Friday, September 25, 2020

REVIEW: 'Utopia' - Samantha, Becky, Ian and Wilson Finally Meet in Person to Discuss the Truth Behind a Comic in 'Life Begins'

Amazon's Utopia - Episode 1.01 "Life Begins"

When an elusive comic appears, a group of fans cannot wait to get their hands on it, and unknowingly put themselves in mortal danger.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Amazon's Utopia.

"Life Begins" was written by Gillian Flynn and directed by Toby Haynes

A group of strangers meet online through their shared love for a comic book. It's a relatable story. People can form these deep connections with people they've never met in real life because they have the same kind of passion for something. It's a link that has grown quite strong in our culture. It brings groups of people together. Communities have formed. But it also makes it perilous when that group wants to place more value than is on the surface with this form of entertainment. Samantha and her friends view the original comic Dystopia as a precursor for various viruses that have popped up throughout the world. This comic predicted events to come if the reader was willing to look beneath the surface. It's a puzzle hiding in plain sight. As such, the artist is willingly manipulating the world into believing that they have the power to stop some of the most destructive threats that could exist. It can be absolutely insane. People are desperate to believe in conspiracies because of the inherent belief that the world can't be random. There has to be some individual or group actively pulling the strings behind the fate of humanity. Those actions could eventually destroy this world. As such, a group of people with hero complexes believe it is their responsibility to save it because they see things that others don't. Samantha looks down at those who march and rally only after a problem is revealed. She wants to be proactive. She wants to analyze these threats and do something about them before they turn into apocalyptic events. She views this comic as a key. That means they are on the verge of unlocking a host of new clues through the release of the follow-up comic. It happened to be found in the house of a hoarder who passed away and left it to his granddaughter before her wedding. That couple is doomed because they are seemingly ignorant to the power and truth of this comic. The same is true of the convention fans who want to discuss the story and the mythology set up in this piece of media. Samantha views them as willingly ignoring the clues that spell out certain peril for the world. She never comes across as an honest broker whom the audience can understand. With Becky and Ian, they play into the tropes as the characters on this journey who also find love with one another along the way. That's still forced though. Meanwhile, Wilson is the conventional idea of what a conspiracy theorist is like. He is disheveled and desperate for others to believe him. However, Samantha is the one who voices the theories and has disdain for those who refuse to listen to her warnings. And finally, Grant is the one who actually retrieves the comic. He saves it from the investor who has swooped in to procure it. He is also a kid forced into an incredibly dangerous and lethal world. That too has become such a tired and lazy trope. It's such an easy way for a show to get the audience to invest in the outcome because of the preciousness of youth. That's all that Grant is as well. He hides his identity from his friends. They recognize that. But they too come across as the innocent people oblivious to the true stakes of this world. People are already willing to kill in order to have this comic. Everyone who sees it gets a bullet in the head or a needle in their arm. That's how far the conspiracy is willing to go to keep it all a secret. The audience recognizes these impulses. It understands how popular these ideas can be. They grow rapidly. But again, it doesn't provide a way for the audience to invest in this particular story. The viewer has to already be primed into accepting that the government and powerful corporations are inherently deceitful. Nothing happens randomly in the world. There has to be some mysterious force or individual truly pulling the strings. Sure, it also concludes on the note that the viewer should be willing to challenge our convictions and beliefs regarding the heroes of our stories. Jessica Hyde in real life may not be as heroic as she seems in a comic. And yet, that twist in the end becomes overbearing in revealing just how many parties are interested in this comic. It makes it seem too expansive and too daunting for any individual to overcome the seemingly doomed nature of our world. There are still too many powerful people who can outbid the protagonists and resort to violence to get what they want. As such, it's necessary for the audience to invest in the core group. That is extremely difficult because they are nothing more than stock characters at this point without enough nuance to add some layers of enjoyment to the proceedings. It's all grim all the time which is pretty boring.