Episode 1 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 5/5
Maid opens with the sound of breathing. When the camera finally flickers on, we hone in on our protagonist, a wide-eyed young woman called Alex. She scoops up her daughter Maddy in the middle of the night, sidesteps broken glass shattered on the floor and takes off in her car, away from abusive partner Sean.
This anxiety-inducing opener soon paves way for what’s easily one of Netflix’s best new originals this year. While the story is not without contrivances and a couple of late bouts of deux ex machina, it’s easy to look past that with such a profound message and story.
This is a show that’s not shy about shining the spotlight on the uglier side of society, a part that many in the upper-echelons turn away from, refuse to look at or simply don’t know about. The spotlight here shines on the uncomfortable truth about mental health, the cycle of abuse and the absolutely broken welfare system.
As mentioned before, the show centers on Alex, who finds herself eking out a living and trying to pick herself up off the ground as a victim of abuse. This lucky break comes in the form of temporary housing and a job working for Value Maids, a budget maid cleaning service. Alex has big dreams of becoming a writer though but somewhere along the way, that fell by the wayside in favour of looking after her daughter – and surviving Sean’s tyrannical grip. And survival is the name of the game here.
Ultimately, this ten episode series depicts Alex’s struggle to gain independence and her sense of self back again from a man who seems okay on the surface but hides a dark, nasty past.
This whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” is something that extends to every other character in the show too. The arrogant and obnoxious Regina ends up becoming one of Alex’s most valuable assets going forward. Alex’s Mum, Paula, begins as a rage-inducing waste of space but over the season we learn that really, she’s an abuse victim too but handled it in a very different way.
I could go on, but suffice to say there are a lot of different characters here that help or hinder Alex. Because of this, at times the show feels like it takes one step forward and two steps back for our protagonist, and that can be pretty exhausting to watch. There are numerous times where Alex is thrown a lifeline, only to have that rug ripped up from under her, tumbling down layers of misery before being forced to claw her way back to the starting point again.
Make no mistake about it, Maid is not a “fun” watch by any stretch of the imagination. This is a difficult series to sit through and for every cathartic release, there are 10 more heart wrenching moments to sit through.
And yet, through every step of the way you’ll find yourself utterly compelled to carry on thanks to the exquisite performance of Margaret Qualley.
Qualley is really the star of the show here and the way she manages to portray the anguish and anxiety of being a victim, whilst simultaneously trying to do right by Maddy and keep everything together, feels quite similar to how Brie Larson portrayed her character in Room and Will Smith’s in The Pursuit of Happyness.
You’ll also be happy to know that Maid has a definitive ending that closes out all the big plot points and leaves no irritating cliffhanger to ponder. Hooray!
Maid goes much deeper than its initial story though, examining just how broken the welfare system is, how difficult it is to claw your way out of it, and the cycle that you can easily become trapped in without a bit of luck on your side. Maid portrays all of this but also reinforces the importance of hard work too, which plays a massive part in one’s success.
As a good example of this, Maid spends an entire episode tackling the CBRA situation, and how many landlords sniff at this and refuse a perfectly good tenant. It’s not until near the end of this episode, after so many slammed doors in her face, that Alex manages to catch a lucky break through sheer persistence and hard work.
For me personally, Maid really struck a chord because of the way it spins these issues in a believable way. As someone who was on the verge of being made homeless, dealt with extreme mold that made my son desperately ill, and lived on the edge, forced into choosing between filling my gas meter or filling my fridge, Maid nails that same feeling of dread and overwhelming stress that many others in this situation feel.
Maid is quite simply outstanding. It’s perhaps a tad too long and relies on a couple of contrivances to move the plot forward but those are minor points in what’s otherwise a very important drama that touches on very real issues that affect many people. With well written characters, an utterly gripping story and a strong emotional core, this is easily one of Netflix’s best shows in 2021 and an absolute must-watch.
Verdict - 9.5/10