Basically, « timely » is a terrible word to use in the context of a review.There are obvious exceptions, when dissecting the weight of a great program is directly related to its relevance, and before my pesky little trolls dig up eight old posts where I mistakenly rely on this particular adjective, I admit: I used it We all used it When watching a show or movie that seems particularly relevant for news it is almost instinctive to throw the word « timely » in your own headline People should know that this one is different from so much crazy entertainment because this show is about the moment
But does that mean it’s good? Wrong? Effective? Affecting? ‘Timely’ on its own doesn’t tell us anything qualitative, and even as a contextual clue the word has been gutted by misuse. Commentators who use ‘Timely’ to describe stories about police misconduct or racial injustice just haven’t paid attention for long enough Overuse is also a problem As long as you write about what’s going on in the world today – and, in some way or another. another, we all are – everything is timely Trump’s election really crystallized this concept, as so many stories after November 2016 seemed to relate to the president, his supporters, or the many issues with both.
When your state of mind is dominated by a common concern, all roads lead to the same place A drama about the systematic oppression of women? Timely A comedy about political sniping? Obviously Timely A show about dragons and war and frontal nudity in a make-up fantasy land? Always timely! The point is, if you sit around with something long enough – whether it’s under a misogynistic fascist or a survivor of a global pandemic (with a death toll that has been exacerbated by that same misogynistic fascist!) – then it obscures each of them. your thoughts You see everything through this fog, and therefore everything you see is foggy
Enter “Utopia,” Amazon Prime Video’s new original series that is impossible to discuss without mentioning its timely premise Set in modern Chicago, the eight-episode first season follows a group of comic book geeks who are fighting a mysterious organization for control of a graphic novel – and this is where relevance comes in – which may hold the key to ending a national pandemic
Hazmat costumes are worn by almost every main character National news covers viral outbreak 24/7 People are afraid Protests erupt Conspiracies debunked and, bafflingly validated, ‘Utopia’ has more parallels with the ongoing global pandemic that most news outlets today (where the next election outclassed COVID coverage)
It’s also very, very different Without going into spoiler territory, it’s hard to say exactly how the fictional « Utopia » pandemic differs from ours, but its origin, dispersion and effects are all tailor-made for a TV thriller, if not outright science fiction This is not an earthquake. This is about entertainment, and no news was invited by its creators – it was forced upon the show by the circumstances
So here’s another problem with « timely »: whether it’s meant to be endorsement or censorship, the word can often have the opposite effect. Maybe you don’t want to watch a TV show that hits a kinda too close to home right now, but a lot of people are doing it.Likewise, if you are only invested in finding direct parallels to your real world experience, there is always someone else out there hoping to see you. ‘escape into an alternate timeline only tangentially tied to our own People are fickle Just because you’ can’t imagine ‘who would or wouldn’t want to watch this show, it doesn’t mean they don’t. there aren’t many of those people in the world All you can do – as a critic, writer, or anyone with a louder-than-average megaphone – is interpret how well the show is achieving its goals and what effect. she got on you
What you need to know about ‘Utopia’, now that I’ve spent over half of my word count explaining what you don’t do, is that it’s dark to the point of being hostile, critically awkward-centric moments, and an otherwise effective dystopian thriller (Many episodes are less than 50 minutes long, which is often a sign of simplified television these days, amateur conspiracy theorists have a lot to chew on (without doubt too much by Episode 7), and the unsettling breadcrumb trail is dispersed enough to keep hardened viewers engaged There are at least too many horrific « twists » in Episode 2, especially a kicker which undermines a lot of long-term potential, but fans of Gillian Flynn’s dark and violent written work will likely see a lot of similarities between her past screen adaptations and this, her second adaptation of another author’s work (Remember you s: « Widows » was also based on a UK TV show)
If you’re looking for a firmer opinion, maybe ask why I ended up writing more about the boring trend of ‘timely’ TV than ‘Utopia’, but let me expand on it anyway. principle provided: « Utopia » begins at a comic book convention where a random parent discovered the eponymous comic that could save the world – and sells it for cash « Utopia » is the sequel to « Dystopia, » which , according to his obsessive fans, has accurately predicted many illnesses affecting society over the past several decades, so it makes sense to assume that the follow-up will offer similarly far-sighted predictions. Sadly, mega-fans Wilson (Desmin Borges), Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), Ian (Dan Byrd), Samantha (Jessica Rothe) and the mysterious Grant (Javon « Wanna » Walton) aren’t the only ones who believe in « The « Utopia’s predictive power, » and soon they are hunted down by a menacing corporate squad (led by Christopher Denham’s cold-blooded Arby) and a mortal woman who may or may not be a comic book character (« American Honey »Sasha Lane)
Towards the end of its seventh episode (the last one provided ahead of time), « Utopia » finds itself in the middle of a debate I’m not sure I want. Time (and interviews) will tell what kind of message was intended, if any, but this kind of narrative mismanagement isn’t limited to the more delicate thematic content of the series The biggest issues lie with her characters, primarily possible comic book character Jessica Hyde, who is just too cold and underwritten to make her a compelling central figure. The rest of the crew are equally fragile, though the performers (notably Desmin Borges and Cory Michael Smith) manage to elevate them above the sketches.
For how « Utopia » undermines modern society’s greatest fears, it cultivates them primarily for the mood, not for the commentary. Perhaps current events make it difficult to judge the show on its own terms, but it’s not free from judgment either.There are issues and benefits that exist no matter when someone looks – thanks to the Chicago backdrop for helping to distinguish the look general of the series – and, in the end, it’s just another scary story that needs refining Calling it timely would be too generous and thoughtless It’s almost as if the conversation should have been focused elsewhere
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