Review: Maniac

Alex Dicarlo, Contributor

How do you deal with mental disease? Even though we know a lot about the forms that these diseases can take, there is no cure — only treatments. The question of whether or not the cure might be worse than the disease is the focal point of Netflix’s new show “Maniac.” The central plot of the show is the story of a pharmaceutical company performing drug trials in an attempt to create a medication that would eliminate all mental diseases.

In the show, Jonah Hill plays Owen Milgrim, the schizophrenic son of a very wealthy family. We can see from various interactions with his family that Owen is a bit of a black sheep. It seems like his parents or brothers don’t care for him, until one of them gets charged for rape. The family then expects Owen to cover for his brother by giving him an alibi. Owen shows his schizophrenic nature by seeing an imaginary brother named Grimson, who constantly tells him that he has a higher purpose and relays false information to make Owen even more paranoid about what is real and what isn’t.

Jonah Hill plays Owen Milgrim in Netflix’s “Maniac.” Image courtesy of Netflix.

Emma Stone plays Annie Landsberg, a woman with her own psychological baggage. Addicted to one of the drugs the fictitious pharmaceutical company has put out, she wants to quit the medication. However, it helps her deal with the strange relationship she has with her sister, which you come to learn more about as the series progresses.

These two characters find themselves involved in a highly dangerous and experimental drug trial, which allows us to fully understand each of the characters and the complete psychological outlooks of each of them. We learn their true insecurities, as well as see them try to overcome these struggles. The way they do this is through the dreams each of them have during this drug trial.

Emma Stone and Jonah Hill star in “Maniac.” Image courtesy of Netflix.

An important aspect that can’t be overlooked is the fact that these characters don’t live in a world like our own. These characters live in a dystopian “pseudo-New York” with heavy Japanese influence. For example, this fictitious pharmaceutical company is run by people of Japanese descent. Owen’s apartment  mirrors the Japanese compact style. Even during the drug trial, we see each participant sleeping in their own compact cubbyholes. The creators truly want to represent the fact that this is not our New York by the fact that the Statue of Liberty has been replaced with the “Statue of Extra Liberty.”

The idea of taking a medication alleviating people’s mental disorders seems incredibly interesting. This makes the show a true psychological adventure. In one way or another, we can all relate to the plot, or at least, we can sympathize with the characters.