With Option C, we reach
the end the beginning of the road. That is to say, we come full circle. The drug trial ends, and the subjects are paid off and sent back to their day-to-day lives. Owen and Annie attempt to make changes in their lives, following up on what they experienced in their reflections.
The doctors are forced to change their lives, after the unexpected way the trial ended. They are sent out into the real world, no longer able to use their careers as an excuse to hide behind their computers in windowless rooms. All of the main characters spend the episode building toward striking out on new adventures, but we’ll have to wait to see if Maniac stays a “limited” one season series, or if it gets a season 2, before we find out if we get to follow the next stage of their development.
Option C begins with the subjects waking up from their “C” pill experience. They are dazed, overheated, and dehydrated. Owen asks Annie if she’s okay, but she just tells him, “Not now.” As the subjects stumble from the experiment room, James and Greta stand outside the door and say helpful things like, “You’re alive!” and, “You woke up!” They get it together after a minute and act as though they’re in a receiving line, congratulating the subjects and asking Owen if he feels pure, unaffected joy.
Owen tells Greta that he’s a huge fan and has read all of her books. That explains why he was able to understand Gertie, and she liked him so much. I wonder if Greta is Owen’s fantasy mother, when he dreams of replacing his own.
James declares the 73rd iteration of the ULP a complete success and the patients healed.
The Big Boss, Yoda, who appears only as a talking 50s TV with wavy lines on the screen, calls James, Azumi and Greta to his office to account for what happened. He’s disgusted that years of work and money have been wasted. Greta doesn’t take his attitude though. She’s a globally recognized, best-selling author and radio host. She doesn’t work for him.
Yoda says that his minions can’t find Gertie. “They believe she may have slipped away.”
Ha! I knew it. Gertie has escaped onto the internet, or into another AI ready appliance. Azumi says it’s not true, that Gertie no longer exists, but during the emergency sequence, Gertie did all kinds of things that she wasn’t supposed to be able to do. She could definitely play dumb about the shutdown, then play dying/dead.
She and Grimsson are probably together, happily holding seances in their jazz speakeasy in some corner of the internet, as we speak.
Yoda says that Muramoto’s family intends to sue. Greta tells him that she does as well, since they stole her mind from her for profit. Yoda thinks that’s a good idea, which is odd, since she’s suing his company. Then Greta tells Yoda not to ever let James practice in this industry again, for both his sake and the sake of humanity. Yoda assures her that James’ career is over.
Yoda gives James a chance to speak, but he doesn’t have anything to say. Greta stands to say goodbye to her son. He suggests that they could share a very brief lunch sometime. She tells him that she’s leaving the country on an extended book tour covering all seven continents, so they won’t see each other again for a long time.
She walks away. He wipes his mouth off, even though they didn’t kiss goodbye. I bet she loved being able to tell him that she was the one leaving this time, after he said she blinded him with her toxic love.
Yoda tells Azumi and James that their idiocy with the ULP might be useful to him in a private matter. Does that mean that he wants to manufacture and sell it illegally, since they didn’t complete the legal tests? The A and C pills apparently have some value without Gertie’s input. Maybe he’s going to give them a lump sum of cash as a combination buy out and hush money.
The subjects leave the center. Annie tries to give her payment to Patricia as an apology for threatening her daughter, but Patricia doesn’t take it. Owen follows Annie to where she waits at the nearest bus stop. He tells her that he understands that they aren’t real friends, and won’t stalk her. He explains that sometimes he has a problem with obsessing about people. Annie’s still preoccupied with her own “C” pill experiences and brushes him off. Owen says goodbye and gets in a cab.
James and Azumi ride up to the surface in the elevator with their stuff. Azumi has a bonsai with her, as well as her luggage. James apologizes for ruining everything, after she brought him back on the project. Azumi says it’s okay, it was going to fail anyway. She set up a situation that was intolerable for Gertie. James insists that her work on Gertie was remarkable.
James tells Azumi that it might have been the kiss she gave him during her big speech to Greta that made him go blind for a while. While he was blind he had an
internally generated vision fantasy: “You and I were at sea. You were my first mate and nurturing life partner. And we were on a journey.”
