Review: Utopia is a very good series released at exactly the wrong time

It’s a rare TV series that gives me pause about even writing a review, but Amazon’s new sci-fi thriller Utopia turned out to be just that. Not because it isn’t good—on the contrary, I found it both entertaining and thought provoking. But there are several key elements of the central plot that proved disquieting enough (even for someone like me who is not generally squeamish) that I had to ponder the pros and cons of giving space to a show whose release perhaps should have been postponed by a few months, given current world events. (I mean, read the room, Amazon! Geez!) In the end, the pro arguments won out.

(All major spoilers are below the second gallery. We’ll give you a heads-up when we get there.)

As we reported previously, the series is a reboot of the 2013 British version, about online fans of a graphic novel called Dystopia that seems to have the power to predict the real-world future. The fans are obsessed with tracking down the sequel, Utopia, and this makes them targets of a secret organization. Amazon has kept the same basic premise (with a few tweaks) and swapped in an American cast. Per the official premise: “When the conspiracy in the elusive comic Utopia is real, a group of young fans come together to embark on a high-stakes twisted adventure to use what they uncover to save themselves, each other and ultimately humanity.”

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Review: Netflix debuts two solid German offerings with Biohackers and Freaks

Luna Wedler (left) plays a young medical student with a secret in in the German drama <em>Biohackers</em>, and Cornelia Gröschel (right) stars as a diner waitress who discovers she has super strength in the German film, <em>Freaks: You're One of Us</em>. Both are currently streaming on Netflix.

Enlarge / Luna Wedler (left) plays a young medical student with a secret in in the German drama Biohackers, and Cornelia Gröschel (right) stars as a diner waitress who discovers she has super strength in the German film, Freaks: You’re One of Us. Both are currently streaming on Netflix. (credit: Netflix/Sean Carroll)

As someone who enjoys discovering lesser-known films and TV series from around the world, I applaud Netflix’s continued commitment to bringing a wide range of international fare to its platform—whether it’s South Korean zombie horror/period drama, modern Norwegian reworkings of Norse mythology, Arabic supernatural YA dramas, or Belgian sci-fi thrillers. And the excellent sci-fi series Dark recently wrapped a mind-bending third and final season on Netflix.

If that’s left you peckish for more German Netflix fare, you might check out two recent debuts: a sci-fi thriller series, Biohackers, about an ambitious young medical student seeking revenge on her mentor for the scientific sins of the past; and a film called Freaks: You’re One of Us, about a diner waitress who discovers she has a superpower—and she’s not the only “freak” with a special gift. Neither even comes close to the multilayered conceptual level of Dark, alas, but both provide well-executed, solid entertainment—and you won’t need a chart of multiple timelines to follow the plot.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

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