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Series / Utopia

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"All of us have a mission in life. This is yours, understand? Do you fucking understand your mission?"
Conran Letts

Utopia is a British Science Fiction Conspiracy Thriller created by Dennis Kelly that ran for two seasons on Channel 4, the first airing in early 2013 and the second in the summer of 2014.

The story follows four unlikely companions - IT worker Ian, medical student Becky, troubled child Grant, and the ever-paranoid Wilson. These characters are brought together by an online forum who come into possession of an original manuscript for the long-awaited second volume of a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments, written by a Reclusive Artist in a mental asylum who died before it could be published.

However, when the fifth member of their group is murdered by a pair of brutal assassins, the rest find themselves on the run while trying to figure out what secret hidden in the manuscript could be so important and why the shadowy organization known as the Network want to keep it under wraps.

Also embroiled in the conspiracy are hapless civil servant Michael Dugdale, torn between covering up his bosses' schemes and working against them, and enigmatic Dark Action Girl and Sociopathic Hero Jessica Hyde, who wants the manuscript for her own reasons and who is of considerable interest to the aforementioned hitmen.

The show is unique in the way it's presented and shot. Wide shots are common and almost ubiquitous, and many important details are shown out of focus, forcing the viewer to scrutinize the background, much like characters themselves. The show is also highly oversaturated, which makes the already loud and bright colors (see page image) look almost neon, much like how an artist would illustrate a graphic novel.

The cast includes Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alexandra Roach, Oliver Woollford, and Adeel Akhtar as the main quartet of Ian, Becky, Grant, and Wilson; Fiona O'Shaughnessy as Jessica Hyde, Neil Maskell as Arby, Paul Higgins as Michael Dugdale, Alistair Petrie as Geoff Lawson, Geraldine James as MI5 agent Milner, Stephen Rea as Conran Letts and Ian McDiarmid as Anton.

An American remake was set to air on HBO with David Fincher and Gillian Flynn as co-showrunners. However, after negotiations with HBO fell through, Prime Video picked it up for a single season with Flynn as the sole showrunner and released it in late 2020.

Not to be confused with the unrelated Fox reality show or the Australian comedy.

Due to the series' high volume of plot twists, all spoilers for the first season are unmarked. Scroll responsibly.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Philip Carvel was terrible to Pietre, and Grant's mom was a negligent alcoholic at best.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Wilson reacts to the Internal Reveal that Grant is not a city trader but merely a preteen with incredulity, "You said that you drive a Porsche and your girlfriend is a supermodel", to which Grant replies, "Yeah, I've got ambitions", which Wilson finds hilarious. Given what he'd recently been through, he needed a good laugh.
  • Affably Evil: Lee, among others, is genuinely genial while he's explaining how he's going to pull out your eyes.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: After his father's experimentation, Pietre is generally "off".
  • Animal Motifs: Various allusions to rabbits abound, and the Big Bad is known as Mr. Rabbit. Arby (real name Pietre, "Peter") and Jessica Hyde are revealed to be siblings. Peter and Jessica... Rabbit. Moreover, Mr. Rabbit itself isn't an identity of a single person... As anyone within the Network can take up the mantle in case the previous one kicks the bucket. Rabbits do breed like crazy, sort of like humans.
  • Anti-Hero: Virtually all of the main cast (save for the villains):
    • Ian, Becky, and Wilson over the course of the series use methods of kidnapping, breaking & entering, forceful interrogations edging towards Jack Bauer levels, eventually become Pragmatic Heroes. Becky realizes it, and is horrified by what they're becoming. Wilson, however, eventually does a Face–Heel Turn.
    • Jessica Hyde is an Unscrupulous Hero, even edging towards Nominal Hero, taking Grant away from the group and having him drink liquor to reveal the location of the manuscript. Her desire to stop the Network is less over concern for the world and more of a big case of It's Personal.
    • Dugdale fits the Classical Anti-Hero mold, constantly being screwed over by the Network over what he knows.
  • Anti-Villain: The Network. Though its members are attempting to indiscriminately and forcefully sterilize 90% of humans on the planet and are willing to do whatever they feel is necessary to accomplish that, they're doing so to avert massive suffering in the forms of poverty, war, and starvation on an unprecedented scale.
  • Arc Words: "Where is Jessica Hyde?". When Arby starts asking this, the audience and our heroes have no idea who Jessica Hyde is. As a recurring phrase, it sets a tone for the rest of the series; everyone is always looking for something, or someone, and never is anyone in possession of the full set of relevant facts.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Donaldson is on the run from the Network during the whole show, but he is such a jerk, manipulating and double-crossing everyone for petty gain, that it is really hard to sympathize with him. In Series 2, he is so insufferable that nobody (either viewer and in-universe characters) feels sorry when he's killed by the Network.
    • Geoff also gets what he deserves in the Series 2 finale.
  • Ass Shove: Dugdale asks Jessica how he's supposed to arrange a rescue attempt for his wife and adopted daughter when he'll be checked for items on his person. Jessica tells him to shove the required item up his arse. She was being serious.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The show ends with a cliffhanger. While the original flu plot has been averted, the Network has a backup plan, and most of our heroes are captured. Only Pietre awakening from a coma gives hope for a possible comeback.
  • Beard of Evil: The Assistant sports a bizarre tiny goatee.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Some of the main characters such as Ian and Grant go through this phase, and when they do get what they want, it comes at a great cost, to say the least.
    • In Series 2, #2, Ian has grown visibly bored with going back to his normal life, and it's implied that his search for Becky is the only exciting thing he's got going for him. At the end of the episode, he's found Becky... and is now back on the run with her and Grant.
