Trigger Warning: Emotional and physical abuse
These days, it seems as if Netflix Originals are a dime a dozen. With plenty of dramas, sitcoms, and documentaries supplied to the public by Netflix, it is easy for some of these shows to be put on the backburner by viewers. However, with one of Netflix’s latest limited series, Maid, the media giant has really hit the nail on the head and deserves to be viewed by the masses.
The plot of the show follows Alex, portrayed by Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), as she takes her 2-year-old daughter and escapes from her abusive partner, Sean, portrayed by Nick Robinson (Love, Simon). As Alex and her daughter seek refuge from their previous living situation, Alex pursues social services for extra assistance and is instead met with the broken bureaucracy. Even though Alex and her daughter require assistance right away, she has to face extraordinary wait times, a crippled bureaucracy, and class discrimination, which act as a huge speed bump in her quest for safety. After facing long wait times for social services and a myriad of paperwork, Alex is able to secure herself as a maid. In this job, Alex meets Regina, played by Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), a rich business lawyer who is rather tough on Alex from the get go. The series progresses as Alex balances her work as a maid, being a mom, battling homelessness, and building a case against Sean, so that way she may have full custody of their daughter. Along the way, we meet an amazing cast of supporting characters, such as Paula, portrayed by Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day), Alex’s artist mother, who struggles with Bipolar Disorder, Hank, played by Billy Burke (Twilight), Alex’s estranged father, and Nate, played by Raymond Ablack (Ginny & Georgia), Alex’s long lost friend, who she reconnects with throughout her journey.
With such a raw, real, and sensitive topic as domestic violence and abuse, it is critical that the acting, writing, and execution are spot-on in order to portray the story as respectful and accurate as possible, which was done. Margaret Qualley’s talent is in the spotlight here, as her portrayal of Alex is beautiful, raw, and moving. The writing behind Alex’s character really paints her just as your typical mom who wants the best for her daughter, but instead is met by the fierce claws of society. Qualley creates such a strong character that viewers can’t help but empathize with, ultimately having viewers feel like they are right by Alex’s side the entire time. When Alex falls, the viewers fall as well, and we are left to get up by ourselves. Without spoiling too much, Qualley’s acting prowess is on full display as she sets the tone for an extremely powerful series.
Not only does Qualley create such an amazing character that viewers can warm up to quickly, her costars carry more than their weight as well. Nick Robinson was a concern in my eyes personally, as I was worried that his previous roles as Simon Spier in Love, Simon and as Olly Bright in Everything, Everything would overshadow his presence, as in my own personal experience, I’ve only seen him in teen romance movies. However, his portrayal of Sean, Alex’s abusive partner who is addicted to alcohol, was a big surprise for viewers. Sean is a truly despicable person, who puts Alex through hell. Robinson’s phenomenal acting takes viewers on a wild ride, forcing viewers to witness the harsh realities of many families across the globe. Robinson portrays alcoholism and abusive behaviors in such an intense ways, further emphasizing the immersivity of the show.
Anika Noni Rose is on full display as this Tony Award winning actress portrays Regina, a strict business lawyer who is rather harsh on Alex, up until her character is given a rather harsh reality check, in which Rose delivers a powerful monologue depicting her human experience, which is powerful enough to bring the audience to tears. Despite her character largely being one note for the first half of the series, in the second half, Rose blossoms her character beautifully in one of the most notable character arcs within the series. Sometimes character arcs can be sudden, random, or don’t flow well, but Rose executes a complex character arc with no effort. She plays such a complex character like it is nothing.
The supporting cast is amazing as well, but the most remarkable performance of the supporting cast hands down goes to Andie MacDowell in her portrayal of Paula, Alex’s mother, who is also actually Margaret Qualley’s real-life mother. The fact that Qualley and MacDowell are real lifeblood really makes their on-screen relationship that much better, as, throughout the story, Paula suffers from Bipolar Disorder and would be seen by many as brash, often speaking out of turn, being rude to Alex despite Alex trying to help her, and doing things before thinking. For MacDowell’s character, it is obvious that she does not live in the same reality as us, oftentimes being in her own world or creating false scenarios in her head. MacDowell’s acting in this part is absolutely spectacular, creating a very accurate depiction of Bipolar Disorder. In media, it is hard to find depictions of mental conditions that are not tasteless and are accurate. However, with the perfect writing of the series and MacDowell’s beyond noteworthy acting skills, a beautifully tragic picture is painted within Paula’s character. You have the moments where you love her, where you hate her, and where you just want her to be okay. Aside from rooting for Alex, viewers can really look towards rooting for Paula as she develops as a character, facing many hardships herself.
The cast and crew of this show have come together to create a truly amazing story that is so important for us to see. This show depicts the struggles so many people face, and I’m sure many people will be able to see themselves in the show or see someone they know in the show. For me, I see my mom a lot in Alex and some of the situations they have both been in as they both just fight so hard for their children, despite the many obstacles thrown their way. It has been so hard for me to truly find a piece of media that truly represents the struggle of a single parent living in poverty, but I found it here. The show is realistic and is something many low-income, single-parent households have had to face, which should raise awareness to those lucky enough to not be in these adverse scenarios. At the end of the day, this piece of media is absolutely necessary for people to view, so that way we all can experience life from the lens of a loving mother just trying to make it work.
Overall, I could not have asked for a more perfect series from Netflix. Maid is a ten-episode limited series, so it was an easy binge I was able to do with my mom and sister over the course of two days. With a combination of phenomenal editing, writing, and acting, this series is a must-watch for anyone who is able to, and I can’t wait to see the cast and crew awarded for their feats.