TV Reviews

Maniac 1×05 – ‘Exactly Like You’ – TV Review

The shared experiences under the B pill continue as Owen and Annie are deposited into another reflection, this time a classy, 1940’s set Full Moon Seance hosted at the wealthy and lavish Neberdine Mansion by the elusive Lady Neberdine. Owen, here as Sir Oliver Hightower, is an upper-class grifter working to steal something of value at this gathering, an opportunity that he wouldn’t normally get. Annie is Arlie, Oliver’s ex-spouse and ex-partner in crime, and the bad feeling between them is mutual.

The reason that the criminal duo have turned up at the Neberdine Mansion is to steal the lost 53rd chapter of Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote that has the power to make the reader get lost in their own fantasies. Now, the Don Quixote book has appeared multiple times in the last few episodes and it is taking a central stage here in ‘Exactly Like You’. There are a few reasons as to why Don Quixote is mentioned and why it relates so much to this show: in Cervantes’ book, Don Quixote is actually Alonso Quixano, a nobleman who loses his sanity and decides to become a knight, roaming the country and reviving chivalry. In a direct parallel to Owen’s story, we can see that Owen, as a member of the Milgrim family is akin to being a nobleman. Has he lost his sanity? That’s a yes, with his possible schizophrenia diagnosis and his BLIPs. Chivalrous? He behaves in a deferential manner to Annie, treats her with respect and tries to do the best by her, so that’s a yes from me.

Don Quixote attempts to get himself knighted in the book and we see here that Owen (or Oliver) has been knighted, and he gives a very quick story about the way he got his knighthood (by winning it from someone else, which gets mentioned that you can’t do). Don Quixote, in his delusions, only believes that he got knighted. Don Quixote also has themes around realism, presenting things truthfully (something that the trial is seeking to get to the bottom of); of metatheatre, the expression of an awareness of the presence of the audience, an acknowledgement of the fact that the people performing are actors and not actually the characters they are playing, (definitely something on show in Maniac with the scientists as the audience and the slow erosion of the characters that Annie and Owen play to eventually be themselves); and of intertextuality, the shaping of a text’s meaning by another text (each experience shown is given meaning by how it relates to the real life of Annie and Owen).

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At the same time as this lavish party, back in the real world, the data that the NPB scientists are gathering from the experiment shows, quite clearly, that Owen and Annie are having a shared experience. Obviously this would negate any data that the experiments would give as tainted so they make repeated attempts to extract one or other from this shared experience resulting in Annie disappearing numerous times from the screen, returning to the lab but still “in” the experience of the B pill, providing more depth to Annie’s history.

In another intertextual twist, GRTA has inserted herself into this shared experience as Lady Gerta Neberdine (Sally Field). Her partner is a living-dead version of Dr Robert Morimoto providing another hint that there was a real connection between the two. With Dr Fujita’s small additional program to protect from patients losing their minds, GRTA, as a side-effect, has become depressed and is exhibiting a certain level of mental instability, just like almost everyone else, patient or worker, involved in the ULP trial.

After Annie, and everyone else, is brought out of the experience properly, she is interrogated by Dr James Mantleray (Justin Theroux) to see if the pill had done its job to erode the defence mechanisms. With some quite personal and deep questions asked, everyone has to be honest for fear of being thrown off the trial. Annie digs deep and gives some very personal answers, recounting her past real life experience and how they relate to the experiences under the B pill. Once the questions are finished, everyone receives an official diagnosis of their issues, giving a path forward on how this can be dealt with.

Driving home the Don Quixote references that had built up in the previous few episodes, and with some obvious Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass references in the build up to the actual stealing of the chapter as well as wondering if this was all a dream, this episode really started to bring together the way that the trial is functioning, how these experiences are related to real life and how this is affecting their behaviour.

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