Bold, intriguing and almost mentally exhausting to watch. Netflix, unmatched for its cultural and entertainment presence, has taken a bold move in the creation of Maniac. Netflix’s decision to hire Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) means business. The first episode feels like a creative journey, allowing both the streaming service and the director to unleash their full creative ability. Albeit, ‘The Chosen One’ isn’t perfect, but it definitely takes the viewer on a journey, exploring keys issues such as mental health and social desirability, both sandboxed into a dystopian universe.
If you’re looking to sit down, relax and turn off your brain to Maniac, well think again. From the start, you’re blasted with the theme of connections; the creation of life, the desire to be socially accepted. This is all set to the backdrop of a dystopian New York with Owen, who suffers from schizophrenia, at the centre. This episode ‘The Chosen One’ covers a unconventional plot, consisting of two people, Owen and Annie, who want to leave their comfort zone to explore a deeper purpose.
Episodes 1 focuses on Owen, a outcast from his family seems to have lost his way. The everyday struggle for Owen is evident through his mental health, his job (which he loses early one), to be heard or really appreciated by his family. These symptoms could play a factor when he is ‘visited’ by an imaginary figure in a scene that can only be described as something from a Mission Impossible film. He is told that he is the hero, and he is going to save the world (not Ethan Hawke, this time). The scene ends in a bizarre fashion with popcorn ‘popping’ infant of Owen’s eyes on the pavement, for me, this symbolises that his world is about to be turned inside out. As the episode develops it see’s the episodes protagonist, experience a multitude of visions and fate callings. This eventually sees him accept a pharmaceutical trial, but not to better science, to save the world.
The first episode feels like an introduction into Owen’s life, plagued by being a outcast to his family, yet expectations are forced onto him. His hallucinations give Owen’s life a fresh meaning; a heroic purpose for him to show his family, and maybe others, he is not what they think. The introduction of a dystopian world could lead to endless opportunities for the narrative to explore, and the aesthetic of the first episode really delivers on this front.
The episode ends with a very ambiguous trial almost ready to begin, a trail that has had numerous issues in the past.’The Chosen One’ delivers an interesting take on a dystopian world which is a compelling, and leaves the viewer in a station of confusion and awe. If you’re like me, i can’t wait to see where the plot goes and how the world is expanded on.