Netflix's New Show Maniac: 31 Things You Probably Missed
Created by Dan Auty on
The new Netflix Original Series Maniac is one of the most complex, challenging shows of 2018. It's a sci-fi comedy drama, loosely based on a Norwegian show of the same name, with The Leftovers' Patrick Somerville acting as showrunner and True Detective Season 1's Cary Fukunaga directing every episode. Maniac is set in alternative retro-futuristic New York, where advanced technology is realised using designs from the '70s and '80. It stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as Owen and Annie, two damaged people who submit themselves to a mysterious pharmaceutical trial for different reasons--Owen needs money, has delusions of grandeur about saving the world, and is looking for anything that will help with his schizophrenia, while Annie is addicted to one of the pills being tested in the trial.
The trials involve the subjects entering hallucinatory states--known as reflections and simulations--and almost immediately Annie and Owen's start to overlap, suggesting some unique bond between these two strangers. As the series continues we see them in a variety of imagined situations--from a 1940s heists caper to a Tolkien-esque land of elves and fairies. But the boundaries between reality and fantasy frequently break down, with dialogues, faces, music, and events occurring in different contexts and Annie and Owen attempt to traverse the inner worlds of their damaged psyches.
As a result, Maniac is one of those shows that demands a second viewing. The compelling nature of the drama means that it's easy to miss many of the references and callbacks that Fukunaga and Somerville have scattered across its ten episodes. There are many moments that seem strange at first, and only make sense when viewed within the context of later events. But there are also breadcrumbs dropped by the show's creators that can help viewers on their journey through this fascinating show. And there are small jokes that have little to do the with the plot but are highly amusing when spotted--in particular the references that Fukanaga has placed to his other movies and TV shows.
So here is our guide to the key callbacks, Easter Eggs, references, and hidden clues in Maniac. This list is by no means comprehensive, and we haven't listed every single actor that appeared in multiple roles throughout the series. And, of course, there are many spoilers ahead. But these will provide a helpful guide if you are going back for a second view of the show. So sit back, take Pills A, B, C--and don't forget to let us know any hidden clues and callbacks that you've spotted. Utangatta!