Split across 5 episodes and narrated by Emma Stone, The Mind, Explained is an interesting, educational but somewhat fleeting exploration of our own brains. Diving into this fascinating cerebral world, Netflix’s bite-size documentary series breaks down each area of the brain with informative graphics and engaging content. In doing so, the show discusses five very different concepts and how they affect the brain. Despite a somewhat contrived first episode that uses 9/11 as a tool to showcase memory, the rest of the series does well to blend interviews and hand-drawn cartoons to make its points.
With each episode clocking in at around 20 minutes, The Mind, Explained is disappointingly short and I mean that in the best possible way. There’s some really interesting material here and the clever use of archival footage from films and interviews work well to keep each episode engaging. The first takes a look at memory and how that works and despite being one of the most interesting, it’s also one of the weakest of the series. For some reason the 9/11 tragedy is used as evidence toward inaccurate memories and a lot of this is repeated throughout the episode, giving more of an agenda-driven feel than it perhaps should – especially right on the eve of the tragedy 8 years ago.
The episode on Dreams explores artists like Salvador Dali and even the ending of The Wizard Of Oz to derive points from a wealth of different sources. The rest of the episodes look at anxiety, impact meditation and psychedelics and although I do feel like the series could have expanded upon this to show the negative effects of addiction, extreme dehydration, concussions and psychosis, the series itself maintains a relatively upbeat tone to keep the series feeling light and breezy.
Emma Stone’s narration does pretty well too and aesthetically, The Mind, Explained is a really engaging, visual treat. From cartoon segments featuring bright, vivid colours through to black and white archival shots of famous people discussing the brain, this Netflix series is constantly mixing things up to keep things interesting. All of this ties into the script itself where everything is explained in an easy-to-digest manner.
The Mind, Explained may not be the most cerebrally challenging documentary series on the topic but it does have enough engaging material to make for an educational and entertaining watch. Emma Stone does well with the narration duties and with the exception of the first episode’s 9/11 slant, the rest of the series does well to keep things engaging and neutral. Given the short length of each episode and the excellent visual design, The Mind, Explained is well worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a bite-size, breezy burst of brilliance.