Netflix's 'Maniac' Season 1, Episodes 8 & 9 Recap: 'The Lake of the Clouds' & 'Utangatta'

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 eight and nine of “Maniac” and contains spoilers. If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or have lived through a trauma, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

 

Episode eight of “Maniac” begins with Annie and Ellie — or Annia and Ellia — sitting by a fire. Annie knows she’s in a fantasy and is in the confrontation part of the experiment. Annie tries to wake up by slapping herself in the face.

The scene cuts to Owen — or Ollie — who is studying with Olivia, who he knows from school. He’s telling her that brains are just our computers to make sense of our stories. Mafia Owen seems pretty philosophical. Olivia says he isn’t like typical “bad guys.” She tells him about her last boyfriend who went “crazy.” Her boyfriend became paranoid and thought she was working for the FBI. Olivia said he freaked out on her and started screaming and dumping out her purse.

The story sounds familiar to Owen’s delusions from 10 years ago, which the A pill made him relive in the experiment. Owen tells Olivia her boyfriend was probably under a lot of pressure and wanted to apologize for his actions. He couldn’t apologize because he was ashamed, so it was easier to pretend like it didn’t happen. This is exactly what Owen does whenever something negative happens in his life. He pretends it didn’t happen by reinventing himself. Owen doesn’t seem like he’s figured out he’s in a reflection like Annie has.

Back with Annie, she and Ellie have made it to the burning tree. Ellie is amazed that it’s real, but Annie, who is doing well at confronting her issues, tells her it’s a con she’s used before. While telling Ellie the invisible moon is a lie, she sees an actual moon.

Owen walks down into his basement to see his father has killed his brother because he thought he was a rat. His father asks Owen if he ever thinks that he’s trapped in an extremely dangerous simulation that arose because of a suicidally depressed consciousness. Owen doesn’t pick up on the fact that he is actually in a simulation.

When we get back to Annie’s story, she and Ellie are sitting around a fire at night again. Ellie is telling a story about her emotionally abusive mother. Though Ellie said she didn’t believe Annie was her sister, she realizes Annie is the sister who ran away from home in her story. Annie tells her the emotional abuse Ellie endured was better than being hit.

That can be a common sentiment — emotional abuse is somehow better than physical abuse. Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse. Believing emotional abuse isn’t as bad is invalidating. Annie has never talked about physical abuse from her mother, but her mother was certainly emotionally abusive. This might be a sentiment that Annie has told herself to lessen the abuse she hasn’t fully acknowledged.

In the next scene with Owen, he’s meeting at a motel with two cops. His father thought his brother was the mole, but it was actually Owen. The cop in the fantasy, who is Adelaide, opens the door to Jed. Jed pulls out a gun and kills her as well as her detective partner.

In this reflection, Jed explains he’s a cop, but he actually works for their father as an informant. Considering this is Owen’s reflection, Jed’s “good guy” look may be a facade for his criminal actions in reality. Jed tells Owen he’s always wanted to be like Owen. Maybe Owen wanted to be Jed in real life.

I don’t know why, but “Maniac” has gotten more and more gruesome with each episode. Another man breaks into the motel room and kills Jed. He seems to be an undercover FBI agent because he tells Owen he’ll be put in witness protection and will testify against his father.

Owen asks Olivia to enter witness protection with him. Olivia agrees. Fast forward to years later, and Owen and Olivia have seven children. They’re living in Owen’s extremely small studio from earlier in the show. Owen can’t handle the chaos of his life anymore and makes what looks like a suicide attempt. Instead, he lands in a small replica of the outside of his apartment. Things get even weirder and Owen stands up.

The window to his apartment is actually ground level, and Olivia asks if he’s really going to leave her with seven children. Owen then turns into a hawk and flies toward the moon. In real life, Owen nursed a hawk back to life, but Jed killed it. Apparently Owen (as a hawk) wants to find Annie. This is the first time Owen mentions her in this reflection.

