Netflix pulled a Runaways with its second episode of Maniac by focusing entirely on a second character’s point of view. One can almost say Windmills runs parallel to The Chosen One in narrative but delves more into Emma Stone’s character, delving into her backstory in bits and laying out her addiction. This overlaps into the drug trials from the last episode where Stone’s Annie was seen shouting and yelling at someone from the background before progressing with some original material to end the episode on a somber note.
Annie is essentially a junkie, hooked onto a McGuffin pill that helps her forget the trauma she underwent when she had a spat with her sister. Buried under the guise of that spat are ugly memories which hint at a horrible fate for her sister. When her supplies run out, Annie tries to infiltrate and befriend a certain Patricia Lugo who works in the pharmaceutical facility that’s running trials of the said drug. Despite failing the test that Owen somehow cleared in the first episode, she manages to blackmail her way into the trials. Her reaction in the final moments is deliberately ambiguous and makes us wonder whether she was traumatized or elated at her sister’s fate.
A few things stand out about this episode. There’s an entire fictional commercial created and shown to explain how the drug trials are going to progress. The amount of detail and creativity oozing out of the ad that parodies on similar real-life commercials is impressive as the ad itself fits in the show’s confines of dark comedy and satire. Also humorous is the friend proxy service through which Annie meets Patricia, that’s almost a jab at Tinder and Facebook. Its existence, along with robot sanitizers, AI dolls that play chess and emoting supercomputers make the universe of Maniac a strange mix of reality and fiction, almost like a parallel reality if you will.
The relationship between Annie and her sister is showcased through one last holiday the two go on before parting their separate ways. Emma Stone plays a teenage version of herself rather convincingly and a lot happens in a short span of time educating us on their rusty bond. In fact the editing on this is surprisingly good and despite several confusing bits that perhaps allude to unknown future events, the events of the show simply fly past and the credits start rolling before you know it,. Perhaps it has to do with the comparatively shortened episode length; whereas most Netflix shows feature 53-55 minute long episodes, Maniac seems to be sticking to 45 minutes which really is the sweet spot that I wish more Netflix shows would adopt.
By the end of the episode, the stakes are laid out rather clearly. We know more about Maniac‘s world than we did in the last episode and both our central characters are now fleshed out enough that we can have playful interactions between them. In fact, it’s almost disconcerting how heavily this episode is all Emma Stone; I’ve almost forgotten what Jonah Hill’s angle was (kidding). While still not a masterpiece, episode 2 gives me hope that this is going to tighten up once we’re past the halfway mark.
Overall Score: 8.0 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.