Netflix's 'Maniac' Season 1, Episode 4 and 5 Recap: 'Furs by Sebastian' and 'Exactly Like You'

Elizabeth Cassidy, The Mighty’s news reporter, reviews Netflix’s “Maniac,” a show that references topics like psychosis, trauma and addiction for The Mighty’s mental health community.


Editor's Note

This post is a review of episodes four and five of “Maniac” and contains spoilers. If you struggle with addiction or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, you can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Episode four begins after Owen and Annie take the “B” pill. They’re married and it’s the ’80s, complete with Owen’s mullet and Annie’s large curls.

Owen sits in his car while he waits for Annie, who is in the DMV. He’s reading a book about marriage and underlines the portion that says a husband’s job is to listen. In the DMV, Annie reports a “dangerous driver” on her street. She gives the woman the license plate number, but the woman tells her she can’t give Annie the name or address of the person. In true ’80s fashion, the woman is wearing rather large, reflective glasses. Annie writes down the dangerous driver’s name and address from the reflection on her glasses.

When Annie gets back to the car, she lies to Owen. She tells him she failed the written portion of the driver’s test. Owen takes her to the address, and it turns out it’s a fur coat store. Annie sneaks into the back of the store to find a lemur. Annie hides when two guys enter the room, and she overhears the men talking about turning the lemur into a hat.

Annie escapes without the men noticing. In the car, she tells Owen that the lemur belonged to a patient of hers at the hospice center, Nan, who died the day before. She promised her she’d get the lemur to her daughter.

We find out Owen’s name is actually Bruce in this episode, but we’ll stick with Owen to prevent confusion. In the next scene, Owen is eating dinner with their three kids as Annie leaves for work. At work, Annie reads to another hospice patient who was the roommate of Nan. We find out Annie’s name in this episode is Linda when an officer introduces himself. He asks if Annie has seen the lemur. She tells him no.

Annie and Owen break into the fur coat store to rescue the lemur. They don’t know, but the officer, who is a part of the fish and wildlife department, is following them. One of the guys from the store arrives and notices the glass door is broken. Annie and Owen make it to the lemur, but another guy is sleeping on the couch.

The guy who saw the broken glass enters the room and hits both of them in the head with a brick. When the fish and wildlife officers show up, the store owner starts shooting at them. During the shootout, the other workers, who are the owner’s sons, go to help their father. Annie and Owen take the opportunity to escape with the lemur.

Annie gives the lemur to Nan’s daughter. Annie finds out that Nan gave her daughter the lemur out of spite because they had a falling out. The daughter doesn’t take the lemur, so they put it back in the car.

While driving, Annie tells Owen about her mother. She saw her father crying and realized that her mom was either dead or never coming back. In an effort to protect her sister from seeing, she tells her sister they’re going to bake a cake. When she’s done telling the story, Owen says her parents aren’t divorced.

This seems to be the first time Annie’s real story has entered this “dream” from the B pill. Annie tells Owen she’s probably just tired. When they get home, Annie tells him she wants to keep the lemur, but the fish and wildlife officers show up to take it. While Owen is being handcuffed, he sees a black car with two men inside. Though it’s hard to tell, one of them looks like Owen’s brother.

The episode ends with Owen and Annie back in the NPB lab still under the effects of the B pill.

***

Episode five begins with a different version of Owen in a tuxedo on his way to a “full moon seance.” The invitation says it’s 1947. Owen tells his driver to pull over when he sees Annie walking in the middle of the road. She’s still sporting curls, but they’re now refined in a 1940s style. She’s wearing a fur coat and dazzling earrings.

Owen tells his driver to keep her away from the seance. Annie approaches the car, and she talks to Owen through the window. The two aren’t fond of each other in this B pill dream. Owen gets out of the car to let Annie slide in. Instead of getting back in, he slams the door and the driver floors it.

The next scene is back in the lab. The researchers are confused as to why Annie and Owen keep ending up in each other’s dreams.

They hypothesize that there’s a problem with the hardware. This would make sense because the computer’s (GRTA) tear damaged the wires connected to Annie and Owen’s chairs in the lab. When the researchers look at the hardware, they notice some damage but don’t want to take the risk of resetting the system. They decide to do their best to separate Annie and Owen in the dreams.

We’re taken back to the dream, and Owen arrives at the mansion where the seance is taking place. It’s revealed the seance is hosted by Lady Neberdine, the name of the pharmaceutical company. Owen is talking to others at the gathering when Annie walks in. It’s revealed the two are married.

We’re brought back to the researchers trying to separate Annie and Owen again.

