A psychological mini-series created by Patrick Somerville and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, Maniac stands to be among the best TV shows debuting in 2018. Exclusively released on Netflix last month, the show is headlined by Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, who play Owen Milgrim and Annie Landsberg respectively.
The mini-series is centred around the duo’s participation in a pharmaceutical trial for a three-stage pill programme that’s designed to fix any problem involving the mind. As the episodes go on, we see the pair experience intrinsic ‘reflections’ that are to help them with their individual issues. This results in them becoming different characters for each ‘reflection’, an example of which is the assumption of the role of a Long Island couple attempting to recover a stolen lemur. While such a scenario sounds farcical, Hill and Stone both deliver mesmerising performances throughout each of the ten episodes, subsequently allowing the viewers to become invested in their characters and actions.
The world formed by Somerville and brought to life by Fukunaga feels futuristic, as well as featuring concepts that would not be completely amiss in the present day. One such concept is that of the AdBuddy, a service where in lieu of paying for transactions with currency, consumers are instead able to pay with their time. An AdBuddy’s role is to read out personalised advertisements to those who choose to pay using this method, with the size of the transaction affecting the number of advertisements read out. The AdBuddy appears to be a key service in the world of Maniac and is widely available, perhaps echoing the prevalence of advertisements in our own society.
The writing of the show is impressive, with a tight plot that is suspenseful, emotional and comic at differing times. Justin Theroux’s Dr. James K. Mantleray is often a source of comedy in scenes where he is present, although these tonal differences do not detract from the plot as a whole. It must be noted however, that in later episodes, there are some instances of fairly graphic depictions of violence that may be unsettling to watch. Subtle references to earlier episodes are also made throughout, and are there to be found and appreciated by hawk-eyed viewers.
A series that effortlessly glides through its ten episodes and captivates its audience with each one, Maniac is definitely a must-watch this autumn.