Utopia is fast-paced, violent, oddly funny and sinister — the remake has a lively formula that works and should be a crowd-pleaser for mature audiences.
This review of Amazon original series Utopia season 1 contains zero spoilers. The sci-fi series will be released on the streaming service on September 25, 2020.
We recapped every episode — check out the archive.
To my surprise, I was unaware of the 2013 British original of Utopia that surfaced on Channel 4, splitting two seasons. I dived into Amazon’s remake of the series with zero expectations and little idea of what the plot contains. According to the trusted Wikipedia, showrunner Gillian Flynn (author of Sharp Objects, Dark Places, and Gone Girl) promises that the remake will be less violent than the original. If this is less violent, then we can only presume that the original is extremely violent — what can be more violent than bleaching and throwing salt on someone’s face and then digging their eyeball out with a traditional spoon?
In case you are unaware, the series follows a group of misfit teens who become aware that an edition of Utopia has been found — they are a group of comic enthusiasts. This is significant news for many groups of people in the story — the comic shows the future; while the world believes it is fiction, the teens overanalyze the pages and link symbols and signs to what will occur in their near future.
It sounds like a simple premise but Amazon’s remake then divulges into a world of corporate conspiracy and heightened threat. The teenagers go from innocent to having to fight for their lives against outside forces who have higher ambitions and a blinded purpose that is not immediately obvious to the audience. Utopia season 1 manages to keep the viewer on edge; the story keeps moving beat to beat as it unravels the world at pace; it escalates incredibly quickly.
There is not a boring episode in Amazon’s Utopia — it does not waste its time with character-centric chapters or fillers to provide added context; instead, the Amazon series veers away from a convoluted and complex timeline and enjoys itself on the linear. There’s an addictive feeling to the story; when one chapter ends, you are fighting to resist the continuation.
Like The Boys and The Umbrella Academy, audiences will be reveling in the fact that streaming services are encouraging this alternative sci-fi genre where the world is not glamorized between good and bad — rather the world is dull and f*cking grim and we should get over it. That ideology shines through in Utopia; you fully expect a character to die any moment — there’s no love lost between the writers and who is on the cusp of tragedy and it works in favor of the story. Mortality being a real teaser in Amazon’s Utopia means that the show has the same disposing nature as The Walking Dead. The show has made it more about the answers than a character’s end goal. They all feel like a pawn for a greater cause.
There’s been plenty of debate in recent weeks about whether the weekly format should return to a majority of shows after Amazon opted for The Boys to be given that schedule. I genuinely feel the time of weekly is over for most releases and Utopia backs that argument — with a breakneck story, it’s hard to imagine waiting for the conspiracy to unfurl over a 6-week period. It would feel unduly painful.
Utopia is fast-paced, violent, oddly funny, and sinister — the remake has a lively formula that works and should be a crowd-pleaser for mature audiences.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.