This Maniac review contains spoilers.
Maniac Episode 7
“Of course…of course. Of course it’s fucking fantasy!”
We knew this was coming because we’ve seen the commercials. And because Annie once mentioned that her sister’s favorite genre was fantasy – one that she detested. You know what they say – if you introduce Tolkien in the first act, your lead character better be a half-elf ranger by the third.
That doesn’t make the journey to the Lake of the Clouds any less special. Maniac does something in “Ceci N’est Pas Une Drill” (which translated to English is “This is Not a Drill.” You’re welcome. I saved you the trip to Google Translate) that it has not done since its very first episode: it splits up its main characters.
Owen feels that his destiny is inextricably linked with Annie’s destiny because his phantasmic dead brother told him so. Annie is starting to feel that her destiny is in line with Owen’s as well because the evidence is starting to become pretty convincing. They just can’t seem to get away from each other in these drug-induced flights of fancy. Even Greta Mantleray has floated the theory that they might be soulmates and while I don’t know much about Greta’s pop psychology, I’m hesitant to disagree with Sally Field on anything.
That’s what makes the decision to separate Owen and Annie at this late juncture in the “C” portion of the trial so bold and so risky. For all its faults, Maniac has undoubtedly built up some real chemistry between its two stars. Here it throws that chemistry to the wind and tries to continue to develop their characters on their own. Each storyline works to a certain extent but our brains, being the bifurcated weirdos that they are, can’t help but compare the two versions and determine which is more satisfying. At least my brain can’t help it.
Annie’s fantasy adventure is wonderful. It’s visually captivating and thematically sound. Annie is a half-elf ranger named Annia who is guiding the elven princess Ellia (her sister, Ellie) to the Lake of the Clouds so Ellia can be healed of the mysterious illness ravaging her. Annia seems to share Annie’s aversion to fantasy stories and hates every moment of this journey.
“I find your company more tolerable when drunk,” Annia says and Ellia prattles away about how fun this noble quest is.
Little does Ellia know, however, that Annia is being pursued by invisible sectors of herself, bound to stop her in her tracks. Or as a helpful firefly tells Annia before she passes out “These assassins that keep popping up. I think they’re your inner demons.” Duly noted, firefly.
Annia and Ellia are brought to the chamber of a powerful human woman who uses her husband and the other men of her kingdom as literal Ottomans. The lady knows that Annia and Ellia seek the Lake of the Clouds and she asks that Annia gaze into a looking glass to discover she and Ellia’s destiny. It’s here that Annia finally realizes that she’s Annie and the C pill has done it’s job. It’s time to confront this pain once and for all.
Our own beloved Daniel Kurland at Den of Geek likes to conclude his reviews sometimes by requesting that a plot point of the episode he’s reviewing get the spinoff treatment. I can’t speak for Daniel, but I imagine that fun little recurring device is borne of a real love for television and a desire to see more of what works. This Annia/Ellia fantasy storyline is the first time Maniac has made me feel like Kurland – like I want to see a spinoff of a certain story. I would totally watch the adventures of the hard-drinking half-elf ranger Annia. In fact, in Annia’s 15 or so minutes of screen time, she comes across as a live-action version of Netflix’s own Disenchantment. This is just good stuff.
Owen’s journey into his C pill isn’t nearly as fun – for him or for us. Jonah Hill must have been such a blessing for this costume and makeup department because whatever disguises you put him in ends up looking fascinating. Hill has gone from Long Island mullet Owen to neck-tatted and braided-hair gangster Owen. He looks ridiculous but…It’s also somehow not crazy that sweet Olivia from high school would want to have a late night “study session” with him.
Aside from the shrewd costuming, however, Owen’s journey can’t quite compare with Annie’s. Yes, that’s even with a scene in which Gabriel Byrne takes a drill to some goon’s face right after he yells “I have a daughter! She has special needs!” Perhaps it’s because comparing the Milgrims to an organized crime family is too on the nose. Save for the bloody gangland murders, there isn’t much of a metaphor at play. Owen’s fake dad wants him to take the fall for him in court, just like Owen’s real dad wants him to lie in court and testify on his brother’s behalf.
It’s entirely possible that Owen’s C pill journey is going somewhere much more novel than it appears at a glance. This episode does indeed appear to end mid-stream and with a relatively short running time. Once the C journey is complete, we’ll finally see the Pattern. For one episode, however, Maniac is very much the Annia Elf Ranger show.