Maniac Episode 3 Review: Having a Day

Maniac finds a much-needed sense of fun and gets even weirder in Episode 3, “Having a Day.”

Hey Jonah, what happened in this episode of Maniac?

Maniac is obviously a weird show. Through three episodes “weird” has been the predominant descriptor to nearly everything happening on screen. In “Having a Day,” however, that weirdness goes from the social commentary variety to the just out and out fun. 

“Having a Day” entertains some weirdness for weirdness’s sake. While that concept has a bit of a bad connotation and makes it sound as though the show is somehow trying too hard to be transgressive and buzzworthy, that’s not the case. Weirdness for weirdness sake can not only be fun but also imbue a show with added levels of meaning. If you’re gonna be weird, then just be weird. Whatever themes you’re trying to discuss or meaning you’re trying to imbue will shine through anyway. 

Two events in “Having a Day” suggest that Maniac now has a full handle on the level of whimsy it is so clearly trying to achieve. The first is the tragic and sudden death of Dr. Muromoto. Good night, sweet prince. You were just strange enough for this world. Following the first trial of the “A” pill, Dr. Muromoto calls three subjects into his room: 1, 5, and 9. 5 is the distasteful veteran of these procedures who has been giving Owen advice. He is dismissed from the program for being a little too into this whole thing. Thankfully he is given his condoms back on the way out. 

Owen is chastised for not having taken the pill during the first trial. Since he understands that the pill is supposed to help one revisit their worst memory, he tries to wing an explanation and we’re entreated to a Milgrim family flashback. 

Ad – content continues below

“Having a Day” takes place almost entirely inside the NPB testing facility so this one sojourn back into the “real” world is a bit jarring. Owen takes himself and Muromoto back to a fateful night a few months ago when he, fed up with his brother’s boorish behavior, attempts suicide and fails miserably. 

Billy Magnussen (of The People v. O.J. Simpson and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fame) is quickly becoming one of my favorite TV character actors. Blessed (or cursed) with frat boy good looks, Magnussen is almost exclusively called upon to portray faces of humdrum upper class evil and Jed Milgrim is no exception. His crooning of “Every Step You Take” to his poor fiancée beautifully lacks even the hint of self awareness and communicates what the Milgrim family is all about in under a minute. 

It’s curious, however, that Owen is actually wrong about his own worst memory. Once Muromoto finally forces him to take the pill, Owen recounts to Annie that the memory that he experiences is the first time he had a paranoid delusion. He fell in love with a girl named Olivia but suddenly became convinced that she was a spy for his family and yelled at her in public. It’s nice that Maniac has found a way to discuss the fallibility and murky nature of memory even before the characters presumably embark on a deeper journey into memory and delusion. 

But enough about that kind of weirdness. That’s high-minded, writerly weirdness. What this show has needed is the back alley weirdness. Just pure nonsense. That’s where Muromoto’s death comes in.

Dr. Muromoto dies. He just dies – at first seemingly for no reason. Later on we find out that he’s been free-basing a combination of A and C pills. That’s why he is so sensitive and understanding of Annie’s addiction (who was buying pills from Muromoto’s son as it turns out). Still, in the moment it’s hard not to undersell the dramatic and strangely comedic effect of this respected doctor just falling over at his desk.

Annie witnesses the spectacle and understandably think it’s a test of some sort. When enough time passes to make clear that it’s not, Annie brings in Owen to help assess the scene. Annie is addicted to the A pill. Because as she tells Owen later, even though the pill makes her relive the worst moment of her life at least in that moment she’s with her sister. Ultimately Annie decides not to take the rest of Muromoto’s A stash and she and Owen leave his body to be found by someone else. See what kind of appealing character moments a show can uncover when it fully embraces the weirdness?

Ad – content continues below

The second delightfully strange aspect of “Having a Day” is the joyous arrival of Justin Theroux to reclaim his rightful television Justin Therouxne. We’ve seen bits and pieces of Theroux’s Dr. James Mantleray so far in NPB’s hilariously retro orientation videos. Getting to see Mantleray in the flesh (and REALLY in the flesh) is an early series highlight. Justin Theroux making love to an augmented reality Atlantean princess in a game called “Fucklantis” is exactly what this show was missing and we never even realized it. 

I mean…just marvel at the weirdness for werindess’s sake ballsiness of it all. It’s so silly and so pointless but so utterly worth it just to become aware of something called “Fucklantis.” Not only is Mantleray’s introduction solid but it immediately becomes clear he’s going to be become an invaluable part of this whole story. Mantleray is the creator of this drug therapy and has an easy chemistry with Dr. Azumi Fujia, with the two of them even sleeping in fun little in-ground bunk beds. He’s also seemingly in love with supercomputer GRTA. GRTA is bashful and cautious with Matleray’s arrival and the machine feels more like a character than ever before. 

Mantleray’s introduction and the conclusion of the A pill trials really seems to signify that Maniac is about to get serious about delving into its promising Kaufman-esque mythology. And if those two factors weren’t the episode’s real end absolutely would be. Maniac’s omniscient marketing campaign has robbed us of the surprise of seeing a mulleted Jonah Hill in a Houston Oilers Waren Moon jersey and some knee-high socks. Somehow “Having a Day” is able to make it feel fresh anyway. Maybe it’s because seeing Emma Stone as a ‘90s Texan housewife is sublime or maybe it’s just because this show’s investment in weirdness is starting to pay off and lead to more satisfying avenues of the bizarre.


4 out of 5