Recently Netflix has been seriously on top of its game, with TV that is trending at a mind-boggling rate. We had Bridgerton, Money Heist, Squid Game, and now Maid – a heavy and heartbreaking show which is hot off the press and most certainly worth a watch. The series tells the story of a 25-year-old mother and her two-year-old daughter who bounce from sofa to sofa, desperately trying to escape a cycle of poverty and abuse that would leave anyone’s head in a spin.
“It sounds gruelling – and it is” The Guardian’s Rachel Sigee says, “but Maid’s tender storytelling has viewers intensely invested”, due, in Sigee’s opinion, to the “staggering, nuanced performance of Margaret Qualley as Alex, a character who seems so real as she falls through the cracks”. Likewise, the series’ relationships are super convincing – a good thing, considering it is the relationships (some good, most Jeremy Kyle style bad) which power the plot, with Sigee describing them as having an “astonishing authenticity”.
But this is no naturalistic nap. Just like Netflix’s other hot hits dominating TV in 2021, Maid breaks the mould. Sigee points to how “the series makes frequent use of fantasy sequences to submerge us in the reality” of Alex’s experience. And this “immersive quality is part of why Maid never becomes ‘poverty porn’”, a trope all too familiar in domestic abuse narratives.
It’s plausible that without these abstract moments, Maid would be a little too tough to chew – ten hours of torture in the form of poverty, abuse, and mental illness. Doesn’t sound like the kind of telly you would rush home to watch, does it? And for The New York Times’ Mike Hale, Maid can be “a frustrating experience, sometimes moving and convincing, [but] sometimes scattered and trite”.
It’s ultimately the long format of the series which Hale takes issue with, blaming it on “the Netflix method, for when you’ve committed 10 episodes to what would have made a good two-hour movie”. It’s a fair point, but the numbers speak for themselves – the Netflix method clearly works, it has us hooked at least.
Sometimes, a tearjerker is all you need and with scriptwriting like this and a leading actress as good as Qualley, Maid is just the ticket. There’s a reason it’s trending.
First shown October 2021.