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Series / Utopia

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Utopia is a darkly comic conspiracy thriller created by Gillian Flynn. It is an American remake of the original British series of the same name. The show aired for a single season in 2020 on Prime Video.

The plot concerns a group of conspiracy theorists who believe that underground comic books called Dystopia and Utopia contain coded messages about a global conspiracy to wipe out humanity with a supervirus. They turn out to be more correct than they expected and must go on the run from enigmatic assassins with the help of a character depicted in the comic books.



  • Actor Allusion: In a case of "showrunner allusion," episode five features a theater advertising Gone Girl: The Musical. Showrunner Gillian Flynn wrote both the original book and film adaptation of Gone Girl.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • The Conspiracy is called the Harvest. In the original series, they are called the Network.
    • The Undoing, the virus which is intended to sterilize the world's population, was called "Janus" in the original series.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • In both versions, Arby is utterly unphased by violence and maintains a childlike deference to his superiors. In the original series, Arby has an Ambiguous Disorder, No Social Skills, and a perpetually blank stare. He waddles when he walks, rarely speaks and behaves like an automaton. In the American version, however, he's much more socialized. He speaks softly and precisely, shows emotion and is practically involved in Harvest planning.
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    • Becky has gone from being a highly abrasive, argumentative person to a soft, gentle babysitter type.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original series, Jessica Hyde distinguishes herself from the others by being completely comfortable with killing members of The Conspiracy. In the remake, she murders an innocent person in cold blood for an arbitrary reason, making her a much more morally ambiguous character.
  • all lowercase letters: The fourth episode, "not slow not bad," is titled this way.
  • Animal Motif: Rabbits. The villain is known as Mr. Rabbit and depicted with a rabbit head in the comics. The virus is spread by rabbits. Jessica has a motif of rabbits in her childhood bedroom. Alice's name is a reference to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where Alice follows a white rabbit down a hole into Wonderland. And finally, the true aim of Harvest's plans is to end overpopulation, i.e. humans breeding like rabbits.
  • Arc Words:
    • Stay alive, Jessica Hyde.
    • . "What have you done today to earn your place in this crowded world?"
    • "This is my purpose."
  • Author Appeal: Lily is a young blonde woman who is almost Lady Macbeth like figure who exploits a Wounded Gazelle Gambit and strongly, although falsely, implies that her father molested her just to gain some attention and to enjoy her new orphaned life. In this way, she's very reminiscent of Amy in Gone Girl and Dondra in Dark Places, both by Gillian Flynn.
  • Batman Gambit: The Harvest counted on Dr. Stearns inviting a fellow doctor into the quarantine zone to look for his daughter. If Stearns had merely offered to look for her himself, their plans would have gone awry.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Dr. Stearns tries this to bluff his way into the St. Louis Hotzone, telling a private that he has authorization from the head of the CDC and daring her to challenge it. She decides to do just that and he beats a hasty retreat.
  • Big Guy Rodeo: Jessica jumps on the back of Artemis and rides her around in a fight.
  • Blofeld Ploy: In perhaps the world's first antihero example: Jessica threatens Ian at gunpoint to stay put, and Samantha urges him to comply. When Ian finally relents, Jessica promptly kills Samantha as a warning to the others to obey her.
  • Boom, Headshot!: When using a pistol, Arby executes people with a single headshot.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: The main characters chop off the thumb of Dr. Christie to bypass a biometric security scanner. They keep it in a bag of hot peas so it stays body temperature.
  • Break Them by Talking: What Dr. Christie lays out the intentions of the conspiracy to defend its actions as part of the greater good. Dr. Stearns snaps most of them out it, but it works on Wilson enough that he defects to the Harvest.
  • Broken Pedestal: As a young child from a bad home who has had to rely on his own street smarts, Grant idolizes the character of Jessica Hyde from Dystopia. Naturally, meeting her in real life fails to live up to his expectations.
  • Call-Back: Wilson lays salt, bleach and a spoon in front of Dr. Christie, a call back to the first episode, where Wilson received the same treatment.
  • Catchphrase: Dr. Christie's personal motto seems to be the question, "What have you done to earn your place in this crowded world?" He asks it of everyone around him, even his own children.
