all – Becky, Ian, Grant, Anton and Christian – on the run. After which they pause for Pietre to explain things in his very direct, simplistic manner

To Jessica – she made the rope, padded with pages from the Bible they gave her and has made a noose for Ross, attached to the gate mechanism of her cage. Opening or closing the gate may cause Ross to lose his head – they don’t know which. And they can’t get in without doing the same. She’s made no demands and no attempts to escape; she’s just stared at clouds for 5 hours.

Milner has no moral qualms, she opens the gate, killing Ross. She goes to see Jessica and seems to feel genuinely guilty when she asks what she has done to her

And Jessica has also stolen the spring from Ross’s pen. I can’t even imagine what she’ll do with it but I’m sure it will be… creative.

Utopia always does a chilling job of reminding us of the motivation of Milner and Phillip, which was so explicitly clear last episode. News reports, TV, radio all reporting on the results of shortages around the world. The show is clear, resources are running out, societal problems are already beginning as the world becomes less able to feed the population. Under it all is that crawling terror of a looming apocalypse.

Which, of course, also begs the question – is Milner right? And if she isn’t what’s the alternative?

Utopia is always good at setting things up without expressly stating them. Like how dangerous Jessica is – we don’t need to see her in action, but we can see the bruises, we can see the fear of the guards. And then, after all these wonderful moments of appealing to Jessica, of showing how she was tortured, of really powerfully showing how she longed to see the sky. She seems to break for Ross.

Then she kills him. Jessica Hyde, perhaps the scariest character of all our shows. Though Pietre? He’s pretty damn scary as well. Milner should be careful that the Network’s monster doesn’t bite them. I particularly love the contrast between Jessica and Pietre’s deadly, almost professional skill and then we have Christian’s utter amateur attempt at kidnapping

The character development of Pietre, of the gang after the events of last episode and even Milner’s conflicts are all really well done – Utopia is made by its complex characters