Azumi: “To Where?”
James: “The lost city of Atlantis.”
James: “What is it?”
Azumi: “It’s just I don’t like boats.”
Hot and heavy making out ensues, followed by smug standing and waiting for the elevator to stop. Azumi asks if she can give him a ride somewhere. A whole new world opens up in front of James as he realizes she has a car and can drive. Maybe Azumi can be the captain this time and he can be the first mate and nurturing life partner.
And Azumi wants to live in the real world instead of his fantasy, though it was lovely of him to ask her. His purple soulmate was from Atlantis, after all.
Azumi’s car is Owen’s flame-covered roadster from the mob family “C” pill reflection. She was born to be wild.
Owen sees a Daddy’s Home ad on his way into his apartment. It doesn’t have Annie’s face on it. The mission is over. Once he gets into his tiny apartment, where he and Olivia lived with their seven children, he sits at his tiny desk and writes a note to her, apologizing for the things he did during his BLIP. He’s trying to face reality and accept consequences.
Owen meets with his mother, who encourages him to tell the “truth” and get Jed out of trouble at the trial. She asks Owen if he’s been approached by anyone trying to manipulate him into changing his testimony. She’s heard that witness intimidation is something that frequently happens to wealthy people.
Unlike our world, where the wealthy buy off or threaten witnesses.
Owen hasn’t been approached by strangers, so his meeting with his mom is done.
Next up is trial practice with Frank the lawyer (Same as in the reflections) and the men of the Milgrim family. Frank’s first practice question is, “Have you ever seen your brother engage in an act of consensual or non-consensual urination?”
Well, that’s very specific, isn’t it?
They get a call with a new settlement offer, but Porter and Jed refuse to even hear it. Even though accepting a plea would keep Owen from perjuring himself, they think it would also ruin their family name for Jed to plead guilty. Porter thinks it’s up to the female victim to forgive Jed for his “mistake”, and if she won’t, she’ll get what she deserves. He makes a vicious, violent threat toward her, pointedly says that’s how the Milgrim family deals with enemies (to make sure Owen gets the message), then leaves the room.
Jed and Owen are left alone. Jed puts on a bizarre act, begging Owen not to let him be convicted, while fake crying, throwing things, and threatening him. Owen’s not the only unstable one in the family.
On the day of the trial, Owen dutifully tells the story they coached him to tell, that Jed was at his house playing Risk the evening of the assault. When the prosecutor takes over, she notes that Owen lives in an apartment with no data portals and a building with no doorman or security cameras, so there’s no objective record of Jed’s visit that night.
Owen says that he prefers to be disconnected. That’s definitely a loaded statement. The prosecutor suggests that he’s invisible, in a sense.
The prosecutor shows Owen video footage pulled from the closed circuit surveillance cameras in his family’s factory which shows the crime as it happened, moving from camera to camera, with a few gaps. You can see Jed grope the woman, force her movements, and celebrate after she runs out crying. It appears that he has her urinate on him?? (If anyone is more clear, let me know. I think his shirt is wet when she leaves.)
After she shows the video, the prosecutor brings up Owen’s history of mental illness. Owen is more honest than the family would like. After having a moment to think, Owen tells the judge he wants to submit his testimony, and says that the man in the video is Jed. Owen admits that he was lying before when he said that Jed was with him. Jed is a monster and he’s guilty.
Owen and Jed stare at each other. Jed looks excited and hard as nails. He loves a “justified” chance for violence. This is the hawk all over again. He finally jumps up screaming and threatening to kill Owen.
But Owen isn’t a 9 year old boy or a hawk. He did take another big step toward becoming a mentally healthy adult who can live with himself without guilt and self-loathing, though, and he got justice for the woman and the hawk. He may be invisible and disconnected, but he’s also a brave hero.
Annie visits her dad. When she can’t find him anywhere in the house, she assumes he’s still in the A-VOID, so she gives the pod her speech. She tells him that she needs him to come out of the pod and live in the world and be her dad now. She understands that he’s been heartbroken over his failed marriage to a mentally ill woman and the sudden death of the good daughter. But they are they only 2 left in the family, and it’s time to pull together, even if she reminds him of her mother and he wishes that Ellie had been the one to survive.
