Utopia recap: Episode 1, ‘Life Begins’

Javon “Wanna” Walton as Grant in Utopia - Courtesy of Elizabeth Morris / Amazon Studios
Javon “Wanna” Walton as Grant in Utopia - Courtesy of Elizabeth Morris / Amazon Studios /

Utopia episode 1 unites a group of internet friends intent on getting the sequel to a prophetic comic book, without knowing the danger it holds.

Poor Ethan and Olivia. Little did the couple know, the new chapter of their life — moving into Olivia’s grandfather’s house after his death, would result in their demise. Utopia episode 1, the first part of Gillian Flynn’s latest creation, kicks off with the couple’s “life begins” moment as they happily descend upon their new home.

Once over the threshold, it becomes apparent that Olivia’s grandfather was a hoarder. His house is stuffed to the brim with various knickknacks. As the couple starts cleaning, Ethan discovers a room full of art and old comics. It is in the wreckage that our story begins, as Ethan finds the original manuscript to a comic book called Utopia, labeled the sequel to Dystopia.

After a quick Google search, Ethan realizes they could sell the comic at an upcoming convention and earn a pretty penny, enough to pay off some school loans.

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The story of Dystopia revolves around the villainous anthropomorphic rabbit Mr. Bunny who kidnaps Jessica Hyde and her brilliant scientist father, forcing him to concoct crazy viruses. Eventually, Jessica manages to escape along with the assistance of a female warrior named Artemis, but her father remains Mr. Bunny’s prisoner. The evil rabbit recruits members of the Harvest, his henchmen, to hunt her down. It’s why fans commonly say the phrases, “Where are you Jessica Hyde?” and “Stay alive, Jessica Hyde.”

Utopia episode 1 recap: Introducing the key players.

As soon as the announcement is made for Fringe Con, a young landscaper named Sam (Jessica Rothe) jumps for joy and sends off a text message to her fellow Dystopia-loving friends. Sam is part of a tight-knit online group who enjoy dissecting the ins and outs of Dystopia. For years, they’ve been waiting for news of the sequel and now it’s finally here.

The other members of the group include Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop, a young woman with an unnamed illness that causes her to have seizures, Ian (Dan Byrd), an insurance salesman with feelings for Becky, and Wilson (Desmin Borges), the doomsday-prepper. There is also Grant (Javon Walton), who claims to be super rich but in reality is a cunning young preteen who lives in a small, rundown apartment with his oblivious family.

What sets this group apart from many of the comic’s other fans is they believe Dystopia predicted numerous viruses, like SARS, MERS, and Ebola. If they can get their hands on its sequel, they think they’ll be able to predict future outbreaks. Sam, in particular, is motivated to make a difference before the bad thing happens as she comments how society is always too late — “we wait until the world is on fire to protest climate change,” sort of thing.

Olivia and Ethan setup shop to accept bids from participants in a hotel room. They only show each person one page of the fabled Utopia and then have the bidder jot down their name, room number, bid, and cell number.

When the group gathers at the hotel where Fringe Con is held, they follow through on their plan to bid $500 apiece to inflate the market. Then Sam plans to file in last and seal the deal. They each play their part, although Ian cheats and manages to take a cell phone picture of his sole page of Utopia. Sam makes her final bid, but it ends up not mattering.  A man named Philip Carson shells out $20,000 in cash to buy it and the couple sells it.

By the time our group meets up, they enjoy some drinks together (and make out, in the case of Becky and Ian) and learn about each other before realizing they probably won’t win the comic. They agree to return to Wilson’s house to spend the night.

Utopia episode 1: The hotel massacre.

Unbeknownst to them, a deadly rampage is taking place over Utopia on the upper floors. Two mysterious men, Arby (Christopher Denham) and Rod, arrive at the hotel and knock on Olivia and Ethan’s door in the middle of their celebration. Each partygoer in the room is given an injection and told it will simply knock them unconscious. The men also take the list of names and room numbers after verifying they’re the only people on the list who got a glimpse of Utopia.

Afterward, they head to the penthouse to retrieve the comic from Philip. But Grant managed to get to the penthouse before them after persuading the clerk at the front desk that he was Philip’s son. Philip returns to the room with a girl while Grant is still there, so he hides. Rod and Arby show up moments later and Grant watches as Rod and his partner brutalize the couple and demand the comic. Eventually, Grant manages to make a break for it with the comic stuffed into his backpack. The men fail to catch him.

Since he’s gone in the wind, they focus on cleaning up the mess at the hotel first. They kill Philip and his date, wipe down the room, and them systematically kill every other person on the list — except, our group of fans didn’t book hotel rooms or leave their cell numbers. Before beginning the slaughter, Rod calls an unknown person to conduct a mental health test on each person from the list. They learn that one guy had previous mental health issues and carefully frame him for the shooting spree by placing the gun in his hand.

In the final moments of the episode, a woman (Sasha Lane) enters Ethan and Olivia’s room. As you might have guessed, those shots were poison and not a simple sedative. Olivia is the only still alive — albeit barely. The mysterious woman asks her where Utopia is and when Olivia asks why she tells her, “because I’m the real Jessica Hyde.” Here we go!

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Odds & Ends from Utopia episode 1

  • A flu that is killing children is mentioned in background news reports multiple times in this episode, I imagine that’s going to become important.
  • Why didn’t the men shoot Olivia, Ethan, and her friends? Maybe because it wouldn’t have been clean as once they shot one person, all the others would have panicked.
  • Toward the end, Arby says he needs to get his “tools,” sounds creepy.
  • Grant dropped the makeshift nametag he used to trick the clerk in the penthouse tub. Will that act as a clue for someone looking for him later?