Maniac: Option C
September 24, 2018 10:33 AM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

What happens next?

With the drug trial over, Owen still struggles with the divide between what is real and what is not - but now things are a little more complicated. When his therapist asks him why he hasn't tried to look up or get in contact with Annie since the drug trial, Owen says that he only sees two possible outcomes of doing so, and neither of them are good. Option A, he explains, is discovering that Annie doesn't really exist, the trial never actually happened, and the whole experience was simply a manifestation of his schizophrenia. Sure enough, when Annie shows up at the hospital, Owen seems unsure of whether she's really there, and disinterested in finding out. He explains that of the two options, the worst one is Option B: that Annie is real, but that if he allows himself to get close to her he will "mess it up" and scare her away.

Annie, however, believes that there is a third option - the "Option C" of the episode's title. She promises that she won't ever leave him, and tells him to meet her in the bathroom. There, she takes off a few layers of her own clothes and gives them to him, so he can disguise himself as a visitor. A security guard spots them on the way out, remembering that Annie came in alone, but she and Owen keep walking and manage to make it to the truck while the hospital's staff are still trying to work out what happened. They make a quick getaway, and finally head off on Annie's long-planned road trip to Salt Lake City with a new pet dog called Harpo (replacing Ellie's long-lost dog, Groucho). The pair of them start laughing as they drive away, and the credits roll on the series finale. But there's still a little more to see... [from here]
posted by k8t (12 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This show was great. Loved it. Loved the ending. I love it when art makes me weep and laugh simultaneously. And it wasn't the sad weeping. It was the—that's fucking beautiful and restores my hope—kind of weeping. I needed that. I needed this. I will definitely be recommending this. The scene after the early final credits had me laughing like a maniac myself. I could not stop. I got scared for a second. How the fuck did they do that?
posted by Stanczyk at 4:06 PM on September 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

Yep, great show. Also, it doesn't need a second season. It's a nice contained story. A story about soulmates.
posted by Pendragon at 6:59 AM on September 25, 2018

I really adored this series and I can't wait to rewatch the first episode. I did think that there were moments when the humor undercut the message. Greta seemed genuinely abusive, but the bit with the hysterical blindness felt hammy and dated--in fact a lot of the humor surrounding him felt dismissive of a show that's genuinely and shockingly respectful of trauma. But I did like the ending, with his driving off toward new endeavors. I would easily watch a sequel show where he and Dr. Fujita are the only connecting characters.

And in part because of them, this really reminded me of the video game To the Moon as much as it did, say, Eternal Sunshine (which was clearly an inspiration for both).

I've been contemplating the character of Annie. And it might be just a me-thing (I have a book coming out in 2020 about a hard-nosed gay girl named Annie with sibling issues who at times is seen in a fantasy world working out those issues, so that's weird), but is she gay? Can we read her as gay? It's so interesting to me that in some dream worlds she and Owen are married, but in the real world their relationship is nothing more than a "friendship." I kind of loved that.

My husband thinks they're all still in a simulation in the end. I think there's a lot to back up that reading.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:06 AM on September 25, 2018

they're not in a simulation, they're just fully in possession of their original problems. They both think that Owen pre-confessing that he's probably going to have an abusive episode makes it manageable, and that Annie promising she'll never ever leave him no matter what he does to her is a good thing for her to promise. she says in the not-really-happy ending that she'd never do that to him -- that no matter what he does or says to her when paranoid, her leaving him over it would be worse, unforgivable.

that's why it's a strong ending and not a weak one. they're happier and better, but they're not different people. Owen's more able to trust, but less able than ever to handle someone leaving him or having secrets from him. Annie's less depressed and guilty, but less able than ever to detach herself from someone who needs her.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:06 AM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

So the drugs... kind of worked. The cost was too high (I guess the McMurphys recovered?), but we saw at least two people get to a better place. Of course "success" here is relative but we did get closure on core issues with both Annie and Owen.

I enjoyed this show overall. There were absolutely points where I felt bored during the course of the season, and kind of couldn't believe what I was watching. But then, that's life, isn't it? I found Annie's overall arc more compelling than Owen's just because those issues of loss and letting go were more relatable to me. How many of us get to the C pill, and get that closure along with confrontation?

Thoughtful show. No need for a second season, for me – this is a standalone piece.
posted by hijinx at 5:56 AM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

My husband thinks they're all still in a simulation in the end. I think there's a lot to back up that reading.

