21/09/2018 15:27 BST

'Maniac' Review: Netflix's New Show Lives Up To The Hype, And Immediately Has Us Hooked - HuffPost Verdict

Emma Stone shines in this intriguing, visually stunning and massively binge-able new series.


K E Y   P O I N T S

  • ‘Maniac’ is a 10-part limited series that debuted in its entirety on Netflix on Friday
  • Emma Stone and Jonah Hill lead the cast, while Justin Theroux, Sally Field and Sonoya
  • Mizuno also star
  • The show is based on an original Norwegian series, which tells the story of two strangers, Owen and Annie, who are brought together when they both sign up for a drug trial
  • A lot of the action takes place inside the lead character’s minds, with different scenes set across continents, time periods and even universes
  • All 10 episodes were helmed by Cary Fukunaga, who was recently appointed as the director of the upcoming 25th ‘James Bond’ film

S N A P   V E R D I C T

One thing that was clear from the lead-up to the release of ‘Maniac’ was that Netflix was not playing around when it came to their latest original series - thanks to the calibre of the cast (Emma Stone is surely the biggest name to ever star in a Netflix original, right?), the set pieces that zoom between different locations and time periods and the appointment of director Cary Fukunaga as director, who helped make such a critical success of ‘True Detective’. One word to describe the show upon first hearing about it would simply be “big”: big idea, big names, big budget, big hype.


And on the subject of that big hype, how does the show measure up?


Well, after watching the first two episodes of ‘Maniac’, we’re pleased to say that it definitely does so far, and that’s before things have even taken a turn for the weird.


The beginning of the show introduces us to our leads, with Jonah Hill’s Owen taking centre stage in the first episode, and Emma Stone’s Annie in the second, with each of the characters’ motivations for winding up at the drug trial, which will supposedly rid them of the problems and hardships of their lives.


When we meet the former, there’s not a great deal going for him. He’s living in a New York apartment he can barely afford, he’s lost his job and is the subject of ridicule from his wealthy family. But even though these initial first episodes are rooted more in reality than the rest of the show, we’re still left questioning what’s real, as Jonah’s character begins experiencing varying levels of what we assume are hallucinations.


He’s eventually led to the trial, where he encounters Emma Stone, the true star of the show at this early stage. Her portrayal of the unravelling pill addict Annie is completely believable, and a departure from the more chipper roles you might have seen her in previously (‘La La Land’, ‘Easy A’, ‘The Help’ and ‘Crazy Stupid Love’, to name but four).


Justin Theroux’s first appearance in a cheesy instructional video is also a scene-stealer, effortlessly telling us everything we need to know about his clearly-useless, but seemingly all-powerful, doctor role. His introduction is one of the few instances of dark humour that pepper ‘Maniac’, making it clear that this big budget production about something completely improbable isn’t taking itself too seriously.


From a visual perspective, ‘Maniac’ is simply stunning in the way it portrays a dystopian not-too-distant future New York which manages to be both futuristic and nostalgic in the way it uses old technology in ways far surpassing what it was all originally designed for. PCs from the 1980s, VHS tapes and disposable cameras are all featured, yet the whole thing takes place in a world that makes it clear we’re looking forwards, and not back.


Episode two ends on an intriguing note, catapulting us back into the present after teasing us with a brief blast of Annie’s subconscious, piquing our interest to a point it’s hard to imagine anyone hitting “back to browse” when the credits start rolling.


B E S T   L I N E S

The pattern is the pattern."This line is repeated in Owen’s hallucinations, we expect we’ll be hearing it a lot more over the course of the 10 episodes
Intimacy in this facility is strictly forbidden..."Towards the end of episode 1, we learn just how isolating the team expect the trial to be
You are not only participants in a pharmaceutical drug trial, you are pioneers at the forefront of a new world…”Dr Mantleray (Justin Theroux) attempts to butter up the 12 members of the drug trial in an instructional video

T A K E   H O M E  M E S S A G E


Intriguing, visually stunning and massively addictive, anyone who loves ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind’, stories of unlikely companionship and romance or any sort of 1990s nostalgia should definitely check this out. Happy bingeing!