In this first episode, we are introduced to Owen (played by Jonah Hill), the schizophrenic son of a wealthy family. Having become the proverbial "black sheep," Owen lives on his own and refuses the help of his family.
After losing his job, Owen signs-up for a high-risk pharmaceutical trial that makes multiple ludicrous claims, including complete joy. Due to his schizophrenia (and conversations with his non-existent brother), Owen believes that doing this trial is one step towards him saving the world.
I’ve been looking forward to this show since Netflix released the first trailer. That teaser made it look like a bizarre, psychological sci-fi with great characters. To some extent, the first episode confirms that, just with less sci-fi than expected.
The world of Maniac is one that is eerily similar to our own. People are obsessed with technology, people are hooked on drugs, people feel loved, people feel lost. What makes it eerie is the small differences that are casually tossed in. A company known as Ad Buddy has control of nearly all technology, and it allows people to hire “friends” to hang out with them. It also provides a “mail-order-husband” service for grieving widows, which Owen jokingly says he’s going to do after he loses his job.
Now on to Owen as a character. For me, he was instantly likable. A bored office worker who struggles with a severe mental illness and dreams of being a hero. Can’t we all relate to that in some way? We’re all at least a little crazy, and often see ourselves as the hero in our own story. I can’t help but root for Owen.
This episode provides great backstory for Owen, showing how trapped he feels in his family and that deep down he truly just wants to be loved. Then, once he gets into the pharmaceutical company, the eerie sci-fi vibe creeps in as Owen is told to respond to a series of pictures. Owen is shaken by the pictures, asking if they were personally selected for him. As this episode plays out, the background music is simple and provides the perfect backdrop.
Overall, this was a great first episode and I'm excited to see where Owen is heading. The use of casually placed sci-fi-esque tropes brings the world to life, and the writer's do an excellent job of bringing us into Owen's world and feeling his entrapment.
Maniacs: An Engaging First Episode
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Acting - 10/1010/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 9/109/10
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