As part of my contribution to the now-universal quest to avoid lockdown boredom by absorbing the entire Netflix catalogue, I recently finished watching Maniac, a Netflix original limited series. My decision to watch it was made entirely based on the fact that it described itself as “dystopian” and “mind-bending” and starred both Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. It transpired that my intuition for what particular mind-numbing media cocktail to try and self medicate with next was on the money, and I enjoyed the show a lot.
Both Hill and Stone are great, playing a handful of somewhat bizarre and off-beat roles throughout the course of the show. It touches on elements of mental health and our ever-more-fragile notions about what does and does not constitute reality. The tone is fairly unique to anything I have ever seen, with a gentle sense of self-awareness permeating every episode, occasionally being punctuated by moments of extreme camp or characters who are beyond caricaturish. Some scenes could’ve been lifted from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, although obviously the whole thing has a thick veneer of American sensibility which sadly stops it from transcending to Darkplace levels of brilliance. Maniac offers a plausible version of a dystopian near-future, albeit not one with an especially great amount of depth, and the angle at which my mind was bent remained firmly acute at all times, but it was a fun ride nonetheless, poignant occasionally, well-written and a very welcome escape into another world that was much needed during quarantine.