Thursday, July 31, 2014

Utopia, Season 2, Episode 4

In America, a nice normal family is settling in for the night when he gets a call – he has to go out, ah such is the hardships of working as a 24 hour plumber

Well, except this plumber actually finds a hidden, apparently long undisturbed vault. He removes a refrigerated container, puts it in a hidden, locked compartment of his car and takes it to what seems to be an old airbase where he abandons the car.

He goes home… and murders his family then kills himself.

Over to England and Michael has Jessica Hyde as a houseguest – he almost calls to report her but decides against it, settling on restless pacing as she sleeps for 2 days solid. Now she wants to eat and is very impressed by his eggs – less so by Michael’s excuses for helping with Janus (she has a very good silence while he babbles away realising his own excuses are so very poor). She’s also immensely creepy and has a thing for Ian.

And to the gang where Garth investigates Pietre’s bag (not a good idea) and finds a gun which clearly brings back bad memories. And Becky tries to prompt Phillip’s memory with the Utopia manuscript. Becky and Ian argue over what to do next, whether to show Phillip the TV show that prompted him to speak (which would involve breaking and entering for some odd reason – the excuse is because it’s American so they can’t get it on the net. Because killing people is fine, using torrents and not respecting territory releases is right out of line. Oh Channel 4, don’t be such a damn fool) as well as arguing over Ian telling Milner. At least he told them, I guess. Garth also notices a tattoo on Phillip’s arm

Backy recognises the number as death camp tattoos from the holocaust. She pulls out her lap top and runs through a few language with him, recognising that Phillip – or Anton – speaks Romanian.

Ian follows is own rather inept but effective plan to get a copy of the US TV show from the network, getting out by playing on someone’s racist assumption. From there he goes to Michael’s house – which Becky preciously told him not to since they don’t know if they can trust him – especially since Ian already wrongly put his choice in Milner. Where he gets hugged by Jessica Hyde. And kissed. And then he just runs with it, especially when she declares she’s not waiting.

Afterwards, Jessica tells him about Janus being in her, that Michael isn’t a true member of the Network and basically behaves oddly enough that Ian realises there’s something badly wrong with her. She also hides a phone in the lining of Ian’s jacket and goes to make some eggs – when he, predictably, runs like hell she watches him go.

Pietre has joined up with Lee and Christian; Pietre is arranging for Tess and Amanda’s, his family’s, safety. He has a completely emotionless, logical, cold – and still deeply moving and sad last goodbye with them as he ensures their safety. That done, Lee now gets his side of the bargain – and he kills Christian. But he still wants the rest of the gang. Pietre asks where Jessica Hyde is.

That’s still a very spooky question for him to ask.

At team Janus, Milner is still riding high on Phillip being alive while Wilson is worried that they’re going ahead, making the vaccine when they still don’t know what changes have been made. Milner relies on Phillip loving his daughter, storing Janus in her so there’s no way it will be harmful. Wilson starts waffling so Milner hits him with some brutal truths – she has murdered children to get Janus. She then takes him out to give him some uncompromising facts about when various resources – fish, oil, fertiliser – will run out. She needs him to understand how pointless morality is.

She also introduces him to Paul – who is going to do what the American already did. Grab a canister containing deadly virus and spread it over a wide area, encouraging people to get the Russian flu vaccine which, in turn, will spread Janus. Yes he’ll kill hundreds, possibly thousands of people and, yes, he’ll probably die himself – but it’s worth it for the cause and saving the world.

Milner is clearly doing this to show the level of dedication you need for the vitally important Janus. Personally I think it more sends the message to Wilson that he’s actually working for the wrong side (the right side being those who don’t merrily talk about being a suicidal serial killer for the greater good). The aftermath of which leaves him staring at a spoon, clearly conflicted (a spoon was used to remove his eye). He asks Milner how many will die – and is horrified and stunned when he hears the numbers are in the tens of thousands.

She demands he tell her if he can live with this and after a tense moment he says, yes, he can.

Back to Michael who reaches out to some nefarious people, the Network I assume, who after a lot of secrecy and security, take him to his wife and daughter – both held hostage.

He goes home to Jessica who tells him about Ian – and that Milner is Mr. Rabbit. She tearfully apologises – she cannot hold all the secrets herself, she needs to be able to trust someone.

Becky and Garth call in a Romanian translator who questions Anton for 2 seconds before returning to point out, irritatedly, that Anton doesn’t speak Romanian, he speaks Romany (presumably one of the Romany languages) and berates them for their ignorance (though, amusingly asks Becky if she speaks Welsh just because she speaks English – which she does). Though he does concede that Anton IS speaking Romanian Romani (though he still considers them racist).

Ian joins them (acting odd) and they use the translator to question Anton – he was in the Belzec concentration camp. He tells his horrific story – and how his life’s work using his mind was to stop it ever happening again. Which is what he describes his life with Mr. Rabbit – and confirms to the group that Mr. Rabbit was a woman – using Janus to “solve all the world’s problems”. Becky asks if it will work – and Anton/Phillip switches to English saying, yes it will work – but not as Mr. Rabbit wants. He’s made an adjustment to allow him to “choose” as he suggested. But he won’t tell him what he chose.

He then starts ranting about “five families”, they check the footage of the programme that set him off and see the tickertape talking about the American killing his family. They connect it to another family death and realise there are 3 more.

Over to team bad guy, and Milner has taken in Ian’s brother, Roy, for questioning. Roy is confused and ignorant and knows nothing about Milner or Mr. Rabbit (and she repeats the phrase “Milner is Mr. Rabbit” several times). She orders him questioned and reveals to Wilson that he will be killed. Not because he knows about Ian – but because it will hurt Ian. Wilson is appalled and, again, Milner reminds him of the evil things she intends to do to create Utopia and save the world. Which will all fail of Roy and his 2 MI5 guards (not Network) leave the room alive, knowing Milner is Mr. Rabbit. She gives Wilson a gun and a whole lot of guilt and responsibility.

To the gang and Becky confesses all to Ian about working for Christian to get Deels medicine and how she wants everything honest and open between them. Which gives Ian a severe case of the guilt weasels over Jessica and he snaps at Grant.

Grant snaps himself, he goes to where Pietre has kept his gun and points it at Ian when he tries to apologise. He turns to leave and runs into Pietre on the stairs. Grant sensibly gives Pietre back the gun. They sit and talk, Pietre telling him how little he feels about killing (it’s disturbingly casual to him). Grant asks him to teach him – Pietre agrees to teach him how to shoot, but not how to kill. Garth also lets slip that Anton is someone else. Since Phillip is Pietre’s father this could be… dramatic.

Becky continues her investigating and figures out that the massacres all occur near small airfields which, in turn, are near very busy airports: so they can spread the disease by crop-duster and have it spread massively via the airports – which is horrifyingly effective. Anton/Phillip returns to lucidity to explain things. He also points to a Utopia comic and calls it proof after saying how awful the Network is. Which is when Pietre shoots the translator and shoots at them. He corners Ian – but Garth runs in and begs him not to. Instead Pietre takes Garth and Anton and leaves.

At Michael’s, Michael responds to Jessica’s trust by telling her that the Network has Jennie and Alice. Jessica promises to help – but leaves and promises to return when Milner knocks on his door. She’s looking for Ian (using the excuse of him being framed for murder and, again, claiming that the Network is down). She is suspicious – especially when she spots the Bible Jessica has got out – Michael is not a religious man.

She takes a knife from the kitchen, returns to Michael – and Jessica puts a gun to the back of her head. Jessica takes her upstairs, ready to kill her – and Milner desperately tells her that her dad is alive.

Back in the warehouse, Wilson shoots the 2 MI5 guards and Roy.

There’s a lot of excellent character nuance and development here. The acting and the emotion conveyed is so powerful

I think Milner may have stolen it this week. Her conflicts is so real and you can see it in how she is trying to get Wilson on sides. On some level she seems to need vindication. She knows what she’s doing is inexcusably evil – but she clings to the idea that it is necessary. Everyone in the Network is almost cultishly dedicated to it and everyone outside obviously doesn’t know about it or the goal so can be ignored. But Wilson knows about the cause. He agrees with the cause. He’s actually on board – and he is torn with conscience. By knowing and accepting the cause and being horrified by the evil, he becomes an accuser to Milner. She can’t dismiss his judgement as ignorance – because he does understand and he is a supporter. His horror becomes a judgment on Milner, she needs him to accept what they do because she needs his absolution – she needs his confirmation she’s on the right path

Having Wilson kill Roy and the guards isn’t just about ensuring his loyalty and dedication, it’s about vindicating her own terrible actions. It’s about having him agree with her that, yes, it’s necessary, yes, it’s worth it.

What I’m more leery on is the shows heavy use of mental illness, not for characterisation but as tools. Anton is mentally ill, but it seems to be less of a testament to his traumatic life and more of a way of ensuring he remains cryptic and incomprehensible forcing the others to play detective with his random words. Pietre’s own non-neurotypical nature is used to make him more menacing and unpredictable. And Jessica Hyde – again it adds to her menace but mainly makes her unpredictable, almost whimsical.

Mental illness seems to be used by this series to introduce loose cannons of unpredictability to the plot line. Ultimately, the plot can be twisted in any direction because Anton, Pietre and Jessica are not predictable, they’re random and can’t be relied upon to react in a logical manner.

On another discomforting matter – Phillip Carville horrified Milner when he suggested that they use Janus to “racially select” who lives and dies. The Assistant called it nazi-ism and he wasn’t wrong. Today it’s implied that Phillip did just that; and Phillip/Anton is a holocaust survivor.