At the seance party, we’re introduced to Gertie Neberdine (Sally Field), the Goddess of Luna. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Gertie’s face. She’s popped up in every episode, usually on books, like Owen’s book about how to be a better husband. She seems to be a life coach in every episode except this one. Her name is Greta Mantleray in the other episodes.

Viewers are whipped back into the lab where Dr. Azumi Fujita tells Dr. James Mantleray (possibly Greta’s son) that there’s a problem she hasn’t told him about yet. Fujita believes GRTA, who’s controlling the experience of the participants is “horribly depressed.” We saw GRTA crying after the news of Dr. Muramoto’s death. Fujita said it might be making GRTA behave unpredictably.

GRTA is obviously a computer, but unpredictable behavior can be a common symptom in people with depression or dealing with grief. GRTA is expected to continue her job — for the obvious reason that she’s a computer — but anyone who has dealt with depression or grief can relate to how hard it is to work when you’re not feeling like yourself.

Gertie seems especially attached to Annie at the seance. There’s also a man Gertie has brought with her. He’s wearing a helmet with panels on each side, which looks like an older version of the panels that surround Annie and Owen’s heads in the chairs back in the lab.

Annie gets away from Gertie and disappears into thin air when Fujita is finally able to get Annie out of the dream. Annie’s back in the lab, but it’s like she’s in the lab on another plane of existence. There’s no one else there except for a little girl who Annie follows. Annie is still in her 1940s dress, but the little girl’s clothes look like they might be from the ’70s — a ringer tee and bell bottom jeans.

Before we can see where they’re going, we’re back with Owen. He uses a key to get into a room away from the party. Annie shows up again, she’s already in the room.

We learn why Owen doesn’t like Annie. She drugged him, took his money and he somehow ended up being arrested and put in a clinic. Owen is looking for the “lost chapter,” which causes people who read it to slip into a permanent fantasy until they die.

Similar to the last episode in Annie’s dream, the two pair up to steal something after Annie convinces him she can help. This time, it’s the lost chapter. To avoid suspicion, they join the rest of the party where the main seance is beginning. They aren’t able to escape, though, because Gertie chooses them as the subjects for the seance. Annie and Owen walk into a circle outlined with candles.

Annie and Owen, along with the man with the helmet from earlier, join the circle while they dance. I guess this is a seance thing.

Back at the lab, Fujita manages to separate Annie from the dream again. This makes her disappear in the middle of the dance. Gertie exclaims the seance is working, and she’s gone to the astral plane. Owen takes the moment to slip out of the circle.

Annie is brought back to the alternate reality lab where she sees the little girl getting into a sleeping pod with an older girl. Knowing what we do about Annie’s past, we can assume the older girl is Annie as a kid and the other is her younger sister. Their father is yelling at their mother, though we can’t see them.

Owen unlocks another door in the mansion, and Annie rejoins him. They avoid guards as they look for a mirror, which Annie says is where the lost chapter is.

Randomly, Grimsson shows up. He tells Owen that he was Jed’s twin, but Jed strangled him in the womb. Grimsson then starts coughing up “ectoplasm,” which is a supernatural substance that a ghost produces. Grimsson tells Owen he’s going to stick around.

Owen and Annie get to the mirror, and Annie spins it. After a few spins, they end up in another version of the mansion where there’s a safe. Before Owen opens it, he brings up Annie’s “condition” and speculates she’s the one with the broken heart, not him. Annie tells him he likes being the martyr too much, and his efforts to change who he is hasn’t fixed him at all.

Considering the B pill is supposed to reveal the defense mechanisms of the participants, Annie’s observation makes sense. In the first episode, Adelaide tells Owen he’s always reinventing himself with a new identity. Owen’s primary defense mechanism is starting over when things don’t go as he hoped.

Owen opens the safe and takes out the lost chapter, but Annie crosses him. She takes the chapter for herself. Owen, who is good at slight of hand tricks, actually gives her a playing card and gets away before Annie realizes.

Annie wants to read the lost chapter, so she can presumably be lost in her fantasy world. It sounds like Annie’s defense mechanism is escapism. This is similar to Owen’s attempts to recreate himself when things go wrong.

Annie is then ripped out of the dream again. This time the girls are gone and Annie finds a toy jeep smoking. It’s a replica of the jeep she crashed with her sister. In the next scene, Annie wakes up from the B pill and is with Dr. Mantleray. She isn’t with the other participants, though. Mantleray tells her she needs a “proximity test.” Annie is supposed to explain what she experienced on the B pill.

Annie’s recount is scored based on how accurate it is compared to the researchers’ findings. If she gets a low score, she’s taken out of the trial. A low score would mean that the dissolution of Annie’s defense mechanism hasn’t been effective.

As Mantleray asks her questions, her score goes up. When he asks her what her true reality is, we see one of the first vulnerable moments from Annie. She tells him her reality is that she’s depressed and has been for a really long time.

