TV Review: Gillian Flynn’s Utopia

TV Review, Amazon Prime, Amazon, Utopia, Sasha Lane, Gillian Flynn, John Cusack, conspiracy, comic book, Rainn Wilson

Plot: A group of young adults, who meet online, get a hold of a cult underground graphic novel, which not only pins them as a target of a shadowy deep state organization, but also burdens them with the dangerous task of saving the world.

TV Review, Amazon Prime, Amazon, Utopia, Sasha Lane, Gillian Flynn, John Cusack, conspiracy, comic book, Rainn Wilson

Review: After years in development, Amazon Prime's new conspiracy series Utopia is set to premiere. After unveiling a first trailer at San Diego Comic Con a few months back, Utopia has quietly been gaining momentum leading up to the season premiere next week. Based on the BBC series of the same name, Utopia was originally set as an HBO series with David Fincher directing. But, six years later, the eight-episode series scripted by Gillian Flynn makes it's debut with an intriguing premise that doesn't quite work as well as it should. While never flat out bad, Utopia doesn't have any reason for existing and fails to set itself apart from the original British series.

The original Utopia, created by Dennis Kelly who recently premiered his event series The Third Day on HBO, and this new version both follow the exploits of a group of outcasts drawn together by the underground comic book Dystopia. When the long anticipated sequel, Utopia, is discovered, they meet up and inadvertently become embroiled in the real life conspiracy that serves as the plot of the comic. As someone who has long been a fan of series and films rooted in a good conspiracy, the one at the heart of Utopia is intriguing, but it also feels overlong and not nearly as interesting as it thinks it is.

The problem may stem from the cast. There are good actors here including John Cusack, Rainn Wilson, and Jessica Rothe, all of whom are not on screen nearly enough. The heavy lifting is left to Dan Byrd as Ian, Javon Walton (HBO's Euphoria) as Grant, Desmin Borges (FX's You're The Worst) and Ashleigh LaThrop as Becky. All of these actors have done good work in other projects and there are glimmers of that here, but Gillian Flynn's script never really picks up any momentum. By the time Sasha Lane (HELLBOY) appears as Jessica Hyde, there were already too many characters I didn't feel invested in to give me a reason to keep watching. But, having screened seven of the eight episode series, I can honestly say that there are some cool moments throughout but not enough to elevate the series.

Directed by Toby Haynes, Susanna Fogel, and J.D. Dillard (SLEIGHT), Utopia lacks the edge that a filmmaker like David Fincher would have brought to the screen. At times, the series feels like an overlong episode of Black Mirror (of which Toby Haynes has directed episodes) that meanders from scene to scene under the pretense of being hip and cool. There are on screen text messages and violent sequences set to quirky music, but all of it feels forced and done better in other series.

TV Review, Amazon Prime, Amazon, Utopia, Sasha Lane, Gillian Flynn, John Cusack, conspiracy, comic book, Rainn Wilson

The problem with Utopia may be that it came out in a world still reeling from a pandemic. At the core of this series is a comic book that portends horrible diseases and plagues that the main characters are trying to stop while a sinister group attempts to thwart them. Each episode of Utopia has moments of violence that are meant to build the threat facing the world but it never fully sinks in. There are also countless mentions of vaccines and government organizations failing to address a viral threat which at times, feels like it may be a bit too soon. Utopia may have been filmed prior to COVID-19, but rather than come across as prescient it feels like a wasted opportunity. Flynn is a talented writer and she clearly had ambitions in tackling this story, but it never comes through the character experiences on screen.

Utopia is a series that is simply too generic a story. Fans of the original are going to find this adaptation pointless while new audiences are going to struggle with why anything that happens here is relevant. Each episode feels like a rehash of the episode that came before it and scenes seem like they repeat. If this was intended to unhinge the viewer and make them feel as uncomfortable as the characters, it works but also risks alienating the audience. With the original series lasting only 12 episodes, this run feels at once too short and too long. It is a shame that we never got the HBO version of this story as I expect it may have been better than the one we got.

Utopia premieres September 25th on Amazon Prime Video.

TV Review: Gillian Flynn’s Utopia




About the Author

5931 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.