    • As a result of being falsely convicted for a school shooting at his own school, Grant had to spend almost the entire story being on the run and a grudge for what's happened to him. His interaction with Arby for some time in Series 2 motivated him to be a badass killer just like Arby... Until he gets to kill Milner in the penultimate episode of the series and doomed the entire humanity because of his actions.
  • Becoming the Mask: Wilson takes on the identity of Mr. Rabbit - complete with replicating the cuts on his skin - at the end of Series 2.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Ian and Becky, at first. Interestingly, it's only after they get the tension out of the way through sex that they begin to talk honestly about their feelings for each other, and their relationship slowly develops.
  • Big Bad: Mr. Rabbit aka Milner.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Arby/Pietre in Series 2, #2.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: There are no good guys, only people trying their best when faced with terrible choices... and those who are creating the circumstances necessary for those terrible choices to be made.
  • Black Comedy: The primary kind that Utopia deals in. For example, when Dugdale is talking to Donaldson about how they are both being blackmailed by The Network, it leads to this amusing exchange:
    Donaldson: All I know was within the next few weeks I was embroiled in a sex scandal. Professor Pervert, addicted to coke and prostitutes.
    Dugdale: So they just set you up?
    Donaldson: Yeah. Well, no. *Beat* I.. I do like cocaine and prostitutes, but they didn't have to tell anyone.
  • Black Site: The pyramid within which Jessica is imprisoned in Series 2, #2.
  • Break the Cutie: A recurring motif; Alice goes from being an innocent (if somewhat foul-mouthed) schoolgirl to a traumatized murderer within a few days, while series two, episode one shows just how harmless Jessica was before Carvel left the Network.
  • Call-Back: Wilson experiences some Sanity Slippage and threatens to kill Letts for being a part of the organization that killed his father, he then rants to Ian after he tries to stop him: "I've lost someone, Becky's lost someone, WHO HAVE YOU FUCKING LOST!" In the next series, Wilson has Ian's brother killed and says to him, "At least now you've lost someone.".
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Arby, with his complete lack of social skills, does this. It's actually a ruse to retrieve his hidden pistol.
    Arby: I need to do... the other one. There might be some noises.
  • Car Fu: Arby flattens two Network agents.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Wilson's ability to dislocate his thumbs.
    • Ian's IT experience doesn't really factor into the plot until season 2 when he tracks down Becky with a face recognition program.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl:
    • Becky and Jessica antagonize each other constantly, in part over Ian. Because the latter keeps stringing him along, Becky mockingly asks him if he's attracted to tough women.
    • This trope is also invoked by Milner concerning Jessica Hyde. From the moment she was born, Carvel loves Jessica enough for him to have doubts about his work, causing Milner to comment that she's "losing him". When she captures Jessica at the end of Series 1, Milner takes special delight in telling her that Janus was inside her ("Can't you feel Daddy's love inside you?"). And in Series 2, #5, when Carvel reveals that he altered Janus so that Jessica would survive and carry on humanity,
    Milner: ...You did this for her?
  • Cold Equation: Everyone involved with The Network believes that the human population needs to be drastically and immediately reduced in order to prevent the extinction of the species.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Usually, a bright yellow object against an otherwise muted background signifies something bad is about to happen.
  • Color Motif: Bright, vivid, and solid colors of blue, yellow, green, and sometimes red are seen in the setting and sometimes in the costumes.
  • Colour Wash: The cinematography is highly over-saturated, in keeping with the references to comic books.
  • The Conspiracy: The Network has officials in seemingly every conceivable jurisdiction on its payroll and is able to keep its nefarious global plot under wraps for about forty years.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Wilson Wilson, though given that a shadowy cartel of politicians, scientists, and cold war spies are in fact secretly planning to sterilize the world, he has good reason to be paranoid.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: In the first episode, Bejan's murder is disguised as a suicide. Also, mains gas isn't actually poisonous so the deaths at the comic shop from Lee's Deadly Gas should have been immediately suspicious.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Corvadt and Pergus Holdings, massive multinationals spanning dozens of different industries and part of the Network, are working on a Sterility Plague that is formed of two parts, genetically modified corn starch and a flu vaccine, that only activate when combined in a human.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: An American executive who Becky, Ian, and Wilson suspect of being Mr. Rabbit is being paid by the Network to modify corn in specific ways. Upon interrogation, it's revealed he doesn't know much about the conspiracy, simply accepting the money and doing as he's told.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live:
    Jessica: I'm Jessica Hyde. Come with me or you'll all die.
    • In Series 2 it's Arby that pulls this.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: The Network state that they're trying to bring about mass sterilization as quietly and humanely as possible in order to avert a bigger collapse, although numerous people state that it will still cause a global meltdown. When it's revealed that the flu will actually kill hundreds of millions of people, some members of the Network have second thoughts, but not all of them, and they're still committed to the greater concept.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: When Becky takes poison, Ian revives her with CPR. She pukes but is almost immediately fine afterward.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Wilson, Jessica, and Arby all think, and pack, like survivalists.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: For all of his flaws in terms of social skills, diction, and personal hygiene, Arby is scarily competent and tracking and anticipating people.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: Geoff attempts to Blackmail The Network with a note made from the newspaper headlines calling for him to step down. It does not fool them for a second.
    Leah: Newsprint. How very traditional.
  • Cutting the Knot: Jessica's low-tech way of bypassing the keypad in the Series 1 finale.
