'Utopia' is about a fictional pandemic in the middle of a real one, as nerds try to save the world

The timing forUtopiais either incredibly good or atrociously bad, depending on one’s tolerance for fiction that parallels current events. In this case, it’s a pandemic tied into conspiracy theories advanced via a comic book, with the unsettling twist that the world-imperiling threat is very real.

For the most part, this Amazon seriesadapted byGone Girl’sGillian Flynn from a 2013 British show created by Dennis Kellyworks by quickly establishing a distinct dramatic life, offering a bleak prism into an alternate reality. Steeped in comic books and pop culture, it’s an especially appropriate companion for what has fast become Amazon’s signature drama, the dark superhero satire The Boys.
That said, a disclaimer: Although the producers have said the violence is toned down from the original, the amount of gruesome torture, extremely high body count and threats to children clearly aren’t for everyone, and the even-remotely squeamish should be forewarned.
The clever set-up hinges on the fact that clues to what’s transpiring reside within a hallowed, secret comic, one that produced a devoted cult of geeky enthusiasts engaged in a mad quest for its pages, before being suddenly thrust into the sort of real-life adventure that has occupied their fantasies.
    Utopiastarts with a young couple discovering the comicleft in their new house, as collectibles sometimes areyielding a feeding frenzy to buy it. Yet when they go to a convention known as FringeCon to negotiate a sale, that attracts not only the extended online group but shadowy forces seemingly determined to erase any knowledge of its existence.
    That forces the central quarteta likable if eccentric bunch, played by Ashleigh LaThrop, Dan Byrd, Jessica Rothe and Desmin Borgesto go on the run, soon joined by a mysterious figure (Sasha Lane) with particular knowledge about the comic’s origins. Much, much mayhem follows, constructed in a way that allows those relationships to steadily growincluding a sweet, awkward romancewhile delivering regular surprises and building suspense.
    The mystery ofUtopiahinges on the fact that the original comic, Dystopia, somehow predicted the threats to come, including outbreaks of deadly diseases. The action unfolds as a new pandemic arises, with the unsavory wrinkle that someone seems to be using the virus to experiment on childrenanother area whereUtopiatiptoes up to a pretty treacherous line, creatively speaking.
    Rainn Wilson in 'Utopia.'

    Amid the real-world prevalence of crazy conspiracies percolating through social media, “Utopiafeels uncomfortable at first. The mounting jeopardy, sin embargo, keeps pulling the audience further down this quirky rabbit hole, filled with mysterious characters like a wealthy tech titan (John Cusack) championing a vaccine and a virologist (Rainn Wilson) enlisted to help eradicate the danger.
    Creepybest describes the general atmosphere, with members of the cultish group pursuing the nerds saying things likeWhat have you done today to earn your place in this crowded world?”
      Utopiais at times uncomfortable and occasionally gruesome, but as edgy dramas go, effectively maintains its momentum from one hour to the next. For those with the stomach for such stuff, that’s more than enough to earn a place on a crowded streaming menu.
      Utopiapremieres Sept. 25 on Amazon.

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