Before diving into Utopia, Amazon’s new conspiracy thriller series from Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn, let’s get the big question out of the way: Is it better than the cult classic 2013 British series it’s based on?
Short answer: No.
But at least it’s not a mass appeal US remake. Flynn pens all eight episodes of the adaptation about a pandemic conspiracy, with John Cusack and Rainn Wilson providing the marquee names. Originally ordered in 2018 with David Fincher tapped to direct, the series hit pause before Amazon, with a trio of directors, made it happen — and with the benefit of some fortuitous release timing.
That’s as long as you’re into pandemic TV. The ridiculous conspiracy, involving a bat-based virus that might have been created on purpose, will tug the occasional wry smile. There are new and reimagined characters, and the further the conspiracy unravels, the more it veers away from the original. Plus, Cusack is weirdly charismatic as the creator of a synthetic meat.
There’s a lot here. But you’re still better off seeking out the UK version.
The plot starts off the same way. Several parties are hunting down a graphic novel called Utopia that predicts future viruses. There are the torture-artist secret agents known as The Harvest, and the “fanboys” who believe the prequel to Utopia, Dystopia, predicted real-life epidemics like Eobola and MERS.
“Why do we keep feeling like it’s the end of the world?”
“Because someone is ending the world!”
Caught in the middle is the mysterious Jessica Hyde (Sasha Lane), who has a role in the graphic novel and is on the run from The Harvest. “Where is Jessica Hyde?” is repeated a lot.