  • Checkpoint Bluff: Dr. Stearns tries to bluff his way past a quarantine checkpoint by claiming to have been personally authorized by the head of the CDC.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Wilson states that he can dislocate his fingers to escape handcuffs several minutes before he's called upon to use this skill.
  • Cliffhanger'': Season 1 ends with Christie free, Wilson converted to his side, Becky in their captivity, Grant arrested, and Jessica held prisoner. Only Ian, Alice, and Dr. Stearns (who has stolen the Virus 'Master Egg') are still on the run.
  • The Conspiracy: The Utopia comic depicts a conspiracy orchestrated by a group called Harvest to inflict a virus that will wipe out humanity, which turns out to actually exist - although Dr. Christie seems wary of using the term.
  • Composite Character: In the British original, Michael was married to the nice, normal, Brainy Brunette Jen and was cheating on her with a Russian prostitute, who turned out to be a British Network agent who was manipulating him with the promise of a fake pregnancy. In this version, Michael is still married to a nice, normal brunette, but it's actually her who is the Harvest agent and she only married him so she could gaslight, control, and spy on him, as the "Russian prostitute" did in the UK version.
  • Creepy Twins: The Harvest has a particular interest in adding identical twins to their ranks. We see a few teams of identical twin assassins, which is played for creepiness.
  • Dead Star Walking: Jessica Rothe is one of the biggest names in the series and certainly the biggest star in her storyline, but she's killed unexpectedly in episode 2.
  • Death by Adaptation: Lee. He survived the first season of the British original but disappeared until Season 2 when he returned to hunt the gang and receive a Karmic Death from Wilson. However, in this version, Jessica kills him to save Wilson after he rips Wilson's eye out.
  • Death Seeker: Charlotte and Lily were raised to be "martyrs." When one gets sacrificed, the survivor is upset that she has not fulfilled her purpose. However, she then stops seeking death.
  • Decomposite Character: Milner and Dr Christie. In the UK original, Dr Christie's closest counterpart - Letts - was a Red Herring for Mr Rabbit, while Milner is Mr Rabbit. However, in this version, Dr Christie is Mr Rabbit, not Milner. However, Milner is still a traitor who's working with Mr Rabbit and captures Jessica Hyde, but Christie also survives the end of Season 1.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Samantha is played by the actress with the largest star power of the five bulletin board members. She's the first one introduced and generally takes the lead in the group's actions. She's also the first character we see in the show's trailer and the character depicted on episode 1's thumbnail. All of this is calculated to make her look like the de facto lead character of her storyline. However, she's unexpectedly executed by Jessica Hyde in episode 2. This twist is easy to anticipate for viewers of the British show, as her character has no analogue in the original.
  • Demoted to Extra: Milner. Although she doesn't appear until 1.03 of the original, she has a significant role in the entire last half of the first season, where she becomes the major link to The Conspiracy as she has been investigating it and, as it turns out, running it. In this version, she only appears in three episodes, and she only has more than one scene in the finale. And Christie ultimately takes on the largest element of the role.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Dale Warwick, who walks straight in front of a semi-truck after having to sacrifice what amounted to his adoptive daughter on Harvest's orders.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Samantha dies in a fetish-tastic goth costume, complete with short skirt and torn fish-net stockings. When Beck and Wilson lay a drape over her body, they leave her face uncovered because "she's too pretty."
  • Earworm: Thomas Christie compares the phrase "Where is Jessica Hyde?" to this, saying that it's like a "turdy little pop song" that won't get out of his head.
  • Easter Egg: Wilson Wilson has a Post-It on his board that reads "Call Dennis K." This is a Shout-Out to the original creator, Dennis Kelly, who also serves as an executive producer for this version.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Jessica Hyde establishes that she's morally gray at best when she questions a dying woman and steals her ring instead of helping her. She really reveals her true colors when she murders Samantha purely because she was showing too much leadership over the group, establishing that even though Jessica is helping the surviving BBS members, she's not a hero.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: One member of the conspiracy objects to the proposed plan of slaughtering a bunch of random people at a nearby park as excessively violent.
