Maniac season 1, episode 2 recap: ‘Windmills’


On the premiere episode of Maniac, we got to know Jonah Hill’s Owen Milgram, the son of a wealthy family who has delusions in which his brother sends him on missions that will supposedly save the world.

By the end of the episode, Owen joined a mysterious drug trial at Neberdine Pharmaceuticals and made contact with Emma Stone’s Annie Landsberg, who he believed was his handler for his next mission.

Maniac‘s second episode, “Windmills”, starts with Annie smoking in her apartment. She crushes and snorts a pill. It’s her last one and she claims she’ll stop afterward.

When she comes down from her high, she’s determined to be healthy. She plans to go see her sister, Ellie, in Salt Lake City and finally read Don Quixote.

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She goes to a house, drops off some groceries, and tries to get into the safe but the combination doesn’t work. She sees a machine called an A-Void in the yard. It’s big enough to fit a person. She goes outside and addresses it.

The voice that answers her is computerized and no human can be seen, but it becomes clear over the course of the conversation that her father is inside. Annie says she’s planning on going away and invites him to go with her. He says he’s too busy. She asks for the new combination to the safe so she can get some money and her father gives it to her.

He says he’s tired of thinking about Annie’s mother. Annie asks him to promise he’ll eat while she’s gone. She suggests they go to dinner when he gets back but her father is noncommittal.

She says goodbye and goes back to the safe. It contains a gun, a ring, and a lot of cash. She grabs the cash and leaves.

She goes back to her apartment, grabs a suitcase, and heads to the Brooklyn Public Library Bus Terminal. When she gets there she can’t read the signs. She needs more pills to get her head straight.

She goes back to her apartment, drops off her suitcase, and heads into a park to find her dealer, Calvin. He’s playing chess with an animated purple plush koala (yes, you read that correctly). He says only gave Annie the pills as a one-time thing. She asks how she can get more. He suggests she sign up for a Neberdine study.

Annie’s interested, but Calvin cautions she’ll have to go through a screening. He loses the chess match to the delight of the aggressive, foul-mouthed koala. He gives Annie the name of the woman at intake for Neberdine, Patricia Lugo. Annie takes off.

She goes to a business that uncovers dirt on Patricia’s past for her so Annie will have something to blackmail her with. The clerk offers to threaten to kidnap Patricia’s daughter, Usnavy, but Annie refuses. Instead, she learns that Patricia has an upcoming appointment with FriendProxy, a service that provides someone to pose as a friend.

Annie takes the FriendProxy’s place and meets Patricia at a botanical garden. She quickly blows her cover, though, because she’s unaware of the backstory Patricia has created for their friendship.

Patricia gets annoyed. This isn’t the service she paid for. Annie reacts aggressively, explaining her blackmail plans. She quickly backs off though, apologizes, and runs out.

Patricia finds her elsewhere in the garden. She wants to understand what’s going on. Annie explains she wanted to get into one of the drug trials at Patricia’s company. Patricia earnestly asks her why. Annie tries to put her off but Patricia says Annie reminds her of her little girl, so if she can help, she wants to.

Annie admits she’s addicted to a drug Patricia’s company is testing. Patricia responds that that’s not the “why” she wants to know about. So Annie goes back further.

Five years ago, Annie and her sister got into a bad fight. And she can’t fix it. Ever since she’s had a cold rock in her stomach, but the pills help her get through the day. They’re the only thing that makes Annie feel good.

Patricia asks if she’s tried talking to her sister, but Annie says she can’t.

Annie wonders why shouldn’t she be able to take a pill that helps her if she’s not hurting anyone. Patricia agrees with her.

In the next scene, Annie’s getting screened for the drug trial. She’ putting up a happy front and putting a positive spin on all her answers. She doesn’t pass the test. She angrily yells at the tester.

Then she approaches Patricia at the front desk. Patricia tries to put her off. She can’t do Annie any more favors, her bosses are around. Annie refuses to let it go. She stalks Patricia from the other side of the desk.

Finally, in desperation, Annie threatens to kidnap Patricia’s daughter if she doesn’t get into the study. Patricia tells her she’s crazy, but Annie counters that she’s just goal-oriented.