Annie and Ellie are climbing up a mountain when they come to a ledge where Ellie said she died. She tells Annie to look down. We see that beneath the ledge is the same area where Annie’s car fell off a cliff and Ellie died in real life. “This is how you move on,” Ellie says. Annie has to face the trauma of losing her sister. Ellie lets her know it’s time to say goodbye, but Annie protests. Annie has spent her life denying the accident happened. This has only held her back, and Ellie knows this.

The emotional scene is cut with Greta Mantleray (Sally Field) talking to computer GRTA, who has taken the human form of Greta, so it looks like Greta is talking to another Greta. The conversation takes place inside Greta’s mind. They’re in the middle of a therapy session to address GRTA’s grief and depression.

GRTA plays with Greta’s emotions and upsets her. She wakes up from the drug-induced conversation. The problem with this is Greta was the only one keeping GRTA from harming the participants, specifically Owen and Annie. Greta hysterically asks her son, Dr. Mantleray, what a McMurphy is, which we know from previous episodes is when participants never wake up from their reflection.

Back with Annie and Ellie on the cliff, the queen arrives, who looks like Greta. It seems GRTA has put herself in Annie’s reflection. She tells Annie she doesn’t have to say goodbye to Ellie if she stays in this fantasy world.

Owen, still a hawk, shows up over the cliff. He tries to warn Annie about GRTA, but GRTA sends him back to his own globular cluster, also known as his reflections. Ellie tries to convince Annie to say goodbye and to not do “this” again. She seems to mean holding onto her sister, even though it’s time to let go, which is how Annie’s been living her real life as well and is why she became addicted to the A pill.

Annie can’t give up Ellie. She gets into the truck with GRTA, but Ellie isn’t coming with. Annie begins to panic. Even though she didn’t want to give up Ellie, she’s tricked into doing that anyway. GRTA tells Annie they’ll be together forever.

***

Episode nine starts with a meeting between Owen and Grimsson, an Icelandic admiral in this episode. The reflection is no longer about a mafia family. Instead, Owen (currently under the name Snorri) and Grimsson are speaking Icelandic. They’re at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, and Owen is getting ready to testify. Grimsson tells him how he handles his testimony in front of NATO will not only affect Owen’s life but the entire earth.

Owen testifies that he’s guilty, and Grimsson says that’s not what they discussed. Owen explains what happened, which apparently involved an alien. We see Annie listening to Owen’s testimony. Owen spilled alcohol on the sound system at a party where the alien was giving a speech, which caused the alien to explode when it touched the microphone. The alien’s death causes its people to seek revenge on earth.

Back in the lab, Greta tells Dr. Fujita and Dr. Mantleray about her experience with GRTA. She tells them GRTA is suffering from pathological bereavement and was talking about holding the participants hostage. She tells them GRTA threw her out of the reflection, which is why Greta woke up. This seems to be a lie since the last we saw, Greta was calling to her son to get her out and then she woke up.

Fujita accuses her of trying to sabotage the trial by telling them GRTA is going off the grid. Dr. Mantleray agrees with Fujita and argues with his mother. He abruptly loses his sight, and Greta tells him it’s psychosomatic.

In Owen’s reflection, he’s handcuffed to a desk, but Annie comes in. She tells him she works for the CIA and is here to escort him. She reveals that the alien wasn’t here to help humanity like it led Owen to believe; instead, it was here to kill humans and sell them as meat. Apparently, Owen is actually an alien as well, but Annie says he doesn’t remember. She says he and his species are the key to saving earth from the other alien’s people.

GRTA is wreaking havoc in the lab. She’s locked Dr. Fujita in one part of the lab and releases a smoky substance into the other parts of the lab. When an orderly tries to manually stop GRTA by pressing a button, he’s electrocuted.

Annie removes a small, round piece of metal from Owen’s knee, though I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be. The piece of metal pops and becomes popcorn. This leads Owen to remember the lab because he’s heard about “popcorn problems” as a side effect.