  • Debate and Switch: When the nature of Janus is revealed, a question emerges as to whether the protagonists should let the Network go through with their scheme to sterilize 95% of the human race or stop them and let things go on as usual, which only stalls the seemingly inevitable bloody conflict for resources down to a generation or two. This drama even breaks up the original team as one of them sees no logical reason to oppose the Network. However, much later, it's discovered that Janus will not just sterilize the human race, it will precipitate its agonizing demise, as hundreds of millions will die by the virus with only the Roma people surviving. This reveal negates much of the series' previous ethical ambiguity.
  • Death by Childbirth: Carvel's wife dies immediately after she gives birth to their second child, Jessica. Though framed as this trope, Milner's presence - and her words - when Philip gets the news to suggest something more sinister at play.
  • Decoy Leader: Conran Letts is the head of Corvadt, the Network's dummy corporation. The protagonists kidnap and interrogate him, thinking he's Mr. Rabbit. However, Letts is a figurehead whose strings are being pulled by his assistant, who, after being killed by Grant, is revealed to have Mr. Rabbit's identifying chest scars. Of course, Milner is the true Mr. Rabbit, and the Assistant gave himself the scars to throw suspicion off of her.
  • Depopulation Bomb: Russian flu, once we learn that the vaccine doesn't work.
  • Determinator: Utopia is full of characters (both from the heroes and the Network's members) who will stop at nothing to fulfill their "missions", whether self-imposed or in service of a cause. Jessica Hyde, Arby, and Terrence from the Series 2 finale are primary examples.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Geoff blackmails the Network for "20 million." When asked what denomination the blackmailers are asking for, Geoff responds immediately that they want pounds sterling, since he's British. It's then pointed out that British currency only goes up to £50 notes, and it would require a truck to carry that much cash, while Euros come in notes of up to €500 and could be carried in a briefcase. Geoff's dumbfounded reaction reveals that he'd never considered any of this.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Milner, who dies while she's being cradled by Philip Carvel.
  • Dirty Coward: Donaldson's involvement in uncovering the plot and retrieving the manuscript is shown to be solely so he can broker a deal with The Network in exchange for enough money for him to live the rest of his life comfortably. He goes home empty-handed but denies Becky access to medication.
  • Dismantled Macguffin: The manuscript for the second Utopia comic is actually (amongst other things) a jigsaw detailing the chemical composition of Janus. Naturally, the heroes keep a few pages to themselves.
  • Double Agent: At various points, Dugdale tries to betray the Network from within, with varying degrees of success. Milner presents herself as such, though she's really a Double Reverse Quadruple Agent.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • In Series 1, Wilson shoots his torturer, Lee. When he finds Lee is alive in Series 2, Wilson's still traumatized from the encounter, fearing Lee until the penultimate episode, when he asserts his authority over him, and in the finale, when he executes him.
    • In the finale, Geoff tries to make Dugdale an offer. He promises Dugdale £5 million, but when Dugdale realizes his family isn't protected by Geoff's plan, he kicks the shit out of him, tells him where to shove his offer, and tells him not to ever speak to him again or he'll personally kill him. After 2 seasons of Dugdale being Geoff's whipping boy, this is a long time coming.
  • Downer Ending: The show ending is made even worse by the show's cancellation: Wilson assumes command of the Network as the new Mr. Rabbit, even going so far as to make the cuts on his stomach, and is going ahead with the plan to release the Russian flu pathogen on a smaller scale. Dugdale faces even more scrutiny (cameras installed in his home) and is once more under the Network's thumb with his family being threatened. Philip Carvel, Ian, Becky, and Jessica are all captured by the Network. Pietre wakes up in the hospital as armed thugs are capturing everyone, but his fate is unknown.
  • The Dreaded: Arby. Even Lee says, "Nothing scares me. Nothing in the world. Except him."
  • Eagleland Osmosis: In Series 2, #2, Milner orders in "a SWAT team", despite SWAT teams being American units, Milner being an MI 5 agent, and the whole show is set in the UK.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Due to rampant Black-and-Grey Morality, this comes up a lot.
    • The school shooting in Series 1, #3 has this effect on several Network members. It is this event that causes Arby to start questioning his loyalty, leading to his Heel–Face Turn, while Letts is visibly reluctant to give the order and has to be talked into it by the Assistant.
    • In the Series 2 premiere, Milner is shocked when Philip tells her that Pietre's behavior - which leads to Philip's wife having him arrested for child endangerment - is due to experiments Philip performed on him. His excuse is that Pietre was the only human test subject he had on hand. In the same episode, when Philip implies that Janus could be designed to only work on people with certain genetic traits, the Assistant gets very offended and compares Carvel's work to The Third Reich. Ironic, considering that we later learn that Carvel was influenced by being a victim of the Third Reich.
    • When it's revealed that Janus doesn't protect against the Russian flu, the top leaders of the Network work together to stop the plan from going through so as not to kill millions of people. However, they then reveal that they can stomach a smaller flu epidemic that only kills a few thousand.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Dugdale manages to turn the tables on his blackmailers by obtaining evidence that the Russian flu outbreak is actually a mass poisoning carried out by the Network. Using this new leverage, he negotiates a deal whereby he will stay quiet in exchange for a substantial annual stipend, which helps to convince them that he doesn't pose a threat to their plan.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Tramp. But to be fair, he's hiding his identity and real name.
  • Evil, Inc.: Corvadt, the pharmaceutical company manufacturing the Russian flu vaccine. Series 2 also has the Rochane Foundation, an NGO underwriting the cost of the vaccine for countries that can't afford it.
