Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Utopia finale - why Aristotle wouldn't be happy

I have really enjoyed Dennis Kelly's bleak look at conspiracy theory thus far. Absolutely loved the first five episodes, the cinematography is beyond the best I've seen in UK drama and the constant twists and witty McDonagh-esque dialogue has held my attention. Plus which discerning musical theatre geek wouldn't love picking out ideas Kelly raised already in his musical 'Matilda': 'my mummy says I'm a miracle'.

Anyway I couldn't help feeling a little empty inside after the last episode of he's a good guy, he's a bad guy, no wait good guy revelry. The only reason I can give is that it doesn't comply to the basic rules of drama that we are used to TV conforming to. Now I get that this is about not knowing who has the right idea, are the good guys doing the wrong thing trying to stop Janus etc etc So I'm not condemning it, Kelly is a playwright by trade and in theatre writers have much more freedom to do what they like and why should everything have the same story anyway?! So I'm just presenting why I didn't feel rosy inside at the end, like I did at the end of the most recent Walking Dead episode.

Wether you were taught by those self help writing books, Pixar or Aristotle you will have been taught the same thing. Get a character, give him a want ( Nemo's dad want's to find Nemo), give him a need ( Nemo's dad needs to cut the apron strings). Once you have those two things present your character with a load of problems to resolve and end with the dilemma - are they prepared to accept the need in order to get what they want? To get that warm fuzzy feeling the character needs to get the need first and the want second.

Spoilers from now on!

In Utopia Becky wants to be happy and escape Deels, she needs to get over her pride and accept Ian's support - but she doesn't. Spineless civil servant Michael Dugdale needs to grow some balls to get his want, a kid. He kind of does this by killing the spy pretending to be his Russian lover (how didn't I see that coming!) but he doesn't stand up to his wife. We don't get that happy ending, in fact none of the other characters change either. All we get is some exploding vaccines which probably wouldn't have worked anyway. Then at the end of the episode we learn that the whole quest and search for the manuscript was pointless, presumably to pave the way to series two (which may never happen thus presenting another unfinished show like Deadwood and Carnivale). So all that was effectively for nothing.

As I said, this isn't condemnation as if we don't know which side is good and which is bad we can't really get that WAFF (warm and fuzzy feeling). Maybe that's the world and the point of this show. I don't know but if there is a series two I'll watch it- as long as Arby is alive

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