Netflix seems to always strike gold with their portrayal of dystopian societies and their newest original series Maniac is no exception.
Without giving too much away, the show features a group of volunteers in a drug trial designed to cure mental disorders as they work to identify their core traumas. A majority of the series is spent in the subconscious of the main characters and brings the perfect about of absurdity you’d expect from Netflix to the table. Maniac was a risk, but it was a risk worth making.
Even after just watching the trailer, I could already conclude that this ten-episode series was fast-paced and forces you to stop and think about literally everything. At that moment, it’s checked off most of the boxes on my imaginary list of “All Things That Make a Show Good”.
And after binging the entire series in one weekend? It’s checked off every single box. Thinking back, I think it may have added some.
This show is definitely not one for the faint-hearted. But with such a captivating and hypnotic plotline, even the most graphic scenes perfectly contrast the most sentimental psychological moments Netflix specializes in.
I haven’t felt this emotionally drawn to a show since the last season of Black Mirror, but even that comparison is unfair to make. While Black Mirror takes you through some psychoanalytic moments and forces you to internalize their separate plotlines within the span of one hour, Maniac offers a sense of continuity you can’t get from Black Mirror.
With ten episodes worth of connected plot, even turning away for a moment can cause you to miss crucial elements that make this show so worth watching. Missing these little nuances and subtle foreshadowing can drastically alter your perception of the show but I can promise that you will not be disappointed.
The ominous backtracks, breathtaking cinematography and attention to detail are just some of what Maniac incredible. While at first it seems as if the show took the easy route in choosing a dystopian New York for it’s primary setting, later episodes rotate through different time periods and genres like a film noir and Game of Thrones-like period. The diverse set was accompanied by a variety of detailed costumes and of course, a star-studded cast to perfect this series.
The 2007 hit comedy Superbad featured the first on-screen interaction between actor Jonah Hill and actress Emma Stone and the stark juxtaposition with Maniac is absolutely outrageous, but in the best way possible.
All of my doubts regarding the sincerity of Hill’s role were cast aside during the first episode and the goofy, fun-loving persona Hill worked to create in movies such as Superbad and 21 Jump Street were replaced with the dismal sorrow surrounding his schizophrenic character. Although comedy is still Hill’s strong suit, I think I could get used to seeing him star in these kinds of dramatic, thrilling characters.
Emma Stone never fails to captivate me in each of her roles and her newest character Annie Landsberg is no exception. While Stone is no stranger to multifaceted roles (see, Mia from La La Land and the title character in I, Tonya) I think her newest rendition in Maniac is my favorite to date.
With both of their characters strained ties to their respective families, the familial undertones of the show do nothing to deviate from the main focus but instead add to the genuinity and depth of the series.
All praise aside, it can be easy to get lost in the absurdity of the show. While at first it may seem like none of it makes sense, you’ll soon realize that everything, and I mean everything happens for a reason. In the words of Hill’s character Owen Milgrim, “a pattern is a pattern.”
Maniac is just so good, you might even have to rewatch the show a second time around just to ensure you’ve grasped every aspect of its crazy, unique plot line. I know I will.