  • Eye Scream: Lee's torture method of choice: chilis, sand, bleach, and a spoon. Applied to the victim's eyes in that order.
  • Fat Slob: Arby, his paunch accentuated by a much-too-small leather jacket. When he's not scoffing chocolate raisins, he's wolfing down fry-ups, and the constant wheezing of his troubled breathing is quite unsettling. Despite this, he's very deadly, and his appearance contributes to his Obfuscating Stupidity. He changes his diet between Series 1 and 2 and loses some weight, although he still eats the raisins.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Much of Geoff's "charming politician" schtick.
  • Fictional Document: The eponymous The Utopia Experiments graphic novel.
  • Fingore: Dugdale retrieves some fingers severed from corpses in Fetlar for testing.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In episode 2, Wilson realizes the others have given him heroin for pain relief, leading to this exchange that foreshadows the purpose of Janus.
    Wilson: Did you pricks give me heroin?
    Ian: We had to. For the pain.
    Wilson: Oh. Well, I hope it wasn't Afghan. Taliban have been altering it for years to make us infertile.
    • Donaldson offhandedly mentions his fondness for cocaine and prostitutes when the viewer is introduced to him. The Series 2 finale reveals what Becky's medication actually was: an opiate concocted by Donaldson to which she has become addicted.
    • In the flashback episode, Milner asks Philip Carvel if he has ever been in genocide, as she has. Series 2 #4 has "Anton", who is in fact Carvel, reveal that he survived the Holocaust, and that the adjustment to Janus will spare only the Roma people.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Mr. Omida, the Torture Technician in the first episode of Season 2.
  • Frame-Up: The Network's modus operandi for its targets. Grant is eventually framed by the Network for a massacre at a primary school through a digital alteration of the CCTV footage of Arby committing the act. As Jessica points out, it is not designed to hold up in a court, but it makes Grant a fugitive, and that much easier to apprehend him. Likewise, Ian is framed for sex crimes and, later, for the murder of his brother.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Several times characters sum up what is in articles, emails, etc. which are briefly shown on the screen. These actually are all fully written out, coherent texts which do tell what characters claim they do.
  • Gaia's Lament: Letts mentions that a third of arable land is now unusable due to overfarming.
  • Gender-Concealing Writing: The alias "Mr. Rabbit" neatly deflects scrutiny off of Milner.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Played very straight, to the point where the Network was started by a handful of Cold War operatives. The Network have been working on two seemingly innocuous genetic triggers that, when combined in a human, render them infertile, effectively creating a Genetic Depopulation Atom Bomb.
  • Genocide Survivor: The chemically engineered Janus plot to make the entire population sterile in order to share resources more effectively exempts one set of people: the Romani people, Philip's own.
  • Genre Blind: Ian is the skeptic "realist" of the group who refuses to believe in the in-universe fandom conspiracy theories around The Utopia Experiments, for example.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • Only two of the school shooting deaths are shown, and only one is in detail. The others happen off-screen, with the final one being a Sound-Only Death over the title.
    • We don't get to see Wilson carving the Chinese symbol for 'Rabbit' on his stomach at the end of the second series, but we hear him screaming throughout and get to see the finished work.
  • Government Conspiracy: The Network has at least one UK cabinet minister and a shitload of people in the police and secret service on their side.
  • Greaser Delinquents: For whatever reason, Lee dresses like a Teddy Boy.
  • Green Aesop: It's hard to come away from the series not thinking that drastic action on resource consumption is necessary, even if that action is something other than a non-consensual mass sterilization campaign.
  • Guinea Pig Family:
    • Long-lost siblings Jessica and Pietre were both experimented on by their father.
    • Also implied with Milner, whose son has Diels syndrome. If the person we see in her house is actually her son, anyway...
  • Handicapped Badass: Wilson becomes this after losing an eye to Lee, and even manages to shoot him whilst completely blind.
  • Happily Adopted: Dugdale adopts Alice after the death of her mother. Grant becomes the newest addition to the Dugdale household at the end of the second series.
  • Harmful to Minors: In keeping with the show's obsession with the dark side of reproduction, all named child characters become majorly traumatized; they're either subjected to abusive parenting and/or forced into violence.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: In the second season finale, Wilson tries to ingratiate his way back into the group, hoping that he can be redeemed for having Ian's brother killed. When his overtures of friendship are rebuffed by Ian and Becky, he goes the complete opposite direction and becomes the de facto head of the Network by the end of the episode.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Arby, after he reads the manuscript and finds the truth about his traumatic past.
  • Heel Realization:
    • Philip Carvel has one in the Series 2 premiere after he processes what it is he's done and refuses to hand over Janus to the Network.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Alice's mother is killed and she's forced to go on the run, all she can think about is how her essay on Crime and Punishment will be late.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Becky realizes it early on:
    Becky: "We're scary. That's what we've become. We're just like them now."
  • Historical Rap Sheet: At the start of season two, it is revealed that The Network is behind the assassinations of Aldo Moro, Mino Pecorelli, Richard Sykes, Airey Neave and the bombing of TWA Flight 841.
  • Hookers and Blow: Some of Donaldson's preferred vices.
    Donaldson: "All I know was within the next few weeks, I was embroiled in a sex scandal. 'Professor Pervert', addicted to coke and prostitutes."
    Michael: "So did they just set you up?"
    Donaldson: "Yeah. Well... no, I do like cocaine and prostitutes, but they didn't have to tell anyone."
