If The Chosen One! was Owen’s story then Windmills is definitely Annie’s story as Maniac continues.
Whereas Owen has been made an outcast by his family, Annie has decided for herself to be isolated. And it would appear that she is in control of her life, or at the very least believes that fact. Annie, we find out, is an addict but her stolen stash of ULP pills has finally run out and she decides that she is going to kick her habit at last. The new improved Annie is going to eat healthier, exercise her body and her mind.
Alongside this perceived control of her life Annie, we find out, has a very abrasive quality to her personality, a veneer of sneer if you will, but deep down she does possess a caring side, it is just that not many people get to see it in this day and age.
For all Annie’s good intentions she eventually relapses and goes off in search of how to get more of the ULP drug, which leads her to blackmailing the intake director at NPB to gain access to the trial, and more of the drug she needs. Now, Patricia is a user of Friend Proxy, a friend service for those without friends or who can’t be bothered to maintain such a systems of friends. Unfortunately this attempted blackmail doesn’t actually work but Annie ends up making a proper connection with Patricia, who gets her into the trial testing phase and a chance at getting more of the magic drug that Annie craves.
A little should be said for the, frankly, shoddily run trial that appears to be taking place. Unfocussed scientists chain smoking during the trials, ignored questions and a problematic history of the drug doesn’t inspire confidence in the NPB trial that these people have just signed up to!
ULP is a psychiatric drug that is meant to assist in the permanent fixing of psychological issues. The trial will proceed through three phases of drug taking in combination with brain scanning via an AI-capable computer called GRTA.
The three ULP pills affect the takers in different ways:
Pill A (Agonia) – Brings the takers worst trauma to the surface
Pill B (Behaviour) – Highlights blind spots and the taker’s defence mechanisms
Pill C (Confraxia) – Brings confrontation and acceptance
The first pill (A) is taken by all participants and we descend into Annie’s trauma moment, which turns out to be a road trip she took with her sister Ellie, as far as the trauma of their worst day ever goes, this isn’t what you would be expecting. Whilst being playful and annoying to her sister, it appears that Annie’s defensiveness, even back then, doesn’t allow her to connect properly or even allow her sister in. Compounded by their differing viewpoints on family and how theirs fell apart has now affected how they view the world and what they want from it. This basic split in feelings is what leads to the trauma of the day, and Annie’s return to this time with the taking of Pill A.
There’s a confidence in Annie’s action and behaviours, a real f*ck you attitude that she will get away with anything that she wants to do, much to the consternation of others. Dark events do cloud Annie’s past, there is an issue with her mother that is hinted at but not explored, and her relationship with her sister is obviously something that weighs on her mind a lot. Add to this her father has shut himself away rather than confront the world, and reality. This dark past hasn’t made her who she is today, that is evident from her flashback, but it has hardened her even more so.
Again the retro-futuristic feel of the time and technology is fantastic, like a low-budget space film. The trial takes place between a dorm room which looks like something out of the Nostromo and a slightly more futuristic looking lab where the participants are placed into reclining chairs and fitted with microwave brain scanners (which do not sound like a good idea!) which feed the data back to GRTA, a somewhat child’s-toy looking AI computer.
There are more connection related issues and happenings in this second episode. That’s the key here. Connections. Annie tries to get onto the trial but doesn’t make it using her own plan, but the connection she makes with Patrice, the very thing that she was trying to use and abuse by pretending to be a Friend Proxy, is the thing that leads her closer to her goal. We also get to see Annie’s connection to her past, the drug and the drug trial.
Windmills has more scope, more exploration and the potential to use more storytelling skills than The Chosen One! Being able to bring Annie and Owen together, giving Annie some back story and her motivations at the same time as showing the power of ULP (A). Emma Stone is captivating in this episode, demanding the camera, controlling the narrative and the screen as the series starts to build nicely.
Maniac is now available on Netflix.