SPOILER ALERT: The following review contains some spoilery details from this series.
Part of the disclaimer at the beginning of each of Utopia episode reads: “not based in an actual pandemic or related events.” Fine, but circumstances depicted in the show still have the unnerving effect of at the same time being too close for comfort and too ridiculous to believe. This conflict often takes the air out of the otherwise serious plot points.
Another problem is that although this is a story about comic book aficionados, it starts out depicting them as cliched losers and never develops much respect for them or gives them much personality. The show doesn’t even bother to give the cosplayers remotely decent costumes. They, as well as the main characters are inconsequential, and that attitude lurks in the background over the course of the series where the audience is then tasked to care about characters the show does not hold in much regard.
The central mystery of the series focuses on the manuscript of a comic book called “Utopia.” This McGuffin is a previously unknown sequel to “Dystopia,” essentially the story of a mad scientist or two responsible for all the recent virus outbreaks across the world. Some creepy guys who are cultists, corporate assassins, government agents or some combination thereof will go to any lengths to acquire the item, and so the adventure begins.
The good news is that as far as thrillers go, the pacing of this one is swift. The first few episodes end with compelling cliff hangers which makes the series easy to binge, but near the end some of the through points start to unravel. One problem is that this comic book called Utopia, the one that everyone is so obsessed about, that also allegedly holds clues to the source of numerous viruses and the identity of the evil genius behind it all, is an illogical mess. The convoluted story it tells and how its very existence is ultimately misleading is just terribly annoying in execution. That and how grievous injuries gone untreated never get infected is just plain stupid.
There is a point too, where the show tries to take on a Stranger Things vibe, but without the nostalgia or humor. This almost random turn of events doesn’t quite work either, with the leader of their little band of scruffy misfits being a violent, unrepentant sociopath and the resident conspiracy buff, is just not funny.
Utopia is more of a puzzle box than cohesive narrative, with breadcrumbs along the way and some seriously disturbing performances, so it can be entertaining, but ultimately ends in unsatisfying dive further into the rabbit hole of the secret machinations of villainous organizations.
The Bottom Line
Utopia is entertaining enough, but ultimately hollow. What could have been meaningful devolves into irrelevant exploits and unearned twists.