The new critically-acclaimed Netflix limited series “Maid” manages to capture every facet of American life, from the brutal depths of poverty and the mismatched jigsaw puzzle of America’s welfare system to the prosperous life of the upper class living in modern homes on the sea shielding crumbling marriages and helpless minds. The physical, mental, and relationship problems the series illustrates resonates with every viewer on different levels, but encapsulates the ever broken American Dream.
Margaret Qualley plays Alex, a 22-year-old woman in an emotionally abusive relationship, trying to save herself and her three year old daughter, Maddie, from their abuser, Sean, played by Nick Robinson. After escaping her home in episode one, she finds herself at a domestic violence shelter for women, where she and Maddie are provided a small apartment to stay until they can find government funded housing.
Her life deteriorates even further when Sean petitions for full custody of their daughter, and she has to go to court with no prior conception of the law, and attorney-less. With no defense Maddie is taken away from her and put into full custody with Sean, while Alex is left hopeless, lost, and confused. Additionally, with no support system from her unmedicated bipolar mother, Alex has no direction on what to do or where to go.
The series develops further each episode as individual characters, and character to character relationships develop along. Alex ends up getting a job as a house cleaner (hence the title, “Maid”) and begins journaling her experiences with each client she has, describing how seemingly messed up and jumbled everyones lives are, despite the facade many of her clients put on.
Perhaps the most critical element to the series, however, is the progression of Alex as a character. Viewers religiously follow her, and side characters pop up here and there providing hints of wisdom, or sometimes just play another roadblock in her already tedious character arc. Her immaturity and lack of understanding of the real world in the very beginning haunts her throughout the first few episodes, but manages to settle itself as she begins to uncover the truth of motherhood, and doing what’s best for her daughter.
Additionally, her mother works as a means to merely normalize the treacherous waters of motherhood Alex is forced to uncover. Paula, played by Andie MacDowell, lives a hippie-lifestyle, selling her borderline atrocious art that she believes is inspired by the sun and her soul. However, her tendencies to run away with new lovers, lack of medication, and her blatant denial of her painfully obvious mental disorder manage to make Alex’s life look like both a paradise, and a nightmare. Left with no sound mind left, Alex feels obligated to worry over her mother, out of fear that one of Paula’s violent manic episodes could spark at any moment, and could destroy her free-willed livelihood.
What makes ‘Maid’ a series that everyone in America should watch is how it tackles such painful points of reality for millions of Americans today. The cut-throat reality of the broken poverty system, the legal system that acts as an enemy to its victims, and the fractured personal lives every single person has is showcased in the shattered glass box the series encaptures.
The brutality of human to human relationships is tackled in numerous forms, from Alex’s relationship with her self-absorbed, “business woman” boss to her absent father who blames Alex for some of the abuse she endured, the constant theme of relationship troubles leaves every character with blood on their hands by inevitable selfish actions acted upon by animalistic elements of human nature.
The series ends with the core value and belief of finding beauty in the ugly. Alex’s perseverance both as an individual and a mother plays as a testament to faith in humankind, something that may seem an impossible proposition to many in the world we live in. Alex manages to find the beauty in a 30-year-old Jeep that smells like spoiled milk. Alex manages to find beauty in cleaning the homes of pretentious doctors, lawyers, and businessmen who don’t have an ounce of respect left in their fragile bones for anyone but themselves. By the end, Alex finds the beauty of working with a berated system to its fullest potential.
Alex is a mere representation of the broken America we live in. It’s critical for everyone to watch, review, and think about how we live the way we do. Abiding by our society and all of it’s brokenness, using individuality and success to hide behind the painful truth doesn’t work and forces those who need us most to struggle more than we could ever imagine.
In conclusion, “Maid” has never been a more prominent, important and wonderfully conducted series. The cohesion of self that manages to tread through angry waters, the blatant slap in the face to the upper class of America and the agonizing beauty of motherhood have never been better showcased than in “Maid”, and truly displays every dusty, cracking and chipping corner of American life.