The Netflix Sci-Fi Comedy That Will Break Your Brain

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

In the ever-expanding landscape of streaming content, Maniac on Netflix stands out as a gripping journey through the labyrinth of pharmaceutical trials, psychological exploration, and retro-futuristic New York City. It’s a miniseries that has the perfect blend of drama and comedy, but it’s so mind-bending it will seriously break your brain to watch. Premiering on September 21, 2018, the 10-episode miniseries, created by Patrick Somerville and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, weaves a complex narrative with a stellar cast led by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. 

Emma Stone And Jonah Hill Star In Maniac

Maniac on Netflix draws inspiration from the 2015 Norwegian series of the same name. Throughout the short 30-minute episodes, Maniac takes viewers on a hallucinatory odyssey that garnered critical acclaim for its visuals, direction, and outstanding performances.

Maniac is a Netflix black comedy that revolves around Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill), two strangers thrust into a borderline unethical pharmaceutical trial conducted by Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech (NPB). The experiment, overseen by scientists Dr. Azumi Fujita (Sonoya Mizuno) and the eccentric Dr. James K. Mantleray (Justin Theroux), immerses Annie and Owen in a series of hallucinatory worlds. Stone and Hill not only deliver powerful performances in their respective roles but also portray alternate versions of their characters in the surreal fantasies induced by the trial.

The Supporting Cast

The inception of Maniac traces back to March 2016 when Netflix ordered the production straight-to-series, with Cary Joji Fukunaga at the helm. The series went through casting developments, with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill finalizing their roles alongside a talented ensemble, including Justin Theroux, Sonoya Mizuno, and Sally Field. Filming commenced in August 2017, capturing the eclectic landscapes of New York City, and concluded by November of the same year.

Visually Mesmerizing

Maniac made its world premiere on September 13, 2018, at the Southbank Centre in London, followed by its American premiere on September 20, 2018, in New York City before being added to Netflix’s catalog. Critical reception was overwhelmingly positive, earning the series an 85 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 76 out of 100 on Metacritic.

Variety’s Daniel D’Addario praised the series, noting its dazzling visuals, adventurous narrative, and the striking performances of Stone and Hill. The Washington Post’s Hank Stuever found Maniac oddly mesmerizing, describing the Netflix series as a visually compelling romp through detailed dreams and personal discoveries. Vulture’s Jen Chaney labeled the series “exhilarating to watch” and one of the fall season’s best.

Not Everyone Liked Maniac

Jonah HIll Emma Stone

However, not all reviews were unequivocally positive. Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich criticized Maniac for its patronizing sentimentality, giving the Netflix show a grade of “C−” and suggesting it settled for lackluster cinematic representations of its ambitious themes.

Maniac Is Streaming On Netflix

Maniac is a testament to the creative prowess of its makers, combining a unique premise, exceptional performances, and a visually arresting narrative. The series succeeds in pushing the boundaries of traditional storytelling, immersing viewers in a world where reality blurs and the mind takes center stage. As the accolades and critical acclaim suggest, Maniac isn’t just a show on Netflix; it’s a surreal and unforgettable journey that challenges the conventions of the sci-fi comedy genre.