Maniac: The Sympathetic Sci-Fi
Netflix's Divisive take on relatable psychosis of loneliness
In 2018, Netflix released an ambiguous trailer about two individuals that volunteer themselves to undergo a pharmaceutical testing trial. What made this sci-fi preview interesting was it had something to offer. There were tense images of what was to become of these characters we haven't met yet, what made them want to be here, the ending of the trailer had Emma Stone dressed in a 1920's outfit. That was a unique twist to keep my intrigue, and I anticipated what questions would be answered when I watched it.
Upon watching the first episode, it's sci-fi atmosphere was a different take on the usual settings for a sci-fi set up. It was toned down, the evolution of the architecture changed but, the people have not. I myself haven't been a fan of genre of sci-fi. Some premises of the genre just aren't my cup of tea. But upon watching this presented fictional future that wasn't dystopian nor unrealistic. It kept my intrigue to have a different spin automatically both character driven and setting driven. It had a desolate feel with various bizarre advertisement that commentated on that fictional society of loneliness and perfection.
The first two episodes are character backstories of Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) and Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) to understand why they chose to be the guinea pigs for a institute called Neberdine that has controversies and hidden problems to their clean conduct that is projected to this city. Owen had his own mental health problems prior to signing up for the study, as he struggled with the aftermath of a family junction, deciding to try this experimental study after losing his job. He crosses paths with Annie on waiting for the procedure to begin and it shows how much of his schizophrenic tenancies are showing in a accurate limelight. Annie on the other-hand had the problem of an obsession with a pill that could help her remember a family tragedy that she unable to forgive herself for. These two characters, unbeknownst to them had a similarity of their problems with family. Family is a struggle in the lives of various individuals, Owen's struggle with his mental health and Annie's self-destructive ways felt like a sense of comfort to relate to.
As episodes progressed in the series, with these two characters that never had anything to do with each other, that came from polar opposite sides of society's spectrum, ended up being the ones to connect on the second phase of the drug trial. Their brains connect to make memories of a life that never existed with their own real life problems interweaving into the fabricated memories. Fantasy might seem as an escape but the truth lingers to be accepted in Owen and Annie's case. No matter what fictional scenario they have found themselves in as different people with different high-functional/normal lives. The problems find a way to be remembered. No matter how hard we try, we can't not forget something that plagues us.
The show had it's commentary about the mental health struggle and the toxicity of family. Another secondary character, Dr. James K. Mantleray (Justin Theroux) has his own problems of his relationship with his mother. Because of the toxic relationship with problems that were never addressed, he developed a computer program for the Neberdine study of his mother he wished he had, Even her name to "Gertie" as a foil to his mother, Greta Mantleray. If you were to throw a dart on a board that contained the names of the seven billion people that exist on earth, if you were to throw that dart ten more times. You would still hit the name of someone that has an issue with their mother. I felt that this was a spot-on representation of a mother that has a caring persona but has no idea that her idea of caring is driving her son to an unhealthy instability. Not many shows commentate on mother/son toxic relationship in a perfect limelight.
Throughout my viewing of this show, I found that not many people liked it. It fluctuates from three and half stars to four stars on the rating for Netflix, IMDB shows reviewers that gave solid ten stars and a positive reviews then the original that premiered in Norway back in 2014. There was room for expansion with two characters as opposed to just one character in the original version. It is a bizarre twist of a sci-fi series to have the depth for the existential idealism: to be alone then to face the idea of a person leaving your life because of a mess-up, to face the facts of saying goodbye, to heal with the fact that we aren't ok but we will be in time.
I've watched this show many times. It's not your average sci-fi show, one of the only ones I can watch once in a while, and no matter how many times I watch it. The characters stories with their adversities in a reality they have tried to understand to find acceptance or peace.
If you want a show to shake your core and have a related escape. Watch Netflix's Maniac.