Mantleray has Annie recount what her dreams, or reflections, were. She tells him about Linda from the previous episode. Annie tells Mantleray she was a mother and a wife, which is the opposite of what she wants. After she says this, her score goes down.

Considering this score keeps track of Annie’s break down of her defense mechanisms, lying seems to be one of them. She does want a life similar to Linda’s. When she recounts the 1940s reflection, she tells Mantleray her persona was a con artist. Mantleray says a con artist is a liar. He asks why Annie is a liar.

“I think people lie because they’re afraid,” Annie tells him. “She was afraid and she didn’t want anyone to see that.”

Mantleray presses her about Owen’s presence in every reflection. Annie starts to believe Owen was right about a pattern. She first thought he was “crazy,” but now she’s not so sure.

Annie explains that the lemur part of her Linda persona had to do with the person who killed her sister. Paula, the daughter of Nan, was the mother of the man who fell asleep at the wheel and caused the crash. Annie tells Mantleray that she sometimes fantasizes he had never been born.

Mantleray pushes her to make a connection between her con artist persona and her real life. She sarcastically asks him if this is supposed to be therapy. After a pause, Mantleray asks if Annie joined the trial in lieu of harming herself. She says no. He asks if she’s suicidal, but she doesn’t answer. Instead, she tells him the connection between the con artist persona and her mother.

Annie says her mother was charming and would make deals with other people. She says her mother would make Annie feel special then hurt her. Mantleray asks if it disturbs her that she could act the same way as her mother. Annie tells the truth that she does worry about that. Her score jumps way up.

Mantleray asks if she ever made a “special deal” with her sister like mother did with her. Annie says their deal was different. Theirs was that Annie would take care of her sister when they were kids, and her sister would take care of her when they were adults.

Annie completes the test, and Mantleray gives Annie her diagnostic, which is printed from a computer. It tells her she has signs of borderline personality disorder. The diagnostic also gives insight into Annie’s “pathological grief.” It points out Annie’s relationship with her mother and the traumatic death of her sister.

While this entire trial is exceptionally creepy to me, I can’t help but like the idea of a concrete way to get a mental health diagnosis. So many of us are misdiagnosed. Mental health conditions are diagnosed based on qualitative criteria like a person’s recount of their experience or a doctor’s observation. There isn’t a widely accepted scientific way to diagnose people. Having a computer give accurate diagnoses sounds nice. I wouldn’t want to go through any of what Annie and Owen are going through for this information, though.

As far as the BPD diagnosis goes, I was somewhat surprised. The only symptom I picked up on was the fear of abandonment, which seems to be why Annie keeps people at a distance. When her sister told her she was moving to Salt Lake City, Annie said some mean things to her sister in response to her move, though she regrets it later. This makes sense if Annie is struggling with her sister leaving. It also makes sense given Annie’s trauma with her mother and the death of her sister. A lot of people with BPD have experienced trauma in some way.

While I wouldn’t have guessed BPD, I’m kind of glad it wasn’t so outwardly obvious. Some people have “quiet” BPD and may “act in” more than they “act out.” The mood swings, fears, and other signs are internalized. This would make sense for Annie because she keeps a lot to herself and self-medicates with the A pill to partially punish herself for her sister’s death but also escape.

We leave Annie and are back in the 1940s reflection where Owen gives the lost chapter to Gertie. It seems he stole it to show her she needed better security. Gertie says the chapter doesn’t work. She’s tried it.

Owen leaves the party and wakes up back in the lab.

Rating:  Four out of five stars

As weird as this show is, it does keep my attention. The constant shift between the reflection and the lab in episode five was too much for me, though. I think less back-and-forth would have still gotten the point across.

I appreciate the inclusion of BPD in a non-stereotypical way. A lot of times people with BPD are painted as manipulative and mean. Annie can come off as rude and uncaring, but the way her story is told gives you the insight into why she has this guard up. The show brings compassion to people who are often unfairly demonized.

I also found it funny how the B pill gave Annie connections into her behavior and emotions that probably would have taken at least six months of therapy to uncover. Regardless, by removing her defense mechanisms, Annie is able to learn more about herself. This takes a lot of vulnerability, but vulnerability is often what fosters growth.

Discussion questions:

  • Do you agree with Annie’s diagnosis?
  • What do you think the proximity test will show about Owen?

Previous Episodes

Episodes 2 and 3 Review: Netflix’s “Maniac” Asks If Solving Our Core Traumas Would Create Perfect Mental Health

Next Episodes

Episodes 6 and 7 Review: “Maniac” Sends Mixed Messages About Trauma

Read all “Maniac” reviews here.

Photo courtesy of Netflix


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