Maniac (2018)

As a matter of fact, I do take a long time to ‘binge’ watch any series. It’s not that I don’t find them interesting, but it’s just that I get tired and a little irritated rather quickly. Mostly because I feel like not much has been accomplished, and when I do sit down to watch something with some additional work (like knitting or even journaling or any sort of art, light leisure activities etc), I don’t get anything done. So with that kind of feeling, it’s hard to stay committed to finishing a show. 

With school, it’s a lot easier to watch shows since I can give myself goals and tasks to finish in time and to reward myself with an episode to watch. Not that I’ve done anything like that so far in 5th year but my ‘to-watch’ list is rising fairly quickly, so I hope to be picking up a new series sometime next week. 

Today we’re going to be talking about Maniac, a Netflix Original series. I had a friend of mine recommend it to me and since I value my friend’s opinions highly (thanks for being the quality filter for me guys!) I decided to give it a shot and get into the show.

I have only one sentence to summarize my viewing experience: it’s pretty trippy.

The futuristic vaporwave aesthetic

The story is basically about a drug trial which involves resolving past trauma through confrontation under the influence of drugs and a computer which simulates and watches over the dreams and realities that the subjects are going through.

The series follows Annie and Owen, both of whom have their fair share of family problems and an inability to connect. While Annie gets along by lying and getting things done through a rather underhand method, Owen has a whole family that only exacerbates his problems. It’s only these two of the 12 drug trial subjects whose stories are thoroughly explored.

I really loved the subtle background of the setting. It seems to be taking place in some sort of alternate universe where things are familiar, and yet not so familiar. There are roombas on the streets cleaning things up, there’s no phones/tablets/screens, but there are ads everywhere. Initially while watching Maniac, I thought it might end up being a commentary on advertisements. Just like how the internet is littered with advertisements, all clambering for your attention, so was the world of Maniac. However, you kinda get payed to see advertisements, so I thought that was pretty cool.

Anyway, Annie and Owen’s trauma is explored through various fantastic, unbelievable and wild stories and plots. The abrupt changes and nuances of their characters and how each of their stories reveal a new aspect of their trauma was fascinating. There were lots of metaphors, all pointing back to the reason they had gotten into the trial in the first place.

Another thing I really liked about Maniac was how all the main characters around the trial had their own traumas, although implied for some. The fact the researchers really wanted to go through with the trial and develop the drug was because they wanted to fix themselves was a concept I really liked. And how, at the end of the day, there was no actual “enemy” or antagonist. Interesting, how you could even feel empathy for a computer, am I right?

When I finished Maniac, I felt kind of confused with the end but also satisfied with the confusion because it felt so real. Both Annie and Owen, despite being declared ‘healed’ by the researcher at the lab, mention how it doesn’t feel like they’ve been fixed. That’s pretty much the main core message of the show: to be true to yourself when it comes to traumas and stop running away from what it means. There is no easy fix, no pill, no therapy that’s going to completely fix what’s happened. You’re just going to have to learn how to adjust accordingly. 

More vaporwave aesthetics

Overall, I’d give Maniac a 4/5. It was fun to watch, all the alternate dream realities and fantastic plots that only support the main character’s background was pretty neat. The aesthetics of the series is stellar, from the costumes and settings to accents and characters. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s down for a melting pot of science fiction and fantasy.

What are your favorite genres when it comes to binge-watching a series? What is one series that you would recommend for me to watch? Have a nice day! 

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