The tone and style of this series is unlike pretty much anything else on television. It takes a gritty and intense storyline that in less imaginative hands would usually be paired with severe characters and dark direction. Instead the characters are just normal people who get snippy with each other and have a complete disbelief at the incredible situation they find themselves in. But it’s the style of the cinematography that really makes this series remarkable.
Every single location is full of colour, space and character. Walls are all either primary colours, wood panels, modern glass or beautifully decrepit; I doubt there’s a plain magnolia wall in the whole series. Secret meetings aren’t held in dreary alleyways, they’re in wide open fields full of colour and light. Everything is framed to show off the locations and draw the viewer’s attention into the screen. There’s a richness to the design that bursts every scene from the screen. This is a series made for HD and it’s gorgeous.
The plot manages to walk the delicate line between complex and confusing. Despite occasionally getting distracted looking at the scenery, I never struggled to follow the storyline. Even better was the fact that the conspirators turned out to actually have some very interesting motivations, giving a depth that is often lacking in this kind of thing when the bad guys are just chasing after power, revenge or cash. It’s possible to empathise with all the characters, even the most psychotic; good guys and bad guys start dancing around and who’s right and wrong is entirely debatable.
It all feels very much like a graphic novel on the screen. The details of the plot and the endless over designed locations may not entirely realistic, but it’s all got a sort of hyper-realism to it that feels like a lovingly crafted comic series. The quirkiness of the characters reminded me of Kick-Ass or something like that, both fun and creepy, extreme and understandable all at once.
I remain unsure as to whether this is a review of the whole series or just of “season 1”, the final episode certainly leaves things open enough to move the story to a new level in another season, but it could also serve as a bold piece of writing that shows that no story is ever complete. I think either way, it’s definitely a stunning six hours of television.
Utopia is available on 4OD until 21st March, on on dvd from the 11th..
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