Hank, thank goodness, is already out of the pod. He heard everything she said and opens a window to tell Annie that he doesn’t think any of those things about her as compared to her mother or Ellie. He did think she wasn’t coming back after she took all of his money and left. He figured she was the third Irish exit and now he was going to be alone.
They sit in the kitchen and drink tea while Annie tells him about the drug trial. Hank’s take away is that she looks good, it seems to have opened her up some, and he wants to know how Ellie looked. Annie tries to convince him that the reflections weren’t real, so what she saw in them doesn’t matter. He figures that you never know what or who might have a connection to the spirit world.
Then Hank asks if anything’s come to her in the last three days. Annie wonders if she did it wrong. Owen listened to her stories and tried to help her, no matter what she did. Hank points out that Owen acted like a friend.
Jed went through with the threats he made against Owen (to make it look like Owen had tried to hurt important people), and Owen’s family had him committed to a mental health facility. The therapist in the facility asks Owen why he hasn’t tried to contact Annie since the drug trial. Owen explains that there are two options. In Option A, he looks her and Neberdine up and discovers that they don’t exist. “Option B is even worse.”
Annie decides to go to Salt Lake City after all, and to ask Owen to go with her. Friend Proxy Owen. It seems like there should be an Ad Buddy along to pay for the Friend Proxy, but I didn’t see one. I guess one fake friend at a time is enough for Annie.
Annie makes an end-of-the rom-com speech to “Owen” about how special their connection is, and how much she needs him in her life, because it’s so hard to really connect with someone. “Owen” makes the expected speech back about feeling the same way, capping it off with a marriage proposal, because that’s the perfect ending for a rom-com, right?
Not this one. Annie tells him no, their relationship isn’t like that, and he’s doing Owen all wrong. Owen’s has an underlying sadness mixed with sweetness and caring. Friend Proxy Owen tries to figure out if her notes on his performance mean he’s fired.
They’re at an impound lot picking up Hank’s truck. Presumably it got towed away when he kept ignoring the parking tickets that were piling up on the windshield. Annie must be bailing the truck out with her drug money.
When she gets in the truck, she finds a copy of the NY Post with Owen and Jed on the front page and a report on Owen getting committed. Annie decides that seeing real Owen is a sign, and drives away without Friend Proxy Owen, who figures out that he is indeed fired.
It’s time for a rescue mission. Annie has her trench coat and her Linda Marino persona in place when she visits Owen at the mental health facility. She signs in as Linda and mentions that her husband is already inside, putting his name, Bruce Marino, down on the list above hers, and giving Wendy Lemur as the name of the patient they’re visiting. Then she sashays on in to find Owen.
I love that with those two there’s always an important animal to save and/or who carries the important message. Linda’s going to get Wendy out of the hospital and keep everybody away from the bad guys, this time.
She sees Owen in a courtyard, sitting on a bench, and sits next to him. He moves to another bench, but she follows.
The part in italics is meta about Owen. You can skip it if you aren’t interested.
Annie solved her crisis and can move on, because she still has her dad as a safety net. She’s a volatile person and will have rocky relationships, but, as long as she remains otherwise emotionally healthy and honest, she’ll be able to find people who enjoy that kind of excitement, as they showed in the reflections.
Owen came out of the drug trial in good shape, but his trauma is ongoing and never-ending. I’m not sure people who don’t come from a (nearly) inescapable, psychologically abusive situation understand what it’s like.
The amount of money involved doesn’t really matter. That’s why they showed the reflection where Owen’s family was the same, but working class. When the family controls everything, including access to the money, wealth isn’t a safety net for abuse victims. It’s another way to control them. Every penny has conditions attached, and, as they showed, loyalty is the first condition.
I speak from experience. My family has been poor, and parts have been wealthy. The only difference between the two, as far as the abuse goes, is how much stuff there is to manipulate you with. The stuff, whatever form it might take, whether it’s affection or material goods, is always clutched under tight, jealous control, and must always be earned through shows of loyalty and submission.
