Worth the Binge?: A Review of Netflix’s latest (& Wackiest) Original Series, Maniac

Can the mind be “solved”? All emotional pain eradicated? What would it take? Three pills and a super computer? In Netflix’s latest original, this is exactly what Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech desperately tries to resolve in the 73rd iteration of their ULP drug trial.

I won’t say spoiler alert because that really is not my intention. But to catch you up to speed, the show follows two deeply troubled individuals and their oddly intertwined journeys in a pharmaceutical trial; Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone), a drug addict who recently lost her sister and Owen Milgram (Jonah Hill) a man with schizophrenia whose daily life is complicated by visions of a non-existent brother called Grimmson, who insists he will save the world by following “the pattern”. By fault of the ever malfunctioning GRTA supercomputer, their drug induced dreamscapes cross and they find themselves helping each other towards confronting their deepest personal traumas.

Perhaps most intriguing is the show’s retro yet futuristic dystopian backdrop, with Statues of Extra Liberty, clunky robots scooting around picking up dog poop and ad buddy services in which you can elect to have someone follow you around reciting the equivalent of a radio commercial (my personal hell) in lieu of paying for goods and services. This version of New York City is modern in its aesthetic, but the technology seems to be stuck in the 80s, taking on a more analogue form of where we are today. The visuals are cinematic and eccentric and really make you think “WTF am I watching?”.

The show touches on themes of mental illness, which is becoming more and more practiced in Hollywood these days. While as you can probably gather the show is almost comedic in its grandiosity, it does a good job of depicting the isolation and confinement of the experience in a mentally ill mind (without making light of it). It constantly calls to question, “what is normal?”, what with the numerous acid trip fantasies and familiar yet foreign New York landscape. But seriously, it sort of spins that “grass is greener on the other side” metaphor on its head, by illuminating the unique disconnection each character feels from society. From the patients, to the doctor’s conducting the trial to the pop psychologist selling self help books, every character is struggling with something.

As this is a review I’ll try to give some sort of round up.  Quite honestly this is a show I believe at least half my friends would turn off the second Jonah Hill turned into a hawk. It is wacky, confusing and definitely not to be taken at face value. If you’re not prepared for an alternate reality, an entire episode dedicated to the pursuit of a lemur, and various other f*cked up dreams, then I suggest you not dispense the 10 hours required to binge it. But if you’re more open minded, and into weird, satirical plots (like me) then this show is really a solid find. I particularly found it refreshing for its lack of a love story. For once, there is a whole season of a show where the two main characters are not under any sexual tension and forced into a relationship by the 5th episode’s end. Maniac really is just a show about two very different people doing everything they possibly can to confront their traumas. And if you choose to watch it I promise the final scene will have you smiling from ear to ear.

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