The Netflix limited series Maniac follows the psychedelic experiences of strangers Annie and Owen during a pharmaceutical trial and their quest through a range of different mindscapes. Sparks fly, and it is in the midst of these events where they discover who they really are. Despite flaws, including a story that drags at times, it is a sweet and innocent tale that provides one of the most innovative experiences of the year.
Emma Stone and Jonah Hill headline the ambitious series—a Superbad reunion of sorts. Both actors are phenomenal; Stone perfectly plays a “lost-soul” type of character who is flawed and loud, yet so damn likeable as she continuously recounts her troubled past. On the other hand, Hill’s unusual yet impressive acting as a socially awkward schizophrenic represents how far his acting career has progressed.
Creators Cary Joji Fukunaga (season one of True Detective) and Patrick Somerville (The Leftovers) have put a lot of care into developing a cohesive story and building new worlds across the 10 episodes. From a mob-driven narrative to Elvish folk tales, each landscape is intricately woven to move the characters and their respective stories forward. However, some stories work better than others—the relevance of plot points to Annie and Owen’s story arcs are sometimes hazy. Although it averages 40 minutes per episode, it can be a bit difficult to binge watch as every episode is dense with production detail, as well as new environments and character revelations. Because of this, Maniac isn’t for those looking for a quick watch.
Maniac is like a game of Tetris. Initially the show can be hard to understand, equivalent to not knowing where to place the first few pieces. But as the layers build up, you start to realise where this show is going and you’re in for the journey. The detailed scenes can be overwhelming.
But when all is said and done, beneath all the mind-bending madness lies a charming story about loneliness and facing loss. In the midst of such pressures, people who care about you can be found in the strangest of places.
Stream Maniac on Netflix now.