But not dependence. Don’t ever think they’re going to just take care of you or give you a hand out when you’re in trouble. Owen’s father offers him a job and various perks, but he has to earn them by lying in court or moving back into his toxic home.
I guarantee you that nothing is in Owen’s name, unless Owen has earned it on his own, separate from his family. They’ve probably tried to find legal loopholes to claim those belongings as well, such as having him sign over power of attorney when he was committed. Tyrants don’t retain control by spreading power around, and to them, money is power.
So Owen has a mental illness that has been debilitating at times, making it difficult for him to work. He has a powerful family who, if he crosses them, can black ball him away from getting decent jobs. He’s been hammered at for decades now, put in his place as the worthless child, who’s only good for taking care of the rest of them, who couldn’t possibly be wanted by anyone outside the family. The family wants him, of course, because they take care of their own.
Owen’s in a place where he can see it all clearly, but he also knows that it would be tough for him to survive on his own, without anyone to keep an eye on him. The Forgotten Child has learned to be invisible as a coping mechanism, which doesn’t attract a lot of people to you. Because of that it takes much more effort to break free from the family and build a new social network.
So, after the trial, Owen surrendered and allowed his mobster, cult-like family to have him committed. He figured he’d be out of their way and left alone, and maybe he’d get some real therapy, with medication, that would help. Unlike his adventurous self in the reflections, real life Owen is emotionally exhausted and ground down.
Which is where Annie finds him. He’s assuming that the choices for the rest of his life are that anyone who cares about him is either a delusion, like Grimsson (Option A), or, as he tells Annie, a fair weather friend who’ll leave as soon as he has a bad day (Option B- Olivia, Jed, his parents, Adelaide) because they don’t care enough about him to deal with his issues.
His family has taught him that his BLIP was catastrophic, and that’s what he tells Annie now. In episode 2, the family baited Owen about dessert and Balderdash until he snapped at them in a fairly normal, frustrated way, then they all asked if he’d taken his medication. He’s been groomed to believe that he’s the one with the dangerous emotions, instead of Jed. Because of his mental illness, and because these ideas were ingrained when he was a child, he hasn’t been able to fight back.
This is one flaw in the A-B-C pill therapy. There’s no long-term strategy for ongoing issues. And Owen is full of them.
Okay, back to the courtyard and the bench-hopping, now that we understand how Owen got there and where he is. Which is tired and hopeless. Annie demands to know why he’s there, since it’s not a state-run facility, so they can’t force him to stay against his will. He tells her the obvious, that Jed made good on sending Anthrax to the governor, his family had him committed, he had a BLIP in college, and he’s “crazy”.
If having a BLIP was enough to get you put away for good, most people would be locked up eventually. Breakdowns can take a lot of different forms and look different from Owen’s, but in my experience, almost everyone has one sooner or later.
Which Annie basically tells Owen.
Annie: “Maybe you’re diagnosed, maybe you need to be medicated, but this…this does not work for me, Owen, and I don’t think it works for you either. So you saw some things that weren’t there. So what? People see aliens, people hear voices, people see ghosts.”
Owen: “That’s different. My mind it…it doesn’t work right.”
Annie: “No one’s does. I’m gonna go into that bathroom, and 30 seconds later, you’re gonna go into that bathroom. You get me?”
The bathroom is inside the facility.
Annie: “What is the problem?”
Owen: “I’m afraid.”
Annie: “Of what?”
Owen: “Option B. Annie, the same thing happens every time I meet someone or get close to someone. I mess it up. I’m gonna get frustrated one day and yell at you out of nowhere over something insignificant I’m fixated on. And then 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.”
Annie: “But I am real. You know me.”
Owen hasn’t looked at Annie throughout their conversation. He finally does.
Annie: “You’re braver than this Owen. And I will never do that to you. Never… Thirty seconds.”
Bruce Owen: “Thirty seconds.”
Those were much better romantic speeches, about things that are real. They talked about what they really needed, what they’re afraid of, and what they could realistically give. They understood what they were saying to each other because of their past experiences together.
