• Harry Whitehead

Maniac is phenomenal.

On the 21st September Netflix released a new show called "Maniac" starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. Two actors I've loved since watching "Superbad" as a teenager. I went into it not knowing much. The only real connection I had to it prior to going into it was that my dad had worked on the premier a few weeks back and came back with some popcorn with the Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech logo on it (the popcorn was pretty bad not going to lie).

I also remember seeing pictures of Jonah Hill looking like Post Malone around a year ago and well, sure enough that was for his role in this. Episode 8 is where this fascinating character pops up. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before this there is so much more to talk about with this show. From how beautifully it is shot and tells a uniquely captivating story to how this story explores mental illness in people and how it can affect their lives by in no was romanticising it.

Quick warning. There WILL be spoilers. So if you haven't watched it yet, GO WATCH IT.

The opening of episode one starts focused on Emma Stone's character Annie Lansberg. There's an interesting scene that lasts for all of 15/20 seconds where she's in a cafe drinking a coffee. And you can heard a man trying to tell his what I would presume his friends about a story of how we just appeared in Poland without any explanation. However, his "friends" couldn't really give two shits about him or his story. The mans whole demeanor changes when he realises that no one is listening to him. This really sets the tone for the rest of the show - how people have an urge to be connected to one another but this urge is never really fulfilled in their everyday lives.

The rest of this episode is mainly focused on Owen Milgrim, played by Jonah Hill and goes in depth on how he perceives the world. How his schizophrenia has caused him to become a social pariah within his own family, so much so that he no longer lives in a lavish home (which he could most definitely afford with his family money) and lives in a small studio apartment instead. His mental illness is also what takes him on this journey to Neberdine Pharmaceutical & Biotech drug trial that the remainder of the show is built around.

Without going into much more detail and ruining the whole show, we as the viewer are taken on the craziest retro ride of our lives. Following the bizarre scientists that are Dr. Muramoto and Dr. James K. Mantleray with a dash of the brilliant Sonoya Mizuno as Dr. Azumi Fujita. All three of these characters encapsulate the weird yet wonderful essence of the show.

This is before we've touched on the AI "therapist" that is running the whole experiment. How it gets deep into the patients brains and unearths their most horrific and traumatic moments to them and then works to "cure" them of the mental illness these events have caused because of this trauma. It's essentially therapy but without a person and you just take a series of three pills and the therapy is seemingly successfully over.

The way they made the AI have feelings by adding a little dose of empathy into its programming is something that I feel is very much needed to be talked about. With the future looking more and more likely to include AI it opens up a philosophical discussion - one I'm definitely not qualified to talk about, but my experience at A-level philosophy will help me in some way. Should AI be given the option to "feel"? It's a very simple question but has very complicated and divisive answers. One the show definitely explores to some extent and shows how AI can be extremely helpful to humans and how it can destroy us quicker than we can imagine.

To wrap it up, I felt a real strong connection to Jonah Hill's character. In the last episode he has been sectioned by his family for not lying under oath in a court case against his brother and ultimately getting him sent to prison for what seemed a very strange sexual attack on a co-worker. However, this isn't why I connected with him. He seemed to be very dissociated with the world around him and not really able to find the joy he wants and so desperately needs in life. In college his family PAID a girl to be his friend, when he found out about this, his mental health worsened and he had what he called a "BLIP". This seemed to have gave him severe trust issues, not just with relationships but with the very fabric of what he was experiencing in everyday life.

He says in the last episode in a conversation with his therapist: "Option A, she doesn't really exist. I look up her name, figure out where she lives, and realise there's no one on Earth with that name. Next, I go to Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech and find out there's no such thing as 'Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech'"

She then goes on to ask what Option B is, to which he says "Option B is even worse". We're not told more about "Option B" until the end of the episode where Owen Milgrim says: "Annie, the same thing happens every time I meet someone or get close to someone. I mess it up... And you'll stop calling back, and you'll change your number and it'll break my heart. It's just easier if you're not real".

AND BOY did that hit home. The character of Owen Milgrim is such a fascinating character and one that Jonah Hill did so well at bringing to life. Also quick shoutout to the series director, Cary Joji Fukunaga. He did a phenomenal job at bringing this to life.

Maniac will go down as one of my all time favourite Netflix Originals.

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