Patricia goes over to a woman in the waiting room and tells her she’s been upgraded to a safer trial. She then gives the woman’s badge to Annie, who looks elated.

In the common room at the start of the drug trial, Annie sits with the other participants watching a video about the research they’re about to be a part of. They’re assured that though they’re there with 11 other participants, their experiences will be specific to them and private from the other subjects.

The participants will take three pills in three steps. Afterward, a super-computer that’s considered advanced given the stuck-in-the-past technology available in the Maniac universe will identify, map, and confront the learned programming in their brains. At the end of the trial, the participants will be happier and psychologically healthier.

The participants line up to start the trial as in another room Dr. Muramoto reads a poem to the computer. The computer expresses her enjoyment of the poem and then starts her job going into the participants’ minds.

The first pills are distributed and the participants are instructed to wait for Dr. Fujita’s go ahead before taking them. Annie stares at the pill impatiently. In the control room, Dr. Fujita is hyping up the researchers. What happens in the next three days is vital to the trial’s success. Plus the participants’ lives are in the researchers’ hands — no more mistakes.

Dr. Fujita then tells the participants to ingest their pills as the computer goes to work.

We’re drawn into Annie’s fantasy. She’s at a gas station filling up her Jeep. Another girl, her sister Ellie, comes out of the attached store, throws her a disposable camera, and they drive off. They talk playfully as they drive. They stop at tourist spots along the way.

They stop at a hotel for the night. Ellie tells Annie she’s happy they’re doing something together. It’s been a while.

Annie doesn’t return the sentiment. Instead, she asks if her sister was talking to their mother on the phone before she came in. Ellie tells her it was someone named Ben. She was telling him they’d be there the next night. Annie explains she thought Ellie was talking to their mother because she knows she and Ellie have reconnected.

Ellie corrects Annie. She didn’t reconnect with their mother. Their mother sent Ellie a letter, saying she was having an emergency, and Ellie called her back once. Ellie gives Annie the letter to prove it, but Annie refuses to read it. She denies she’s mad but things get tense anyway.

Annie tries to defuse things be turning on the TV. They start to bond again when Ellie teases Annie about the fantasy movie on the screen. She pretends to be an elf-like in the movie.

Then Ellie tells Annie her fantasy: a woman moves to Salt Lake City because her fiancée was transferred there. The woman is nervous about being stable, maintaining her marriage and her kids’ lives. But it ends up working out despite her fears.

Annie comments that it sounds like the fantasy of someone who gave up.

This triggers an argument. Ellie was talking about her hopes for herself and Annie was extremely harsh shooting them down. Ellie accuses Annie of being narcissistic and unable to take care of anyone herself. Annie apologizes for losing Ellie’s dog.

Finally, Ellie confesses that she’s sad she’s moving away from Annie. Annie counters that it’s hard to talk to Ellie when she’s that emotional.

Ellie says she has her things too, she just doesn’t broadcast them to the world like Annie. Annie also lies constantly. Annie hits back by observing that every day of Ellie’s life is about broadcasting her normalcy so someone will tell her she’s okay.

Annie finishes the conversation by saying that when she thinks of New York without Ellie she’s happy because once Ellie’s gone she won’t have to feel bad about not calling her or doing things with her. With Ellie far away they can grow apart. They won’t have to pretend that’s not the reality.

Ellie says she’s going to miss Annie too.

In the car the next day, in what seems like a peace-offering, Annie offers to take a picture of the two of them to commemorate the trip. Ellie gets the camera out and holds the steering wheel as Annie holds the camera in front of them. At the last second, Annie pulls the camera away and takes a picture of her armpit instead.

Ellie gets angry. She wants to take a real picture. They fight over the camera as they speed along, not realizing they’ve crossed into the wrong lane. A truck is bearing down on them. Annie notices at the last minute and swerves to avoid the truck, but it hits the front corner of the car. The Jeep spins out of control and over a cliff.

Annie’s thrown from the car and lies at the bottom of the cliff. She’s unconscious and covered with blood.

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As the episode comes to an end, she wakes up in the trial testing room and is welcomed back. Yikes! That was intense!

The recap of the third episode of Maniac will be available shortly. If you want more Maniac right now, you can check out our recap of the premiere episode and stream the series on Netflix. Also, share your thoughts on this episode in the comments.