Maniac: Your Next Netflix Binge
By Emily Norfolk
We all love a good new Netflix show. Sometimes repeatedly watching Friends and the Office gets tiring, and Netflix knows how to spice it up with an edgy new original show that gets everyone hooked. Maniac is one of those shows - I started and finished watching the it in three days. I don’t typically associate the names Emma Stone and Jonah Hill with art house television, so when the first ten minutes of the show included an evolution-themed montage, featuring a time lapse of grass growing, I was a bit put off. It seemed too avant-garde for my taste. But after another week of watching the same old shows and my mother continuing to pestering me about Maniac I gave it a second chance.
The show utilizes a non-linear timeline, with action taking place simultaneously in the future and the past. It is set in a world where populations have continued to grow, the top 1% are getting richer and richer, and time can be used as a currency. Plus, when people don’t have money for a transaction, they can pay through an ad buddy - someone who reads them advertisements.
The two main characters Annie Landsberg and Owen Milgrim are both deeply troubled, and burdened by events of the past. Annie had to witness the death of her sister and Owen, who suffers from schizophrenia, had to lie in court to protect his brother from sexual misconduct allegations. The two characters cross paths several times before finally connecting with each other during a pharmaceutical trial. They are subjected to three days of treatment and are administered pills that are intended repair the most intense mental trauma that they experienced. This system is monitored by a computer system called the “GRTA,” frequently referred to as Gertie, and complications arise as Gertie tries to insert herself into the subjects’ testing.
This story may seem like simply an amalgamation of sci-fi tropes, but it transcends its premise. It develops a fascinating relationship between its two main characters, and manages to couch rich interpersonal drama within a larger save-the-world plot. The characters are not just concerned with the fate of humanity, but with the fate of each other, and this bond between them is what gives the show its lifeblood.
This show may not be for everyone and there is some sensitive content, but if you get past the bizzare first 10 minutes, I promise you will finish the show feeling deeply reflective and genuinely connected to the characters.