6.5/10 Based off of the 2015 Norwegian limited series (also available to view on Netflix at the time of publishing this review), this American remake almost has nothing in common with the original series, which is a good thing. Even though I actually found that original series to be slightly stronger overall, I respect the fact that the talent behind this show didn’t just copy and paste the premise of the original onto this version. They came up with their own world, their own ideas and really made it their own. Where “Maniac” succeeds is partly in its originality. Not every idea lands but the ambition behind the ideas are noteworthy and to be applauded. Much has also been praised in regards to the acting on this show and for good reason. Emma Stone and Johan Hill, reuniting from “Superbad” in something completely different, put in fine work, as we are now accustomed to them doing. However, I find that the real two stand outs of this series are Justin Theroux and Sonoya Mizuno, whom give the most powerful performances in my opinion. The score by Dan Romer is also brilliant and worth a listen. The production design and world building is very creative and well done. They don’t go full blown “Blade Runner 2049” futuristic or full “Mad Max” dystopian but they combine the two for a rather bland, futuristic world that comes off as more realistic to how the world would be in the not too distant future. The show’s first several episodes and last couple are the strongest but the show really slumps in the middle when it spends entire episodes in the fantastical imaginations of our lead characters while taking the B and C pills. These episodes are creative in what they show, but the content is lacking. What is going on back in reality is always far more interesting and pushes the plot forward vs what random fantasy our characters come up with in their heads. Also, for a show with such big, grand ideas about how lost many members of society are, how overmedicated everyone is and the opioid crisis, this show doesn’t have all that much to say when it is all said and done. The ending feels somewhat satisfying but also not as deep or profound as it should, especially after all we have been through with these characters. The final scene/shot of the entire series definitely felt like a callback/homage to the final scene/shot of Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate”, which I appreciated. Overall, the fantasy elements fall short of the Norwegian “Maniac” but director Cary Joji Fukunaga does show off some very memorable, original elements and gets some great performances out of the entire cast. The script left me wanting more but in a world of uninspired TV shows and movies, “Maniac” is worth checking out after you are caught up on your favorite shows.
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