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: For whatever reason, assassins Lee and Arby walk around with a bright yellow bag.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The Network doesn't think there's any reasonable way the human race will stop breeding past the planet's ability to support them, and fear poverty and war once resources start to run out. Our heroes don't exactly do a bang-up job of proving them wrong.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Philip Carvel - who survived the horrors of the Holocaust as a child - designed Janus to sterilize people with certain genetic/racial traits, which would leave his fellow Roma alive to carry on humanity if unleashed.
    • Network operative Terrence meets a woman in a coach bus waiting area who is on her way to France with her son. When she tells him they are traveling by bus instead of by plane for environmental reasons, he asks her why she decided to have a child in the first place since his lifetime carbon footprint will be the equivalent of nearly six and a half thousand flights to Paris.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Donaldson, who described himself as a rising star at Corvadt, was Reassigned to Antarctica after he revealed that SARS was not a real epidemic. His desire for a more flamboyant lifestyle is what pushes him to sell out.
  • I Did What I Had to Do:
    • Jessica kills anyone who could possibly be used by the Network to find her. Ian calls her out on this, and she coldly informs him that if they leave witnesses behind they'll be dead within the week.
    • Dugdale informs the Network when Ian, Alice, and Grant turn up at his door looking for help, which leads to Grant's capture. His other choice would have led to his wife being raped and his pregnant lover being kept in jail indefinitely. He feels guilty about his decision, even more, when he finds out the truth about Anya.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...:
    • Arby/Pietre convinces the group to trust him, and specifically Donaldson when he points out he could have "neutralized" him if he was still with the Network... he still sells Donaldson out to them, to ensure the safety of his girlfriend and her daughter.
    • Dugdale tells Jessica Hyde that he's not with The Network willingly, to which she replies she knows he's telling the truth otherwise she'd have just killed him.
  • I Have Your Wife: The Network regularly gets what it wants out of people by threatening their loved ones, including Dugdale's wife and both Grant and Alice's mothers. It happens to Dugdale again in Series 2, with The Network holding both Dugdale's wife and Alice in a cell at an undisclosed location, forcing him to cooperate with them. He manages to break them out, but is later betrayed by Wilson, who threatens to kill each of Dugdale's loved ones in a specific order unless he goes along with his new plan.
  • Improvised Weapon: Grant fashions a shiv from one of the maintenance panels on a laptop and uses it to kill the Assistant.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Milner incriminates herself by revealing that she knows Ian is traveling with Becky in Series 2.
  • Insufferable Genius: Philip Carvel in the 1970s.
  • I Warned You: When they're hiding in someone else's house, Jessica warns Becky, Ian, and Wilson not to take a shower or a bath because they have to be ready to leave at any time. Becky finally takes a bath and, of course, the family owning the house returns at that precise time.
  • Irrevocable Order: Milner orders one of her Sleeper Agents to release Russian flu even with the knowledge that the vaccine doesn't work. Wilson halts his attempt to shoot her when she reveals only she knows who the agent is and can reverse it... but she is immediately killed by Grant.
  • Jerkass:
    • Jessica is a generally unpleasant person. Though, with the life she had, it's hardly a surprise. Donaldson, however, has little excuse for being a dick.
    • Donaldson's dickishness is taken up to eleven in the second season, where it's revealed that the drugs he'd been giving Becky to manage her disease were nothing but a combination of heroin and caffeine and he deliberately spread rumors of him sleeping with Becky to Ian just to cause distrust within the heroes' group out of pettiness.
  • Knight Templar: All of the "true believers" working for The Network (as opposed to opportunists like Geoff).
  • Lack of Empathy: Pietre and Jessica, both of whom were experimented on as children by their father, grow up to be remorseless killers. They both make progress by the end of Series 2.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: While Dugdale and his wife struggle to conceive using IVF treatments, he accidentally impregnates a prostitute on the side. Subverted when she turns out to be a Network agent sent undercover to create the necessary conditions for blackmailing him (and whose pregnancy is most likely fake).
  • Leave No Witnesses: The Network doesn't like loose ends, so they kill anyone who knows anything about them, even old members of their organization so that no one can figure out what they're up to.
  • Like a God to Me: Philip Carvel is this to Milner.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Like Thomas More's Utopia (1516), the show describes the seemingly incurable problems caused by the current social order and presents a radically different alternative as the solution to those problems. Both works present different points of view on the subject without clearly articulating the author's own stance.
  • Living MacGuffin: It is eventually revealed that Carvel hid Janus inside his daughter, Jessica Hyde and that finding the manuscript was only the second goal of the Network... and finding Jessica was the Network's priority throughout Season 1.
  • Loss of Identity: Wilson had dedicated himself so much to the Network's cause over the course of Series 2 that he's no longer recognizable to his former friends, and eventually to himself. He comes to shed his former identity and take up the mantle of Mr. Rabbit.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Milner's love for Philip Carvel definitely invokes this trope. He is forgiven by her for doing things (trying to leak Janus to the press on more than one occasion) that would have any other person killed by the Network. After Jessica is born, he's allowed to keep the baby. And when he reveals that his 'adjustment' to Janus nullifies the vaccine for Russian flu - meaning that 98% of humanity would be sterile and then die horribly and quickly, as opposed to the Network's original plan of 95% of humanity dying quietly over a generation or two - she still goes ahead with the plan. As a result, many of the Network's grand goals aren't implemented immediately simply because of Milner's sentimental feelings for Jessica and Carvel.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Anton aka Philip Carvel believes this is often true.
  • Lzherusskie: Anya's accent and speech borders on You No Take Candle. (She's not Russian, nor a prostitute.)
