Netflix’s “MAID” premiered on Oct. 1, 2021, receiving a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Since then, the ten-episode show saw 67 million viewers within the first 28 days of release, breaking the record for viewers of a limited series.“MAID” also remained in Netflix’s Top 10 shows in the U.S. for almost three consecutive months, making it one of the Top 10 most viewed and rated shows on Netflix in 2021.
Created by Molly Smith Metzler, the story itself portrays a single mother, Alex, played by Margaret Qualley, as she turns to cleaning houses to make ends meet. Alex has escaped an abusive relationship and must avoid homelessness to provide her toddler, Maddy, with a better life. In this time of desperation, Alex turns to her free-spirited but flaky mother, Paula, played by Andie MacDowell, for help.
Throughout the series, Alex deals with custody issues, returning to her abusive and alcoholic ex, the overarching pressure to take care of her childlike and bipolar mother, depressive episodes, anxiety attacks, pursuing her love for writing, befriending a seemingly insensitive boss, homing and financial issues, the unsettling but rekindling relationship with her previously neglected father, a need for purpose and a journey of short-lived highs and seemingly endless lows.
The relationship and moments that Metzler creates between Alex and Paula defy the idea of an idealized parental figure and familial bond. Alex’s mother has a creative and free-spirited side that, while it did bring her instability and flakiness, beautifully contrasted Alex’s pessimism and practicality. The roles of the child and parent are almost reversed here, yet both continue to learn from one another, as is relevant in any mother-daughter relationship. Alex’s mom provokes a liberated and risk-taking persona in Alex, whereas Alex pushes her mother to stabilize her life and find self-respect. Despite Alex’s frustration regarding her mother’s lacking communication and ability to settle, this refreshing, modern and yet realistic mother-daughter relationship adds to the personal intent of the show.
But taking a step back from the specific details that develop the plot line, the series deep dives into the reality of a struggling individual, Alex, and the usually unspoken of and hidden hardships that plague most young adults. Mental health issues are a clear-cut theme throughout each episode, but Metzler portrays these psychological inflictions in such a unique and relatable way. When Alex reached a low that included a persisting, abusive partner and lack of employment, the scene cuts to a dark hole in a tree stump. Here, Alex lays in gloom, silence and decay, representative of a depressive episode. Metzler’s ability to commemorate such a personal and mental experience in a way that almost every viewer can understand continues to prove “MAID’s” incredible rawness that is necessary for film.
The relatability of a viewer to such a dark topic may portray the show as unremittingly bleak and painful to watch. However, the darkness of the plot allows for the moments of joy that surface, such as when Maddy gets into preschool or Alex gets a scholarship to college for writing, heighten in meaning and satisfaction. The traumatic events that derail Alex’s life allow the small victories along her journey to reveal “MAID’s” message of the usual cliché saying of “appreciate the little things in life” that Metzler portrays with a modern and compelling approach.