Well, well, well. GRTA is HAL. The supercomputer programmed with the emotional personality of Mantleray’s mother is gradually entering depression after the inexplicable loss of her lover Muramoto. As vengeance, or whatever other reason, she wishes to entrap and permanently enslave the participants of the drug trial in the fictional worlds they’re embodying. At this moment, we’re unsure of the others but Owen and Annie have certainly woken up to the realization that they’re in a dream world after what looks like the passage of significant time within those realms.
GRTA keeps popping up in the worlds she creates as one of the more powerful characters in each of those. In the Lord of the Rings inspired fantasy thus, she’s the queen who offers Annie a life-defining choice. There’s some messing around that happens as both characters question the existence of their realities amidst the surrounding chaos and are constantly flustered as to why the others can’t see the artificiality of the world they inhabit.
It’s in this episode that I felt Maniac plays out its off-beat genre to its greatest strengths. What should normally be eerie science fiction (a megalomaniac supercomputer wants to trap its test subjects in its own artificially created synthetic simulation) borders on parody at times when you fill in the details – the AI is modeled after its creator’s mother, the worlds and circumstances our leads are trapped in are downright preposterous and their way out is equally amusing. Every scenario that would play out normally were Maniac a movie is messed up to its peak and often times, feels deliberately superficial.
It’s these bits that I enjoy the most rather than the details of the reality set forth by the Confrontational pill. Unfortunately, there’s less of this and more of world-building in a world that I’m simply uninterested in at this point. There are definitely some interesting easter eggs though, for instance the Confrontation Blvd. in Owen’s environment was an overt nod to the pseudo-gangster life he’s living. And when Olivia wanted to have plenty of children, she certainly wasn’t kidding.
Each of the pills so far has been focused around having its subjects delve into a different part of their psychology. The A-pill was about reliving their worst memories which made the dreams largely real. It helped the pharma-lab scientists and the supercomputer understand what bothered these subjects the most. The B-pill was about living out alternate realities with large parts of their personalities intact, allowing the scientists to understand what makes their worst nightmares bad for them, and digging aspects of their psyche that allow them to uncover their personality disorder. The C-pill is about coming to terms with the worst moments and parts of themselves and walking out as cured, treated individual, which is where things are going wrong at the moment.
We’re now entering the final two episodes and I don’t expect any miracles to happen, miracles of the sort that will elevate this to an otherworldy status. While I can’t say I’m truly hooked onto the proceedings, I’ve enjoyed the ride enough that I want to see how it ends. And the shortened episodes mean I don’t need to wait that long to find out.
Overall Score: 7.0 out of 10.0
We’re doing individual episode reviews of Maniac. Even though all episodes are out on Netflix, viewers may want to savor the show one episode at a time. These episode reviews may contain spoilers so discretion is advised while reading them.