A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Utopia is a dark series about a mysterious comic book that's the subject of a deep state conspiracy, and the young comic fans who try to unravel it. Violence is intense and frequent: characters are killed suddenly, violently, and on-screen: shot point-blank in the head with blood and gore, stabbed with syringes in an incident staged to look like deaths due to IV drug use. Expect characters to die horribly in the course of the series. There are also references and visuals related to epidemics like Ebola and SARS, which may disturb viewers familiar with COVID-19. Sexual content is less frequent; characters have a sweet romance with kissing and references to off-screen sex; a man intends a one-night-stand with a woman and brings her to his hotel room (they do not wind up having sex). Language is frequent: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "assh--e," "bitches." Adults drink at gatherings and parties; some get drunk and get sloppy and sexually uninhibited. Positive messages are few and far between, but viewers may glean a few messages about loyalty to friends and staying true to principles. The cast is diverse in terms of age, race, and ethnicity, and women have strong, central roles.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Created and written by Gillian Flynn and based on the UK series of the same name, UTOPIA picks up just as an issue of a cult comic book is found under mysterious circumstances. Comic book fans have long looked for this issue, because some believe that earlier ones obliquely predicted some of the world's most deadly epidemic: SARS, MERS, Ebola, and more. Now everyone is on the hunt for Utopia: a loose-knit group of comic book fans including Lily (Hadley Robinson), Wilson (Desmin Borges), Ian (Dan Byrd), and Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), dead-eyed and dead-aimed operatives working for shadowy deep state conspirators, and sinister multinational corporation CEO Kevin Christie (John Cusack), among other interests. And it's clear that whoever ends up with it may end up with godlike power -- or could wind up dead.
Is it any good?
This show ultimately feels a lot like somebody who commandeers your attention at a party: eager to impart far-out stories, but less interested in making sure said stories land with its audience. A show full of kooky plot elements that are also emotionally involving sounds great, but Utopia stumbles on that front. By the end of the first episode, we've met dozens of characters, each of whom only gets a brief turn in the overcrowded pilot, and some of whom are abruptly dispatched. What is this story about and who's important to watch? With her everygirl vibe and a big juicy speech where she takes comic fanboys to task, Lily feels like creator Gillian Flynn's mouthpiece, but she feels insubstantial, tasked with doling out exposition but not a character we're eager to get to know.
Flynn's most interesting creation is Grant (Javon "Wanna" Walton), a middle schooler posing as a wealthy adult to his cadre of conspiracy theorist buddies who actually does wind up pulling off some very adult stunts. With his loopy line readings and unnerving stare, Christopher Denham (Billions) also breathes some life into his stock grim-hitman-on-a-mission role, and John Cusack, too, is a reliable kick. But the concepts and characters don't quite come together to create a show worth watching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Are any of the characters admirable? Are they intended to be? Who are we meant to root for/sympathize with? How does a show or movie telegraph which characters are supposed to be good and which are villains? Does Utopia depart from these conventions?
If you watched the original UK version of Utopia, what do you think of this as an adaptation? Is it faithful to the original story? If not, do the changes serve the show? Or detract from it?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love mysteries
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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