Maniac looked to be one of those shows that will play with your perception when the trailer came out. An exploration into different dimensions of the brain that would follow the current trend of mind-melting shows like American Gods and Legion.
In reality, it’s far more than that, Maniac is a highly intelligent and well-written series that has you glued to the screen every step of the way.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
Maniac stars Emma Stone (La La Land, Birdman) as Annie, a troubled woman who’s struggling with the loss of her sister. She’s desperate to get hold of a new drug that she’s been taking so goes to take part in the secret drug trial it was stolen from.
Also at this drug trial is Owen, played by Jonah Hill (This Is The End, The Wolf Of Wall Street). Owen is from a rich family and suffers from Schizophrenia. His family are trying to use his illness to blackmail him into lying in court to save his brother from a public embarrassment.
The drug trials see them hooked up to a machine that explores their subconscious whilst they take a sequence of drugs. The machine has been uploaded with feeling and a personality and becomes psychotic after the lead scientist dies.
The aim of the trial is to perfect a new drug that can cure peoples deepest mental health issues.
Drugs are bad?
Drug A makes the subjects face their darkest problems and we see them live these episodes as if they are completely real.
For Annie, it’s the tragic death of her sister after she’s seriously horrible to her.
Drug B puts the subjects through various scenarios to discover the real them and to make them see their potential.
These sequences go well but something odd starts happening when Owen and Annie keep finding each other in their minds. Something that’s supposed to be impossible.
Drug C is supposed to have the subjects exorcise their demons and finally be cured of the pain that’s caused their suffering.
Now as we said the computer has gone crazy and it all goes wrong but we won’t give away too much more as it really is something to be seen.
A modern classic
Maniac is a genuine triumph. Not only is it exceptionally well written but the acting is Oscar-worthy. Hill and Stone are phenomenal and they aren’t alone in that. There are exceptional performances from fellow cast members as well.
Starring alongside them are Rome Kanda (The Informant, Unbeatable Banzuke), Sonoya Mizuno (Annihilation, Ex Machina), Julia Garner (Ozark, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For), Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Lincoln), Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Mulholland Drive) and Hank Azaria (The Birdcage, Mystery Men).
Julia Garner as Annie’s sister Ellie is brilliant as is Justin Theroux as the completely mad Dr James Mantleray.
It’s also worth mentioning the set design and costumes which are perfect. The “real world” sections are set in a retro-futuristic world. Everything looks a bit grim and ’70s but there are sci-fi elements like sanitation robots and automated consoles.
We can’t express enough how good this series is. You get a real sense for the humanity of every single character and even in the fantasy segments, you get a deep insight into the characters. By the end of it all, you will be rooting for them to succeed and get what they need.
There are scenes which had us crying with laughter and others that genuinely had us crying with sadness. It talks to you in a way that only the very best shows can and whilst it’s only supposed to be a one off mini-series we would love to see more. Quite how that could be done is a mystery to us but it’s so well done that we’re sure they could find a way.
We hope we haven’t given too much away and we would highly recommend this to anyone. You don’t have to be into sci-fi to enjoy this at all.
Don’t just take our word for it though head over to Netflix and watch it now.
Did you enjoy Maniac? let us know in the comments.