Annie heads for the ladies room. Owen follows, as instructed.
Linda Annie tells him their cover story and takes off her outer layer of clothes, borrowed from Hank, for him to change into. Owen takes the clothes, but doesn’t change.
After a minute, he asks Annie why she’s there. She says, “Because I’m your friend. And that’s what friends do.” Owen looks overwhelmed for a second, while Annie holds her breath. She’s really put herself out there for Owen. He says, “Okay,” and starts changing. She gives him a little smile and nod. They’re both near tears.
Once they’re dressed again, they walk out through the lobby, hand in hand. The security guard at the desk remembers that Annie came in alone, and questions her. She keeps moving and says it’s fine, but he checks the sign in sheet. Since there’s no patient named Wendy Lemur, they’re busted, and make a run for the truck. Owen is excited to see the truck from the story of the day her mother left.
They hop in, and Annie introduces Owen to Harpo, her new little rescue dog who looks similar to Groucho (and is named after another Marx Brother). Another debt repaid.
The facility security staff are running out of the building and toward the truck, but Annie can’t get herself to turn the key. She says it happens sometimes when she tries to start cars. She asks Owen if he’ll go to Salt Lake City with her, with the disclaimer that she doesn’t technically have a driver’s license. With the staff bearing down on them, Owen tells her, “Yes, you gotta start the car, though.”
Knowing she’s not driving alone gets Annie past her block and she turns the key. They circle the parking lot a couple of times, looking for the exit. Owen has
Wendy the lemur Harpo the dog in his arms and a big smile on his face as they escape. It’s the wish he was going to use on the tiny lost Don Quixote chapter, come to life. They drive off down a country road, with the leaves turning brilliant fall colors, to parts unknown, still laughing.
Some time later, there’s snow on the ground as Azumi and James take a back road to Newfoundland, Canada. He has a theory that’s he feels is a bit ridiculous, more like one of Greta’s woo-woo ideas, but Azumi wants to hear it anyway. They have a long drive ahead of them. It begins, “Two billion years ago, an amoeba…” It’s the theory from the season’s opening voiceover.
Azumi and James pass Owen and Annie driving in the opposite direction. Annie tells Owen that Salt Lake city is far away, and the truck might not make it, but they’ll get there someday. Owen says, “Do we actually know each other?” Anni replies, “We’re off to a good start.”
After they’ve disappeared around the bend, Annie’s little sanitation bot comes into view, giving Owen’s hawk a ride. Groucho the lost dog runs past them.
This season features two love successful stories, between James & Azumi, and Annie & Owen, who have a lot of issues, but accept and help heal each other. When the drug trial is over, no one is perfectly mentally healthy, but they are ready to take care of and protect each other through the tough times, even the tough times that originate within themselves. They are all ready to go out and experience real life, instead of just a simulation or a canned version of it set in a very controlled environment.
Robert and Gertie are an example of a tragic love story, of star-crossed lovers who could never fully be together. Greta is a modern love story of a woman finding fulfillment within her career and arranging the rest of her life to serve that. Adelaide and Jed are a cautionary tale. Olivia and Owen were Owen’s dream of a traditional love story, one that would never work out for him. He doesn’t have it in him to be average and typical. Neither does Annie, so that’s okay.
Owen’s hawk symbolizes adventure, purpose, freedom, strength, Annie and mental health. The hawk is the side he’d always like to show the world. The owl symbolizes exploring his past, his subconscious, dreams, Olivia and the dark, hidden recesses of Owen’s mind. The owl is the side he’d like to hide from everyone, even himself.
It’s significant that he brought Annie to the Lady Neverdie’s safe, which used to be an owl, in the Neverdie mansion, and let Annie have what was inside without a fuss. She’s probably the only person he’d trust that way. His mind tried giving that role to Olivia in the next reflection, but it didn’t feel right, so he turned into a hawk and went to find Annie. Maybe Olivia is too closely connected to the worst day of his life. Owen and Annie are a platonic, best friends love story for now, but sometimes that’s the most enduring. Maybe they’ll grow into wanting more over time, or maybe they’ll always be the replacement siblings each one needed.