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: When Ian and Becky try to have sex after a night of drinking... To not much success.
  • MacGuffin: The first season is essentially a chase after the manuscript.
  • Mad Artist: Mark Deyn, the author of the titular Utopia Experiments graphic novel, also known as Philip Carvel who was sent into a mental ward by Christos after their escape from the Network in 1979.
  • Mad Scientist: Philip Carvel, definitely so in his youth.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Assistant, rather than Letts, is revealed to be the real power behind the throne at Corvadt. And he is just a decoy for the real Mr. Rabbit.
  • Manipulative Bastard: After his death, Donaldson is revealed to have been one: when Becky turned to him after discovering she inherited a mysterious illness, he takes advantage of her by sleeping with her, giving her drugs and telling her it's an experimental treatment called Thoraxin, when really it's a mildly addictive opiate, slowly turning her into a drug addict, and sending her out to get info on The Network and its plans with the promise of more 'life-saving' drugs (at one point throwing the drugs into the lake knowing she'll come back to him) so that he could get blackmail the Network and get rich.
  • May Contain Evil: The flu vaccine... and corn starch.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Jessica Hyde's name bears a resemblance to "Jekyll and Hyde," foreshadowing her dual role of good and evil and of being the carrier of Janus, the genetic trigger named after the two-faced god. In-universe, it also references the fact that she's "hiding" from the Network.
    • Arby's real name is Pietre, "Peter", and he's Jessica's brother; Peter and Jessica... Rabbit?
    • A few apparently referencing Alice in Wonderland: There's a little girl named Alice, a very important character named Milner (someone who makes hats, referencing the Mad Hatter), and a Mr. Rabbit (referencing the White Rabbit).
  • Mega-Corp: Pergus Holdings.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The Network is unconcerned with killing many thousands of people because it's just a drop in the bucket to the survival of the human race.
  • Mirror Monologue: Michael Dugdale uses the silent variation in Series 2, #3.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Becky by the Romanian interpreter.
    Marius: That not Romanian. That Romani. Romani? Language of the Roma people? Gypsy people, yes? You racist bastards... you think all Roma is from Romania. Is not! Roma many places: Bulgaria, Poland, Spain. Romani different language, like Welsh to English. Do you speak fucking Welsh?
    Becky: Yeah. I do, actually!
    Marius: Doesn't matter. You're still racist.
    Becky: But he was speaking Romanian!
  • Mood Dissonance: The series combines bright colors, upbeat music, pastoral surroundings, and gory murders.
  • The Mole: Lots of them.
    • Anya, Dugdale's prostitute lover who is supposedly carrying his child, is revealed to have been a Network agent all along. Her kidnapping was faked in order to manipulate Dugdale into helping the Network. It's also heavily implied that she wasn't even pregnant at all.
    • Milner is apparently a Network mole inside MI5, but she also claims she's spying on the Network for the protagonists. Then she turns out to be Mr. Rabbit, making her this all along.
    • Becky is a mole for Donaldson, a scientist who wants to sell the manuscript to the Network. In return, he supplies her with the medication to minimize the fits brought about by the disease she's suffering from. When the time comes, Becky refuses to give him the manuscript and he throws the drugs into a lake.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution:
    • The Network is a big believer in this. Jessica as well.
    • When Wilson returns to the group in Series 2 working with the Network, he freaks Ian and Becky out by attempting to kill a Sleeper Agent despite him still working at his cover job, and his lashing out when they don't accept his ruthless pragmatism.
  • Mutilation Interrogation:
    • What Lee does to Wilson.
    • What Mr. Omida does to Philip Carvel in the flashback.
  • No Name Given: Letts's (and, in the 70s, Milner's) assistant. Even the credits only call him "Assistant".
  • No Social Skills: Jessica Hyde and Arby both have a Freudian Excuse for being difficult with people.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: Wilson kills Lee mid-sentence at the end of the Series 2 finale.
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • Lee survived being shot by Wilson with lung and nerve damage, losing motor function in his left arm.
    • Wilson himself is alive after being stabbed by Jessica, and has joined the Network to work with Lee.
    • Anton is revealed to be Philip Carvel.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: There are indications that Arby is more intelligent than he lets on. When he tells Jessica that he's a regular at the roadside diner they're in, she dismisses it as pathetic, transparent nonsense. However, he later pulls a gun on her out of nowhere — a gun he retrieved from a bathroom stall at the diner.
  • Offing the Offspring: In the penultimate episode of Series 2, Philip Carvel shoots Pietre/Arby in the chest.
  • Only Known by Initials: Arby/R.B., until he learns his real name.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Arby" turns out to be a nickname referring to "R.B.," short for "Raisin Boy." His real name is Pietre.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The distinctive stones owned by Jessica, Arby, and Milner all link them to Philip Carvel, aka Jessica and Pietre's father.
  • Overpopulation Crisis: The Network is revealed to be working desperately to stop this from happening.
  • Painting the Medium: The season 2 premiere is a Whole Episode Flashback set in the 1970s. To highlight this, the show assumes a 4:3 aspect ratio and is made to appear as if it were shot with lower-resolution cameras.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Phillip Carvel took one look at Mr. Omida preparing to torture young Jessica, and he killed him on the spot using his own tools.
    • Dugdale beats up Geoff when he realizes that the latter wants out of The Network, but won't cover his family, telling him he'll kill him if he threatens his family again.
  • Parental Abandonment: Pietre/Arby. On the night Jessica was born, Philip took one look at him and simply left.
  • Parental Favoritism: Jessica Hyde was the paternal favorite, and due to experimentations gone wrong Pietre was The Unfavorite.