  • Eye Scream: Wilson is tortured by having salt, bleach and ultimately a spoon applied to his left eye.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Artemis accepts that she has to die for Jessica to remain safe, simply asking forgiveness for the fight that her battle-conditioned muscle memory will give Jessica.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: After scenes of violence between them, Jessica and her various confederates have become friends by the end of the first season. Becky even hugs her.
  • Harmful to Minors: A flu going around is killing children. Grant is also personally subjected to witnessing horrible violence.
  • Hitler Cam: Done in reverse when Ian accidentally pees on a homeless person. We get a high-angle shot exaggerating the homeless person's head towering over Ian. Later, normal shots reveal the the homeless person isn't really that tall.
  • Hollywood Nerd: The comic book convention in the first episode is filled with stereotypical comics weirdos. Ian and Wilson Wilson are also given much more stereotypically "nerdy" traits.
  • Honey Trap: Colleen Stearns. Although in this case it was less about anything sexual and more about using general affection and companionship.
  • In Love with the Mark: This is what Dr. Christie claims happened with Colleen Stearns to Dr. Stearns, but, given the source, it's highly likely another attempt at exploiting the group's emotions.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: The middle-school aged Grant and the rest of the BBS group, after they discover his real age, and even Jessica bonds with him slightly throughout the season.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Harvest's true plans for the Stearns Flu and subsequent vaccine rely heavily of several nested layers of misdirection.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Arby is scrupulous about killing anyone who even sees a page of Utopia.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Arby allows Wilson's father to die believing that he is being killed for his, unrelated, conspiracy research rather than as collateral damage from his son's actions. He even laughs satisfiedly before passing on.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Harvest's specialty in order to operate under the radar.
    • Everyone at the Utopia selling party is injected with poison but the scene is staged to look like they died of a drug overdose.
    • Wilson's family is forced to breathe poison but it's later set up to look like a gas leak.
  • Manchild: Dr. Christie seems to keep his assassins in a state of childish dependence on him. He treats Arby like a child, sitting cross-legged on the floor with him during meetings and giving him candy for being good. When we see another set of assassins on their way to a mission, they're playing cat's cradle.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Jessica Hyde has spent most of her life hiding.
    • Arby's name turns out to mean "Raisin Boy": R.B.
    • Milner's cosplay name is Enyo, Goddess of Destruction
  • Meaningful Rename: When Arby starts doubting Dr. Christie, he decides that he wants to be called John instead of Arby, now that he knows that it was just a cruel nickname.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When the buyer of Utopia is about to be shot, his raises his hand to his face in a futile attempt to shield himself. Arby imitates him mockingly before shooting him, then stares at his own hand curiously. This is a reference to Arby's Character Tic in the original show, where he shields his face from the blood splatter with his off hand whenever he shoots someone at close range.
    • Thomas Christie says that the question "Where is Jessica Hyde" is always brought up in meetings and rattles around ad nauseum in his head. This is a reference to the original series, where that question is asked repeatedly as the Arc Words.
  • No Good Deed: Alice's mom gets murdered by Harvest all for the sake of helping what they believed to be an abused foster child.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Arby gets shot and pursued by an assassin who was pretending to be a jogger. After we cut back, Arby has already killed him somehow.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Becky gets a tracheotomy, but after wrapping a scarf around the open wound, she's perfectly fine.
  • Politically Correct Villain: What Harvest, via Christie Bio, attempts to be, even going as far as to make note of keeping up gender and race quotas within their ranks.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Lots of people get shot in the head, and it rarely produces more than a small bullet hole and some blood on the ground. When Samantha is shot in the head, it doesn't stop Becky from leaving her face uncovered because of how "pretty" she still is.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Wilson lives off the grid and is prepared for a global apocalypse. Turns out there really is a massive conspiracy afoot.
    • Dr. Stearns has a history of paranoid delusions and was even institutionalized sometime before the series began. Turns out his wife is a sleeper agent for Harvest and engineered all of that to manipulate him.
  • Punch-Clock Villains: Members of The Conspiracy plan their actions in a mundane conference room while munching on bundt cake and have normal family lives.