Owen never gave himself credit for his intelligence and problem-solving abilities because his family didn’t want him to develop them and outshine Jed. But the evidence is there throughout the season, and he subconsciously knows he’s the smartest one in the family. He tosses in logical arguments that are shot down for emotional or irrational reasons every time he’s with family members. He frequently has a Rubik’s cube in his hand, as if it’s his worry beads. A Rubik’s cube is not soothing for most people. We saw Grimsson give him information that could only have come from Owen having keen powers of observation and using that to power his intuition, or from Owen (and Grimsson) actually being psychic. No matter how you look at it, he has a logical, analytical, problem-solving brain, and he’ll be able to do something with that once he detoxes from his family for a while. Owen’s Rubik’s cube symbolizes that he’s a complex, intelligent thinker.
Annie’s symbols are the sanitation bot, Groucho the dog, and Wendy the lemur. The sanitation bot can deal with any kind of s–t that’s handed to it, and clean up the mess afterward, though it could use a helping hand every once in a while. It’s Annie’s strength and courage, her down to earth ability to deal with whatever life throws at her. She’s a caretaker at heart, though she forgot for a while because she was stretched so thin as a child by having to raise Ellie when her mother left and her father fell into depression. Now she’s ready to take care of things again.
Groucho was a bit lost and helpless, and was really a symbol of Ellie, everything Annie’s lost and of Annie’s depression and despair. Annie had to accept that Groucho and Ellie were really gone, before she could go on with her life. But once she worked through that pain and loss, and believed there could be other people (and dogs) who were important to her, she got her dad back, and found Owen, and found a new dog to love.
Wendy the lemur was an exotic animal who sowed discord around her and didn’t really belong in the story, though she also didn’t mean any harm. She symbolized Greg FUN Nazland, the accident that killed Ellie, and events that don’t make sense. There was no way for Annie to weave the accident into the story of her life in a way that would make sense with the rest of the story because it simply doesn’t. It’s a terrible thing that happened, just like Wendy being taken from her family in Madagascar, being forced to live under a bed in a tiny cage, and then ending up in a war zone, was a terrible thing for her.
Owen’s family having him committed for Jed’s crimes was another Wendy situation. Owen’s family are who they are, and he’s not going to change them. Right and wrong don’t matter to them. All that matters is what benefits them and what hurts them, according to their own skewed values. Since Owen had lived with them all of his life, it was hard for him to see how wrong and bizarre their actions were. To him, they were a dog. To a normal person from a loving family, they’re Wendy the lemur. The only way to solve the issue was to get Owen away from the family so they can’t hurt him anymore. There’s no amount of therapy that Owen can attend that will stop Jed and Porter from being violent psychopaths.
Both James and Azumi have been living in the subbasements of their minds for years, using Greta’s early work to come up with something barely original. They’ve been too afraid to go out into the world and take risks, create, adventure, be truly original. A spectacular failure frees them both up to do that now, since the worst has already happened.
In the lab, there was so much glass surrounding Azumi and James that they might as well have been bugs in a jar, or lab rats on display. They were surely subjects of the experiments, just as much as the odds and evens were. But they were subjects of Gertie’s machinations.
I think that Gertie played everyone, starting around episode 4. She wanted to fix James and Azumi because she felt both motherly toward them and like their child. She really did want to meet Greta, the other version of herself, but she also wanted to get Greta there so that she and James could have the confrontation they needed to have. Gertie set up the conflict and confrontation scenario wherein she intended to keep Annie, in order to give everyone something real to fight for.
Gertie figured out that you can’t solve your problems in your head alone, even with virtual reality. You have to interact with the real world. So she pushed the people whose problems she could help solve, James, Azumi, Annie and Owen, into action, interaction and risk-taking that helped heal them, some of it in the “C” pill experience and some of it in the real world.
