Netflix's new sci-fi series Maniac is not only taking its characters on a reality-bending trip through the mind, but us viewers along with them. The show centers on a mysterious drug trial known only as U.L.P., which consists of a supercomputer and three different drugs holding the promise to end all pain and suffering in its participants. Obviously, you are going to have a lot of questions about how these drugs work, and although the show offers some explanation, it can be easy to miss the specifics. So let's go over some questions you might have, like what is the A drug in U.L.P., and how exactly is this test supposed to work?
We actually encounter a mysterious A-shaped pill before the Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech team explains to us what the drug really is. In the second episode of Maniac, Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) snorts this pill and goes unconscious for a whole day on her couch. It becomes immediately apparent that Annie is addicted to this A pill, and when her friend refuses to provide her with any more, she resorts to blackmailing a Neberdine employee in order to gain access to the drug trial where the pills are administered.
That drug trial, called U.L.P. (an acronym that is never explained), is where we finally learn what that A pill is really for, as well as its follow-up B and C pills. A cheesy introduction video featuring the drug trial's creator Dr. James Mantleray (Justin Theroux) and its administrator Dr. Robert Muramoto (Rome Kanda) lays out how the U.L.P. trial works. Drug A is called Agonia, and it is meant to show patients their darkest traumas. Using those traumas, a supercomputer called G.R.T.A. then creates a personalized B pill, which stands for Behavioral. The B pill is used to identify patients' defense mechanisms and blind spots within their minds. Finally, G.R.T.A. then creates a C pill, which promises to help the patient confront what is really going on in their mind and make healthier pathways for them to deal with things.
Basically, the U.L.P. drug trial is a way for scientists to completely map out how someone's brain handles distressing situations, and then rewire it so that the person is no longer distressed in these situations, effectively eliminating pain, as promised. Or, that is the goal at least — you'll have to continue watching Maniac to see how effective that might be.
Of course, the most intense part of these drugs is the hallucinogenic aspect in which they work. Each drug bends the reality of the mind, transporting each patient into various different situations, settings, eras... lives, really. With twelve people participating in the trial, this can definitely become confusing, even if we really only focus on Owen (Jonah Hill) and Annie's trips through various realities. The fact that Owen already had trouble differentiating between reality and hallucinations before entering the trial complicates this even further.
As the U.L.P. trial proceeds, Maniac viewers are going to see Emma Stone and Jonah Hill in a ton of different costumes, with different accents and personalities, so just buckle up and enjoy the wild ride.