Maniac's episodes may be relatively short, but they pack some of the most visually dense television available today. And since the show was released on Netflix, bingers have been poring over it. In telling the story of Owen (Jonah Hill) and Annie (Emma Stone) -- two patients in a pharmaceutical trial that aims to offer happiness and absolution -- creator Patrick Somerville (The Leftovers) and director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, the newly tapped James Bond 25) layered their images with jokes, foreshadowing, and callbacks. Everything is interconnected; nothing is real. (Or is it all real? What is real anyway?)
With the aid of the eagle eyes over at Reddit, here are some of the funniest, most ingenious Easter eggs littered throughout the series.
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One shot in the premiere holds the clues for the rest of the series
The first episode of Maniac largely focuses on Owen, but it starts off following Annie as she buys a pack of cigarettes and walks the streets of New York. Outside of Milgrim Industries -- Owen's family's company -- she peruses boxes that were left out on the street. In one, she finds a Rubik's cube and a copy of Don Quixote -- both items that will become increasingly relevant once she enters into the Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech study. The Rubik's cube ends up in the hands of Owen, and in the finale, he uses a metallic one to ostensibly save the day. Under the influence of the B pill, Annie, as Long Island nurse Linda, reads the Cervantes novel to one of her elderly patients. In a different B pill reverie, Owen and Annie are characters looking to steal a lost chapter of Don Quixote, which purportedly is "so powerful that anyone who reads it is lost in their own fantasies forever." Speaking with Time, Fukunaga said, "[Owen's] break from reality and the lessons learned within Cervantes’ book mirrors a lot of what we’re doing."
As Annie looks at the book, she's stopped by a man who will also come into play later on. He's a security guard, who insists that while he's not a cop -- there's "not much of a difference authority-wise." He reappears when she's looking for Wendy the lemur, as a representative from Fish and Wildlife, also in a B pill dream state.
Dr. Greta Mantleray's book titles are winners
Less of an Easter egg and more of a visual treat for close watchers, copies of the groundbreaking academic-turned-pop-therapist Dr. Greta Mantleray's books are scattered throughout episodes -- and they are all a hoot. They largely feature classic author headshots of Sally Field and faux-inspirational titles that get more ridiculous as the show progresses. The first one, in Owen's apartment in the premiere, is called No Fix Just Bliss. Later, in Greta's own abode, there's a copy of the hilariously titled I'm OK, You're a Bitch.
How did the Milgrim family get so rich? The answer is patrolling the streets in the form of those (sort of cute!) little pooper scooper robots. Reddit user SuiTobi noticed that the headline on the copy of the New York Post that Annie collects refers to the "Milgrim poop bot empire," which is apparently in peril.
Bonsai trees are everywhere
One of the most striking recurring images -- once you start noticing them -- are the bonsai trees that populate almost every location. When Annie poses as a representative of Friend Proxy -- a service that provides fake friends -- to meet up with Patricia (Selenis Levya), an intake attendant who could help her get into the NPB study, they meet in the bonsai room of a botanical garden. "Every time I walk into this place, I get pulled back into this room," Patricia says. In her fantasy, she and her friend Juanita -- aka Annie -- met among the bonsais. There is also a bonsai on Owen's family's patio just before he attempts to jump from the roof, landing on a skylight. And they are peppered all around NPB: on the dining room table, in Dr. Muramoto's office, and in the diorama that Annie keeps entering in her dreams. Why bonsais? Bonsais are rife with symbolism. You could argue that they represent a harmony that the trial participants seek. When we asked Somerville for more insight, he responded, via email: "We just love little trees."
Owen's Icelandic counterpart appears on a billboard in Episode 1
As we previously mentioned, that first episode sets up a lot that will be relevant later, including Snorri, the bizarre Icelandic native Owen plays in the final evolution of the C pill. Outside his Randall's Island apartment is a large billboard for "Snorri Agnarsson's Icelandic Fish."
Like a warm apple pie...
After Azumi (Sonoya Mizuno) interrupts James (Justin Theroux) in the middle of some simulated tentacle coitus, we get a little tour of his disgusting apartment. It's littered with floppy disks labeled with sex puns -- including Icabod Bang and Jane Derrier, the latter of which is, in all likelihood, a nod to the fact that Fukunaga directed an adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Michael Fassbender. Also of note: a very suspicious looking hole in a hand pie. A tribute to a teen comedy?
Ceci n'est pas une clue
Redditors have discovered various references to the René Magritte painting "The Treachery of Images" -- aka "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." In Owen's C pill gangster fantasy, a poster in the torture basement reads "Ceci n'est pas une drill" -- the title of Episode 7. (The image is a bit hard to detect.) Later, in the UN scenario, Annie's CIA escort smokes a pipe that looks strikingly like Magritte's. For a show that is constantly playing with the nature of reality, it's an obvious artistic allusion.
Turn right on Confrontation Boulevard
In an earlier interview, Somerville broke down what each pill in the study represents. "The C pill is about confrontation, and really even more than confrontation, it's about getting to versions of acceptance, and radical acceptance in some cases," he said. That's explicit in the seventh and eighth episodes, when Owen rolls up to Confrontation Boulevard to meet with the cops who are enlisting him to take down his crime boss father. In one image, it's near a sign that reads, "Just because you did it doesn't mean you're guilty" -- a hard nod to the fact that Owen is perpetually blaming himself. In another, it's flanked by "one way" signs.
Wendy the lemur -- one of Maniac's oddest plot points -- makes a cameo of sorts in the very final episode. Annie signs into the psychiatric treatment facility where Owen is living as "Linda Marino" -- her character from the B pill. She copies the name of the patient she's visiting from the line above on the sign in sheet. That patient? Wendy Lemuria, who is being seen by none other than the Long Island guy Owen embodied, Bruce.
Is that your mind playing tricks?
Most of Maniac is supported by Dan Romer's excellent score, a mixture of bright percussive strings and anxious swelling. However, there's one song that pops up in different scenes, as various Redditors have noticed. That's Geto Boys' "My Mind Playing Tricks on Me." On the nose? Yes. Perfect? Also yes. It gets the most play in the seventh episode in the lead-up to meeting Olivia -- the girl who precipitated Owen's "blip" in the real world.
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