I absolutely think that's true too, and there's a number of aspects to support that..
A) The 'main' world is this alternate reality of the current era with divergent technology and historic events (the Statue of Extra Liberty, etc). However, in the Lemur flashback, the 80s setting (plot aside) was a completely standard 80s america setting - no alt history, no bizarre tech, etc. All the immersion settings (80s, noire, fantasy, etc) are all based on tropes and world settings that the characters are specifically familiar with... which seems to indicate that 'normal world' is something that Owen and Annie 'know' somehow.
B) When Grimsson has his first meet with Owen at the Statue, as he's leaving he 'ports' out mid stride... with the exact same audio/visual expression as when GRTA tries to remove Annie from the various points of the Noire session. And Grimsson perpetually inserting himself into Owen's perception despite everyone's best efforts seems to map very closely to Owen's entanglement with Annie when immersed.
C) The warring views of 'pop psychology' vs 'pharmacological solution' playing out with the doctors is a deliberate foil of ridiculous extremes and mommy issues, when compared to Owen and Annie's revelations - I think that's deliberate. Making the doctors these melodramatic over the top farces when dealing with the background of the scenario maps *very* closely to the plot settings of all the immersions as well.

Also as a side note, I love how Dr. Mantleray is obsessed with Atlantis - his VR game was called Fucklantis, when first introducing himself to the subjects he mentions Atlantis, and some part of the program as a whole is referred to as Mindlantis. Definite thematic unpacking to do there...
posted by FatherDagon at 8:33 AM on September 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Annie, however, believes that there is a third option - the "Option C" of the episode's title. She promises that she won't ever leave him...

Yeah, when she did that, I ended up blurting out "you don't know that" and crying a bit.

Apparently the characters aren't the only ones undergoing a bit of experience therapy with this show.
posted by wildblueyonder at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2018

I liked this series a lot and feel like it's growing on me the more I think about it. Something that I like about the bizarro time period setting is that it's a fun way to think about our relationship to technology and media. Having everything be a weird amalgam of modern ideas (doxxing, monetized friends, personal brands) while existing in a vaguely eighties telnet aesthetic helps to make some really familiar weird things feel actually weird instead of on the nose. I think I also really liked that in the end it was two individual stories that interacted with this technological world around them, instead of being all about the tech.

Technology is a core part of the story, though. It's a weird are simulacrum of the gig economy that brings the story together, that serves to explain why every character is so allone and alienated, and eventually serves to resolve the plot. I kinda see it like a reverse of Black Mirror, where the tech recedes into the background and isn't a universally bad or good force, but rather a social element created and used by humans for various ends.

Altogether this isn't exactly a society story, but rather about two very fucked up people trying to claw some happiness out of wrecked lives. However, by not focusing on the society, we get a wonderful picture of it on the periphery - which I think is a lot more convincing than a direct look. In a lot of ways it feels like a spiritual successor to Brazil.
posted by codacorolla at 3:34 PM on September 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

We watched the whole series this week and really loved it. Stone and Hill put in some amazing performances, and the rest of the cast rounded-out a beautifully realized vision. I agree that they're still inside a simulation of some sort...whether it's induced by the drug trial or the drug trial was inside another simulation is an open question. Azumi's car at the end (the same flame-bedecked one driven by Owen in his Confrontation simulation) made it clear (to me, anyway)something isn't entirely right.

Owen explaining to Annie his "Option B" was so familiar, I started giggling to myself. I do the very same cascade of interlocked reasoning why I shouldn't even start doing something.

The alternating neon ad for Oral-B and Jolly Ranchers outside Owen's apartment was wonderful.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:18 AM on November 4, 2018

What a strange and sweet show. The first episode or two really drag, but then it settles into an absurd groove and it's kind of brilliant. It's always turning itself into trash and finding its way back to something meaningful.
posted by fleacircus at 11:12 PM on November 18, 2018

This show actually reminded me a lot of Russian Doll, another funhouse world that was supposed to be anchored by trauma at the center.

I can't decide if the silliness is a defect or an asset - by basically telling you that what you are watching is intentionally absurd maybe it helps you relax and not demand any fancy sci-fi theory. But that also makes it clear that very few of the details actually matter, so when it drags you are just like "fuck this stupid lemur."

It was also kind of unsatisfying that the hallucination stories would just launch without any motivation. You could depict GRTA selecting a sequence to run and make up some reason for why she is doing it, or come up with some psychological mumbo jumbo on how the drug is drawing it out of them.
posted by anhedonic at 2:44 PM on August 28, 2021

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