  • Race Lift: Ian and Becky have their races swapped from the original. Jessica Hyde is now played by Sasha Lane, who is black and Māori, while the original actress is Irish playing a character with Romani ancestry. Milner is white in the original, but black in this version.
  • Samus Is a Girl:
    • The huge homeless person who punches Ian out turns out to be Artemis, a woman.
    • Mr. Rabbit turns out to be Milner, a woman.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Dr. Stearns, one of the main characters, isn't introduced until episode 2 and the same is true of Dr. Kevin Christie.
  • Shout-Out: Christie paraphrases lines from Joseph Hart's hymn "A Conversation Between a Believer and His Soul" in the final episode of season 1.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A few soundtrack selections contrast with the events happening on screen. One notable example is the use of "Word Up" by Cameo when the main characters are killing infected rabbits in a petting zoo.
  • Spanner in the Works: Basically the one thing that Harvest didn't count on when their plans started in earnest, as many of their pawns and minions start to act in unpredictable and unmanageable ways.
    Dr. Christie: Seven years of planning and it comes down to that: humans are tricky.
  • Spot the Thread: Dr. Stearns starts becoming suspicious at the Warwicks' house when he notices that everything is new and their kitchen is empty.
  • Swiss Cheese Security:
    • There is no security in the hotel where the convention is held. Overlapping with The Guards Must Be Crazy because, although we see a security guard "watching" the footage, he apparently doesn't see Arby and Lee executing multiple guests, often by pulling out a gun in the middle of public hallways.
    • It's pretty easy for three civilians and two children to stage an invasion of Christie Labs' warehouse and even get away scot-free.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: Most likely in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, each episode contains a prominent warning at the beginning stating either "This program is a work of fiction, and not based on actual, related, or current events. It contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised," or "This program is a work of fiction, and not based on an actual pandemic or related events. It contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised."
  • This Is Gonna Suck: This is Kevin Christie's reaction to the arrival of Toni Tambler at Christie Labs, saying that he's never had kind words for her, once calling her a "bureaucratic timid little bitch-weasel."
  • Time for Plan B: And plans C and D, and so forth as needed in the case of the Harvest. For example, Michael Stearns. They initially intercept his request for samples of blood from children supposedly infected with the flu, so that he'll see that it's apparently the same he discovered and greenlight an immediate emergency use authorization for his vaccine/cure. When this doesn't work, they concoct a plan involving twins to make him think that he cured one. This works and he pushes for the vaccine to be released, but then he starts getting suspicious. So they launch "Operation Fun," which involves activating his wife Colleen in her sleeper agent role and threaten to frame him for having compiled snuff films on his laptop if he doesn't toe the line. This works too, at least until Jessica Hyde and the others come busting into the house and blow the whole thing wide open.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Arby is frequently seen snacking on chocolate-covered raisins. They're part of how he's controlled by the Harvest.
  • Twin Switch: Dale's kids pull this in order to fake that Michael's vaccine works.
  • Tyke Bomb: Dr Christie is revealed to have a whole army of zealots whom he's raised from childhood to be martyrs, assassins, spies and so forth.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: How Harvest, and Dr. Christie, rationalize their actions and all the lives lost in their various plans.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Dr. Christie is a wholesome public figure and family man who has people murdered as part of the conspiracy.
  • Waving Signs Around: A group of people, including the virologist Michael Stearns, stand outside of the gates of the St. Louis Hot Zone for the killer flu, waving signs and demanding access.
  • What Are Records?: In "not slow not bad," Grant discovers an old Ameritech telephone directory book and, most likely having looked up phone numbers entirely using the Internet, mutters to himself asking what it is.
  • White Bunny: Mr. Rabbit is a white rabbit in the Utopia comic and there are several pure white rabbits grazing in the grass at Home. The rabbits at the petting zoo, though, have various fur shades, including white with black spots and at least one entirely black one.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Stearns Flu spread by The Conspiracy primarily targets children.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Both Arby and Jessica hurt children, but hurting children is the only violence that they seem to resist or regret. They both voluntarily spare children violence that they'd have inflicted on adults.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When a member of the conspiracy objects to a spree killing to further their ends, she and her own family become the targets.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Ian tries to pull this on Jessica in episode 2. It's probably for the best that he backs down.

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