What sets Maniac apart from most shows on Netflix is the array of emotions portrayed by its actors. But it is not just the acting that makes this show watchable. The obscure, layered, and at times graphic plot is even more enthralling than the set’s vibrant colours and the 80’s aesthetic wardrobe.
Maniac grows more and more intriguing each episode.
The limited series, directed and created by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) and writer Patrick Somerville, features Academy Award winners Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Emma Stone (La La Land) as the main characters.
Hill’s role in Maniac is a enormous contrast to the common side-splitting characters we see him as (21 Jump Street 1 & 2, Superbad). He plays the soft-spoken, depressed and schizophrenic, Owen Milgrim.
Owen applies for Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech’s (NPB) paid drug trial after he was fired from his job. As he’s waiting, he notices a bleach blond, blue-eyed woman (Stone) storming her way to the front desk of the lobby.
The woman Owen notices is Annie Landsberg, who is addicted to one of the pills offered in NPB’s trial and like any addict — needs her fix. Landsberg argues and extorts her way into the trial.
The drugs and experiments in NPB’s trial claims to decipher and resolve the emotionally complex, except, everyone involved is emotionally complex: the 11 participants, the doctors and the artificial intelligence (AI).
The AI is named G.R.T.A and she is based on the creator’s (Justin Theroux) mother, Greta Mantleray (Sally Field), who appears in the dream sequences the participants experience.
The trial consists of NPB administering three alphabetical pills over the course of a week. The participants are not allowed to discuss what they experience after they take a pill.
The participants are divided into even and odd numbers.
When it’s time for an “odd experiment”, the odd numbered participants, which includes Owen Milgrim and Annie Landsberg, are brought to a room then seated and strapped to a chair with metal plates surrounding their heads.
The participants ingest the pill of the day, sleep, and enter a dream sequence while they are monitored by the doctors on the other side of the glass wall.
The A pill represents agony. It will make the participant remember and identify the worst day of their life. This is the same pill Annie became addicted to and is the reason she fought her way into the trial.
The B pill is for behaviour. After the trauma identified by pill A is analyzed by G.R.T.A, the B pill is created specifically for the participant to battle their “defence mechanisms” around their trauma.
Finally, the C pill is for confrontation and helps the participants acknowledge and accept the suffering they’ve been enduring for so long.
The trial seems to go awry once the participants take the B pill. Although all dream sequences are meant to be separate, Owen and Annie’s dream sequence intertwines.
Maniac will take you on a rollercoaster of genres and emotions: from sombre reality to a blend of subtle and over-exaggerated comedy to action-filled crime and Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy.
This show covers all bases.
The emotional performances by Hill and Stone will bring you to tears, sad or happy. The plot and dream-sequences, will affect your thoughts.
Depending on your mood, you may choose to binge watch or stretch out the experience.