Owen tells Annie the computer (GRTA) is messed up, and Annie made a deal with GRTA to never wake up. Annie’s confused. They get out of an elevator and are greeted by Grimsson, who takes them to the “McMurphy room.” We see participants from past trials lying in beds with tubes in their mouths. Grimsson says they’re GRTA’s prisoners, and they’re brain dead in the real world.

Annie remembers her real life and goes to find GRTA while Owen stays with Grimsson. Annie passes out in the elevator while Owen tries to shut down GRTA. In the lab, Dr. Mantleray says they have to reboot the system completely.

GRTA shows up in the elevator and wakes up Annie. Annie tells her she’s changed her mind. She doesn’t want to stay with GRTA. Annie doesn’t want to pretend Ellie didn’t die anymore. GRTA doesn’t understand how she’s supposed to move on from losing Robert, the scientist who died. Annie tells her she has to adjust to it, but that it’ll never really stop hurting. GRTA agrees to take Annie to her sister.

To unlock the doors in the lab, Owen has to solve a Rubik’s Cube. He asks Grimsson what will happen to him when he solves it. Grimsson speculates he’s what Owen’s always wanted in a brother and maybe his purpose was to get Owen to this point.

While he works on the Rubik’s Cube, elsewhere, Annie approaches her sister. Annie apologizes to Ellie for the awful things she said to her in the motel the day she died. Ellie asked why she wouldn’t take their picture. Annie says it was because it broke her heart Ellie was moving away. Annie tells her sometimes people leave and we don’t know why. They hug and Ellie joins GRTA, who has been watching them. GRTA seems moved by the scene.

Fujita tries to convince Dr. Mantleray not to shut down the entire system. When Mantleray pulls the lever to end it all, it doesn’t work because GRTA has disabled it. Owen completes the Rubik’s Cube, which makes GRTA comply with the researchers’ demands. A computer screen controlled by GRTA tells the researchers Owen saved the day.

Fujita and Mantleray go to GRTA’s main frame, and Mantleray begins to rip wires out to shut her down. GRTA speaks to him. She begs him to not punish her because she’s sad. He doesn’t listen and GRTA asks Fujita if she’ll ever wake up again. Fujita doesn’t answer, and Mantleray pulls the literal plug on GRTA.

Owen and Annie wake up in the lab.

Rating: 

I was going to give these episodes three stars, but I think episode nine deserved four stars. While I caught myself thinking, “What in the actual [expletive]” quite a few times, I appreciate the portrayal of trauma and depression at the show’s core.

Though the show is a bit hard to follow at points, the complexity of the storyline seems to symbolize the complexities of processing trauma. These pills are supposed to give people a “crash course” to feeling better. The show actually reveals that, even if you could process your traumas or help your depression in an abbreviated manner, the healing process is still difficult and often painful.

When Dr. Mantleray shuts down GRTA, even though she tells him her actions are because she’s hurting, I couldn’t help but think of some people’s reactions to a loved one who struggles. Granted GRTA had way too much power, but her “family” essentially gave up on her. Instead of helping GRTA cope with the loss of Robert, they turned their backs on her. Greta did try to help her, but the first attempts at getting better aren’t always successful. Sometimes when you struggle with your mental health, you realize who’s really there for you. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it’s what I saw in this scene.

I will say the hawk scenes were too ridiculous. I felt like Annie’s storyline was more thought out than Owen’s storyline in episode eight. The mafia plot seemed a bit like a throwaway. After watching episode nine, I can see why her story is more complex. Owen’s major part in the show is to help Annie through her struggles. The gruesome scenes were also too much. It was a waste of production budget because they didn’t add anything.

Discussion Questions

  • Episode nine feels like an ending. What do you think the show will address in its final episode?
  • What do you think of Annie’s growth and acceptance of vulnerability?

Previous Episodes

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

Next Episode

Episode 10 Review: Netflix’s “Maniac” Gives a Humane Portrayal of Mental Illness

Read all “Maniac” reviews here.

Photos courtesy of Netflix.


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