  • Parental Neglect: Grant's alcoholic mother.
  • Pop-Up Texting: In the first episode a group of characters has a conversation on the forum dedicated to a cult Graphic Novel called The Utopia Experiments. Each line of text appears floating next to whoever the camera is focused on. If it is the person that is typing the message, it appears next to their head. At one point, a line of text distorts as it passes behind a glass of wine.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Lee describes post-Face–Heel Turn Wilson as this: he can't take life unless he decides that he logically should for The Network's plan to work. For instance, he doesn't kill Lee, who tortured him previously, even while holding a gun toward him, and the latter is holding a crowbar toward him because he on some level recognizes The Network needs him. Contrasted with Ian's brother and the two MI 5 agents who captured him and know nothing of The Network but heard the sentence "Milner is Mr. Rabbit"; Wilson reasoned they can't be left alive and so brought himself to kill all three of them.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Wilson goes from trying to stop the Network, to begrudgingly admitting that they're right and joining them while still being opposed to some of their more extreme actions, to carrying out murders himself when he believes them necessary, and finally becoming the new leader of the conspiracy.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
    • The group is initially composed of people who just happened to be in the online chatroom when Bejan made his announcement; an aspiring media studies grad student, an office IT worker, a Conspiracy Theorist, and a delinquent child. Moreover, many of them are only concerned with returning to their normal lives as soon as possible.
    • Series 2 adds more misfits to the group: a remorseless killing machine, a greedy former researcher looking for the big score, and a mentally unstable Romanian scientist who turns out to be Phillip Carvel, the man whose genius and actions started the mess in the first place.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: Donaldson discovered that the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak wasn't actually a viral epidemic, but rather a bunch of unconnected respiratory infections. The Network responded by disgracing and discrediting him so that no one would take him seriously. The Series 2 premiere devoted a major part of its running time to linking real-world events to the series' backstory. For example, the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Conservative Party's victory in 1979, the murders of Richard Sykes and Airey Neave, along with the Three Mile Island incident all happened due to the actions of the Network.
  • Real Name as an Alias: Despite going to great lengths to ensure he can't be tracked online, Wilson still goes by the username "Wilson Wilson," precisely because it's such an implausible name, to begin with.
  • Red Right Hand: Arby's obesity and chronic mouth-breathing give a creepy aspect to his character. Notably, he loses weight and closes his mouth after doing his Heel Face Turn.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Arby/Pietre is forced to come back to the Network, after his girlfriend and her daughter are subtly threatened by Lee.
  • Scenery Porn: The over-saturated colors (like those of a graphic novel) and the carefully selected and framed shots create a stylized visual landscape.
  • Sensual Slavs: Dugdale is seduced by a Russian call girl so he can be blackmailed into joining the Network. It turns out that she's actually British and a Network's agent.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Most of what Dugdale hears in response to his questioning on the morality of the Network's activities. They're usually subtle, but one standout example is when Geoff enters his home as a guest and openly threatens the sexual assault of Dugdale's wife if he doesn't comply, when she's out of earshot.
  • Shout-Out: In the Series 2 finale, Becky's hallucination of Marius quotes the chorus of the Die Antwoord single "I Fink U Freeky" ("I think you're freaky and I like you a lot").
  • Shown Their Work:
    • At the start of the second episode Jessica disarms Ian with the "the safety catch is on" trick, and immediately afterward notes there's actually no safety catch. The specific model of gun used, Ruger P97DC indeed does not have a safety catch but a decocking lever that doubles as a safety.
    • In episode 4 of Season 2, Marius rightly scolds Ian and Becky for mistaking the Roma people for the Romanians, and explains that those are two different things and that not all Roma people come from Romania, despite some Roma people do live in Romania.
  • Sleeper Agent: The Network has these across five continents, who wait to receive an order for them to move canisters containing Russian flu, release it, and after it's done, kill any relations they live with along with themselves.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Leaning very heavily to the cynical side.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Jessica Hyde, having narrowed down the identity of Mr. Rabbit to one of fourteen people, suggests killing all of them just to be on the safe side. The others are all horrified by this. Granted, a lifetime of abuse and running from people trying to kill you is not the recipe for an empathetic, well-balanced individual and her ruthlessness is the main reason she's managed to survive for so long.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Much of the series' soundtrack is bouncy, almost comedic, with samples and synth lines underlaid with a dark, almost dirge-like backbeat.
  • Start of Darkness: The Series 2 premiere focuses on how Philip Carvel and Milner first became entangled with each other in their grand goal of culling humanity.
  • Sterility Plague: The Network plans to use Janus to sterilize 95% of the world's population, to prevent overpopulation and starvation across the world.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: What the Network scientist wants to do to Jessica Hyde when she refuses to talk.
  • Taking Up the Mantle: With Milner dead, Wilson becomes Mr. Rabbit.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: One-half of Janus is already present in foodstuffs due to genetic modifications in commercial corn.
  • That Man Is Dead: Wilson admits as much when he threatens Dugdale's family.
    Dugdale: Don't do this, please! This is not you.
    Wilson: No but... I don't think I am me... anymore.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Wilson, following his being stabbed and left for dead by Jessica.
  • The Unfettered: Milner, even after learning that the Russian flu vaccine will be rendered useless by Janus and that millions will die horribly, she still carries out the plan to spread Russian flu. It's partially hinted that her love for Carvel and his work influenced this decision.
  • Timeshifted Actor: The series 2 premiere is a Whole Episode Flashback set in the 1970s. Milner, the Assistant, Jessica Hyde, and Pietre are all portrayed by younger actors than they are in the present day.
