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Don’t do drugs, kids

We’ve all heard it before: don’t do drugs. Don’t testify against your brother. Don’t get romantically involved with robots who want to kill everyone because they are grieving your death.

Netflix unveiled its new limited series “Maniac” in mid-September. Set in a world that mirrors our own, the show revolves around a trial for a drug that can supposedly fix any illness from depression to heartbreak. However, as the storyline progressed, things became more and more unusual.

Through a series of computer-generated simulations, the minds and sanity of the characters are continually tested as they are forced to endure their most painful memories.

Annie, played by Emma Stone, came to the trial as a way to satisfy her addiction to the drug and also seek help with issues regarding her family troubles. Her counterpart, Owen, played by Jonah Hill, was looking to ease his paranoid schizophrenia disorder as the trial of his older brother was approaching.

By the first episode, I was hooked.

By episode four, I wasn’t sure if the characters were on drugs, or if I was.

The show promised so much to the sci-fi genre, but the plot almost left too little to the imagination with its intense and graphic scenes. There were definitely some images I could have lived without.

“Maniac” bounced around from trope to trope from film noir, fantasy to psychological thrillers, all connected by three little pills. Every time a character was introduced or something even mildly drastic happened, new questions would pop up, desperate to be answered.

To say I was confused at certain times is an understatement.

However, coming from a lover of symbols and motifs, this series was full of them. Whether it was images, objects or even specific words, “Maniac” was able to keep a surprising amount of consistency to each of its separate scenarios. If you do not watch it within a single day as I did, you might miss these subtleties that add an extra layer to the show.

And with an all-star cast composed of Stone, Hill, Sally Field, who plays Greta, and Justin Theroux, who plays Jason, the consistently superb acting kept drawing me back in. The entire ensemble was able to tell a story that could have been confusing and almost impossible to follow if it hadn’t been done right.

The dynamic between Stone and Hill was both playful and charming, yet still kept an edge necessary to the overall premise. If you need only one reason to watch the show, it should be for this collaboration. 

While questions were asked and eyebrows were raised, everything was finished off with an incredibly satisfying ending. “Maniac” is a must watch.

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