This highly anticipated mini-series hit Netflix on September 21st, starring the OG Superbad stars, Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. The characters, both dealing with their own different traumas, agree to enter a Black Mirror-esque simulation that is being tested with the goal of curing depression. The simulations have the characters basically face their traumas, their flaws, and their deepest insecurities in the hopes of having the confrontation lead them to acceptance. However, Annie (Emma Stone) and Owen (Jonah Hill) end up being in the simulations together due to an unexpected “glitch” in the computer. I’ll leave the synopsis at that, because anymore may be riddled with spoilers.
While I think the show is definitely worth the watch, I did have some mixed feelings about it. I like how they were taking the dystopian technology plot and twisting it a little bit by adding a lot of humor and creating a world that is both very realistic but also very outlandish. It felt really realistic and something that could definitely happen today. I just thought some of the humor missed the mark a little bit and instead of being a funny spoof, just took me out of the plot a little bit. Sometimes I was laughing out loud, sometimes I was cringing, but I like the attempt to blend serious trauma with humor. Dr. James K Mantleray (Justin Theroux) was definitely supposed to be the comedic character and he was really great at certain moments. However, it wasn’t as well done as Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan) in Barry, which is the same type of character who you are supposed to laugh at and like despite him being pretty fucked up and being the catalyst for the protagonists’ struggle. In fairness, Anthony Carrigan set that bar pretty high.
The series was also just slightly confusing, which always bothers me when it’s a topic that is actually realistic and somewhat easy to explain. I wanted more explanation for a lot of the things happening. Somewhat *spoiler alert* but how did the computer obtain empathy? How did a computer cry and actually create water? Was the computer actually a mind-replica of the doctor’s mom and how did they have access to all her personal thoughts based just on her books? Are both Annie and Owen’s minds creating their simulations at the same time, or does one mind take over and the other is basically an actor with no say in it? If you don’t think too much about it and the small plot holes don’t bother you, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you’re like me, and want to know the reasoning behind major points in the story, Maniac fails in that regard.
Overall, I definitely recommend the show if you’re looking for something to watch and enjoy shows with dark humor or being disturbed by the ~inevitable future of technology.~ Despite my mixed feelings, I admit that I finished the season in just a few days. It definitely accomplishes the main, and arguably only, goal of TV which is just to entertain, even if I was wondering what the hell was going on at times. Beyond the cons, the special effects are amazing and all of the actors are great and do the best with the confusing and not-so-hilarious script. I’d say it’s a hit or miss for viewers and I think each person has to watch a couple episodes to know if it’s for them.