  • Title Drop: Milner mentions that the goal of Janus is to build Utopia.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Geoff for some reason, thought it was a good idea to "anonymously" blackmail The Network after they throw him under the bus. They give him the money alright, but they coat it with poison and make his death look like a drug overdose.
  • Took a Level in Badass: All of the civilians involved in uncovering the conspiracy. Ian kills a Network operative. Grant kills two of its top brass. Wilson becomes the top brass.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Jessica and Arby, by Series 2, at least regarding each other.
  • Torture Technician:
    Lee: Chilis. Sand. Bleach. A spoon.
    • Mr. Omida in the Series 2 premiere.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Arby and chocolate-covered raisins, to the point that Arby means "R.B.," standing for "Raisin Boy." The drug that made him a remorseless killer was given to him in a chocolate-covered raisin.
  • Tragic Villain: Arby the assassin, brainwashed and having had all the empathy beaten out of him by the Network, gradually comes to realize the error of his ways. The fact that he is unable to feel guilty over killing so many people upsets and confuses him, and he unwittingly reveals to Jessica during the cafe scene that he just wants to be normal.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Dugdale is initially blackmailed into buying the vaccine through his relationship with a prostitute with whom he's gotten pregnant. Once he rebels and finds out that the flu epidemic is fake, he is shown that his wife is being tailed and will be raped on command if he doesn't comply.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: After his father experiments on him, baby Pietre kills and disembowels a rabbit.
  • The Unfavorite: Pietre/R.B., after the failed experiments his father performed on him.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Milner and Philip Carvel. Milner's then-husband, Tom, calls what's going on between them a "higher" form of love.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Pretty much the Network's justification for sterilizing 95% of the world's population, believing it to be a merciful alternative to everyone starving to death when food shortages become too great.
    Letts: You accuse us of being genocidal? Not acting is genocide! Where do you think your food comes from, Ian? A third of the world's farmland is now useless due to soil degradation. Yet we keep producing more mouths to feed. And what's your answer to that? Energy-saving lightbulbs?
  • Villain Ball: Lee has one with smoking. The first time he tries to light up, he's standing next to an open gas main and nearly blows himself and Arby up. The second time, he gives away his position in a parked car to Grant when Arby opens the window to let the smoke out. The third time, he leaves Wilson tied to a chair to go out for a smoke; when he comes back Wilson has freed himself and shoots Lee with his own gun. He seems to have learned his lesson by Series 2, as he is shown to have switched to an electronic cigarette.
  • Villain Has a Point: The Network's plan is obviously extreme and completely unethical — evil on an unprecedented scale. But whenever they are asked point-blank if there is any other way to prevent catastrophic overpopulation, the good characters can only come up with unconvincing "we're doing our best!"-type arguments, if that. The reasoning behind it convinces Wilson to do a Face–Heel Turn, despite the fact that the Network murdered his innocent father.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Everyone working for the Network.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Alice (Dugdale's adopted daughter) vomits just out of frame.
  • Waif-Fu: Jessica. Readily apparent from the way she kills the tramp.
  • Walking Spoiler: Anton.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Bejan, The Tramp, Marius...
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Milner, Carvel, and seemingly the rest of the Network's top brass.
  • Wham Episode: Series 1, Episode 5.
    • The entire second half of the second series is one Wham Episode after another.
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of the first episode: "I am Jessica Hyde."
    • "The purpose of Janus is to sterilize the entire human race."
    • Milner: "That? That's just a bunch of drawings drawn by a crazy man!"
    • From Series 2:
    :Lee: Out? I'm not out. Who said I was out?
    :Becky: Philip... Philip Carvel?
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Series 2, Episode 1 takes place in the mid-late '70s.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Various characters express disbelief toward Wilson Wilson's name.
  • Wild Card: Arby/Pietre, after he finds out about what happened to him. It becomes more apparent in Series 2.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
    • Arby. It's difficult not to have some sympathy for his mental state once the reason behind it is revealed.
    • Philip Carvel. He was so traumatized by his experiences in the Holocaust (where his entire family was killed and he - a toddler at the time - survived by hiding himself in a mass grave for two days), that he modified Janus to ensure that only his fellow Roma would survive to carry on humanity.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • The Network have no qualms against killing many children to advance their aims, though some members, most notably Arby and Letts, express reservations. The former is so sickened after having carried out the massacre in the school that he goes on the run, and the latter was visibly upset by having to give the order.
    • Mr. Omida from the flashback episode of the second season premiere. He'd been instructed to torture Jessica, who was four at the time, the same way he would torture her father. And then repeat the same thing, only this time with her in front of him!
    • Wilson tells Dugdale that he'll have his adoptive children Alice and Grant killed - along with his wife - if he steps out of line again.
  • Wrong Side All Along: Wilson, having come to the conclusion that the Network's plan will ensure humanity's survival, betrays his friends and so is subsequently stabbed and left for dead by Jessica.
    Wilson: I mean, what he's saying... isn't that... right?
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • After issuing many an order, Letts is eventually handed a noose by his own assistant.
    • Wilson shooting Lee - who'd told Wilson that he couldn't possibly kill him as it wasn't necessary - invokes this trope.
  • You Killed My Father: Alice takes her revenge for the death of her mother, and Wilson also exacts vengeance on Lee for the death of his father.


Video Example(s):


School Shooting

Arby shoots up a school on orders from The Network to frame Grant.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheseGlovesAreMadeForKillin

Media sources: