Here’s the deal:
The most interesting villains are the ones who are right.
Comic books have understood this for years and have given us the X-Men’s Magneto, Batman’s Ra’s al Ghul and Watchmen’s Ozymandias. While Magneto fights for the lives of his people and the very nature of evolution, both Ra’s al Ghul and Ozymandias fight to save the world from itself, willing to trade millions of lives for billions.
We can call these characters a lot of things: cold-hearted pragmatists, amoral monsters, Harry S. Truman, but it’s very difficult to call them “wrong.” Even if we disagree with their methods, their arguments are usually compelling enough to at least consider the implementation of their actions. Both Ra’s al Ghul’s and Ozymandias’ stances are particularly indicative of this. If the world hasn’t fixed itself yet, is it time to use a scalpel instead of a Band-Aid?
In short, what would you be willing to do to save the world?
This is a question that the British TV show Utopia asks its characters and viewers. The central plot concerns a group of casual conspiracy theorists who stumble upon a true conspiracy regarding a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments. The novel, published years before, became famous for seemingly predicting recent global events, and the group has learned of the possible existence of an original manuscript with potentially more information.
As new information comes to light, the group becomes increasingly embroiled in the inner-workings of the conspiracy, crossing paths with shadowy government agents and contracted killers.
To say much more of the plot would be giving away far too many solid story turns and surprises, but in the two seasons produced (for a total of 12 episodes), a very satisfying narrative develops with strong character work. Essentially, this show is like Lost with a plot.
Those characters include the chillingly psychopathic killers Lee and Arby, as well as the eccentric but charming Wilson Wilson. And as an added bonus, season two features the lovely Rose Leslie in a powerful supporting role.
Visually, the show sets itself apart by featuring a bright, Technicolor palette, and one commentator noted that the show also avoids close-ups. While I’m not sure if this is strictly true, a focus on medium or long shots could be due to the greater theme of the importance of humanity as a whole.
Aside from occasionally rushed subplots, the show doesn’t have too many downsides. The biggest issue with Utopia, however, is that it falls in the Twin Peaks/Deadwood camp by not having an ending. While the creator wanted to continue the show for another season or two, low ratings led to its cancellation last month. And while David Fincher has plans to adapt the show for an American audience on HBO, fans are still hopeful for a resolution to the original. Another season or an extended special could easily wrap it up satisfyingly.
Cliffhanger or no, what’s been released has been wildly entertaining, thought-provoking and often quite brilliant. Go watch Utopia and find out just how far you’d go to save the world.
But seriously, where is Jessica Hyde?