It’s taken me a few days to process Maniac. Maybe it was just my mood, but something about the experience of watching this show has stuck with me long since I finished the series on Sunday.
Of course, whether or not the work itself merits this much examination is a matter of internet debate right now. Perhaps Maniac is simply a hollow, algorithm-fueled visually creative exercise. Or maybe it has an Important Message to impart. You be the judge, but either way I think it’s absolutely worth a binge.
If you haven’t watched yet, and you’re willing to enter with an open mind, this gem is honestly all the background info you need:
However, if you prefer a formal synopsis:
Jonah Hill and Emma Stone play near-future New Yorkers who meet in a pharmaceutical trial program for an experimental drug regimen that’s designed to treat all mental illness and effectively cure their pain.
It sounds like a trip, and it is.
Part of the fun of watching Maniac is catching glimpses of the many, many other series that influenced its world and characters. The vaguely now-ish dystopia in which the show takes place feels only a few years away from Altered Carbon’s low-rent, high-tech urban hellscape of the future. The trial lab at Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech radiates retro neon technicolor vibes like the facility in Legion. The characters’ reenactments of their traumatic memories reminded me of the psychological probing at the center of The Sinner. Then there are splashes of Inception, Barry and Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind thrown in for good measure.
To me, Maniac feels most reminiscent of The Leftovers in the way it examines the universal experiences of loss and loneliness. Both shows portray pain through a kaleidoscope of characters and viewpoints, poignantly prompting us to question whether our suffering serves any higher purpose at all. Living is difficult, and possibly pointless, but at least we can try to find meaning in our connections with each other.
I don’t want to say much more about the storyline, or what I thought of it, because part of the joy of watching this show was not knowing what each (relatively short) episode would bring.
But I will say this: Annie Landsberg and Dr. Azumi Fujita’s wardrobes are fantastic fall/winter 2018 style inspo, particularly for eyewear and outerwear. And characters named Dr. Mantleray are guaranteed to make you laugh.
In conclusion: Just open your mind and give Maniac a try. You might really enjoy the ride.