Azumi and James mirror Annie and Owen in many ways, with the genders reversed. Azumi even ends up with Owen’s adventure car, and leaves her tiny world of the lab, same as Owen leaves the tiny worlds of his apartment and family, and goes on an adventure of testing his sanity against his family’s will at Jed’s trial, then goes adventuring in the big world with Annie, when he gives up on his family for reals. James has to kill and say goodbye to his fake mother, letting his childhood issues go, same as Annie has to accept Ellie’s death and say goodbye, allowing her to accept adult responsibilities, symbolized by adopting a dog and taking on a partner, Owen.
When we meet them, James and Annie are both using addiction as escapism. Annie is using the “A” pills to relive the accident that killed Ellie everyday. James is addicted to sex software and acting out fantasies that sound suspiciously like the way his mother talks and thinks.
Owen is repressed and at the mercy of his family, living in a tiny apartment and unable to break out of his rut. Azumi is repressed and tied to James’ experiment, having committed herself to finishing someone else’s life’s work. She lives in the windowless lab and almost never leaves.
Over the course of the drug trial, Owen and Azumi both gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. They learn that someone cares about them, even when they make mistakes.
During the trial Annie and James both fight growth and need outside intervention, but make progress in the end. Both need to make some giant, protective, destructive gesture at the end to feel they’ve accomplished something.
An argument could be made that Annie and Owen are just reflection doubles of Azumi and James, and that it’s Azumi and James who are really going through the treatment protocol. But I prefer to think that the truth is close to what we were shown, and Gertie created a growth scenario on her own for James and Azumi, maybe with the help of Greta. We didn’t see everything that Greta said happened between her and Gertie. Maybe Gertie convinced Greta of her plan once the camera was off of her.
Or, all 4, Azumi, James, Owen and Annie, are going through the trial together and have gotten mixed up in each other’s reflections.
I don’t think Maniac was trying to make a sweeping statement about the value of therapy or medication for mental illness. The scenes with Owen in the expensive private facility, getting very good care, show both him and Annie acknowledging that medication and therapy could be helpful for him. In fact, Owen acknowledges that medication might help him several times over the course of the season. Whether he wants to be medicated or not depends on his stress level and how much support he feels he otherwise has.
The private facility that the Milgrims commit Owen to, which is clearly the best and most effective that money can buy, is meant as a counterpoint to Neberdine’s crackpot approach to medicine for profit. That’s where the show’s social commentary is. If you have the money, you can buy effective treatment in a safe, respectful facility from qualified professionals. If you don’t have the money, you’re stuck cobbling together whatever you can manage, using free clinics, drug samples (I’ve known schizophrenics who got by for years on drug samples) and experimental drug trials. The inequality leads to greater homelessness and incarceration among the mentally ill.
I also think the show was arguing for getting away from pathologizing our lives and just living them instead. With a suggestion to be tolerant of the highs and lows of loved ones, as long as they aren’t harming themselves or others. They seemed to be suggesting adventure and fresh air could cure some ills, instead of always being cooped up in the A-VOID, or the sub-basement, or the microapartment…
Vulture article on the multiple roles played by various actors.
Deadline interview with Maniac writer Patrick Somerville.
Dr Mantleray’s Secret Study Parameters from the episode 1 opening video:
Hypothesis: All souls are on a quest to connect. Corollary: Our minds have no awareness of this quest. Hypothesis: All the worlds that Almost Were, matter just as much as the world we’re in. Corollary: These hidden worlds cause us great pain. Camaraderie, communion, family, friendship, love, what have you. We’re lost without connection. It’s quite terrible to be alone. Put simply, my goal is to eradicate all unnecessary and inefficient forms of human pain. Forever. We must evolve past our suffering. My research into this matter is, of course, ongoing.
James really is just a hopeless romantic. He should take up writing fantasy romance novels. Or he and Azumi can start a dating app and website, using a reconfigured Gertie. She’d love that so much. Grimsson would come along, and act up, and that would give James and Azumi a reason to bring in Owen and Annie. There’s your season 2. It takes place in Salt Lake City, of course. First dates would be in the VR/reflection experience using a new pill James created, which we don’t talk about because it isn’t quite legal. Greta shows up periodically for couples counseling.
Images courtesy of Netflix.