Revisiting Utopia – Series 1, Episode 6

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Utopia Series 1, Episode 6 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden
utopia pearson finale

“Who We Are, Who We Become” is my unofficial title for this final episode of Utopia’s first season. Jessica Hyde has brought the manuscript to the runaways, and now it feels like all the pieces are coming together. But throughout this episode, we see characters either confirming they are who we always thought they were or revealing a turn and surprising us with their actual role. It’s the sort of surprise overload you would expect for a series finale of this sort of program. The paranoia is amped up, and bonds are either shredded entirely or strengthened through trust being revealed as earned.

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TV Review – Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block (2018)
Written by Nick Antosca
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson

butcher's block stairway

Sisters Alice and Zoe are attempting to start their lives over and end up in a new city, adjacent to the Butcher’s Block neighborhood. This neighboring slum is infamous for what happens at night when residents seem to vanish into thin air. There is a connection to a nearby park which used to be the land belonging to the Peach family, a wealthy old South type of family who ran the now decaying meat processing plant. People talk about strange figures that roam the park at night and a staircase going nowhere that pops up. You are warned to never go near those stairs, to turn around and leave if you see them. Into this strange melange of urban legends, our two protagonists are dropped, and they might not make it out alive.

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Revisiting Utopia – Series 1, Episode 3

Utopia – Series 1, Episode 3 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

utopia series 1 episode 3

The unofficial title for this episode? “Loss of Innocence,” as the episode opens and ends on children directly in the line of brutal cold violence. In fact, the opening scene of this episode received over 50 complaints and was aired just a month or so after the shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I would never argue that this start is meant to be light or easy to get through. The creators most definitely intended to unsettle the audience. And this is a weird wrinkle I have noticed in audience’s perceptions of media as of late. If the film or television show or other form presents an uncomfortable or unsettling situation, then it is immediately perceived as if the creator is explicitly endorsing a destructive action. This mindset is highly corrosive to understanding and appreciating art. The creator is not always reflected in the creation, most of the time not at all. If anything, the cold open of Episode 3 is the creator making an undeniable statement about the horrors of such events, particularly when we look at the turn for Arby in this scene, when he stumbles upon the child cowering in the gym.

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Revisiting Utopia – Season 1, Episode 2

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Utopia Series 1, Episode 2 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

utopia jessica hyde

Episode Two comes out of the gate ready to lay the first real building blocks of the series mythos. We are introduced to The Network, a Cold War-era response by the West to Soviet Bloc countries building up arsenals of chemical weapons. The obvious question after learning about their existence would be, why are they still around then? That answer is not laid out in any sort of clear way this chapter, but their new agenda is hinted at. Outside of the core “gang on the run” cast, we have the background story of the Ministry of Health’s purchase of Russian flu vaccine coming under scrutiny and then a very convenient outbreak in the Shetland Islands. This helps flip the script on the government incompetence story and turn the Ministry into forward-thinking heroes.

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Revisiting Utopia – Season 1, Episode 1

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Utopia Series 1, Episode 1 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

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The first time I watched Utopia I knew I was going to have to binge watch the whole thing. It is rare that a television series in this polished, this sure of itself, and this damn good. Utopia gets dark, incredibly dark and it lets you know that from its opening scene (more on that in a minute). And it is a profoundly relevant show still five years out, talking about big ideas that are continuing to cast doubt on the future of humanity. Instead of framing this concept huge from the outset, the creators keep things small and intimate. The characters are where the story of Utopia starts and stays throughout its all too short run. And when you get to the end, you won’t forget those characters.

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TV Review – The League of Gentlemen Series 3

The League of Gentlemen Series 3 (2002)
Written by Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith & Jeremy Dyson
Directed by Steve Bendelack

league of gentlemen series 3

With two series under their belt, the League of Gentlemen desired to inject freshness into their show. They accomplished this by upending the format of the first twelve episodes and making series 3 a succession of spotlights. This allowed for a greater depth of character development, something they were already good at but hindered due to the need to fit so many character bits and sketches into single entries. The more significant challenge was how to choose from such a broad catalog of creations that the group had created over the years. The chosen few were Pauline, Lance, Geoff Tipps, Alvin, Stella & Charlie, and a mysterious new character.

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TV Review – The League of Gentlemen Series 2

The League of Gentlemen Series 2 (2000)
Written by Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith & Jeremy Dyson
Directed by Steve Bendelack

hilary briss

Benjamin Denton escapes the clutches of Edward and Tubbs but with trauma-induced amnesia from his experience. Edward and Tubbs are on the search for a bride for their son David which involved the attempted abductions of women from Royston Vasey. Pauline is trying to get her position back with the jobs program but has to deal with Ross lording his new position over her. House cleaner Iris reaches a breaking point with her employer Judith, and a shocking secret about the two is revealed. There are also new arrivals to Royston Vasey, including the homicidal Herr Lipp and the grotesque circus ringleader Papa Lazarou.

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