I’ve gone back and forth on whether to write about Maniac, Netflix’s new black comedy which was created by Patrick Somerville and Cary Joji Fukunaga and stars Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, but I decided to wait until I’d watched the whole thing before making a decision. During the first few episodes, I thought I wouldn’t, because it reminded me of Legion and other surreal, but aimless, shows that I’ve been burned by in the past. Professional reviewers were even comparing Maniac to those shows. But as the season continued, Maniac became something else.
Maniac is a surrealistic, quirky, scifi black comedy that can get very dark and can go off on tangents that don’t make sense at first. It’s also, at least for now, a limited series, which means it’s written as a self-contained story. And what Maniac is, at its heart, is a lovely, optimistic, long form, indie romantic comedy, with a beginning, middle and end. Both indie films and works of surrealism have difficulty coming to a satisfying conclusion (and sometimes even commercial works do, looking at you, Castle Rock S1!), so the ending of Maniac is a major accomplishment, in my book.
I kind of fell in love with this show, and it appears that I’m going to have writer’s block until I write about it. There are 3 other partial recaps in my drafts folder that are going nowhere right now, so let’s give Maniac a try, shall we?
Like most Netflix shows, and many other shows as well, the first three episodes serve as an extended introduction to the season. In episode 1, we get to know Owen Milgrim (rhymes with pilgrim, which is a seeker or wanderer), played with depressed, understated misery by Jonah Hill. You feel like he’s always on the verge of crying, and it’s taken a monumental amount of strength for him to reach this point in his life. He’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but refuses treatment.