Maid: how the devastating drama became a word-of-mouth smash

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The past 2 years person made plain however precarious beingness is, and however rapidly things tin change. Perhaps it is nary surprise, then, that Netflix’s biggest hits of 2021 are some astir hopeless radical pushed to their limits. As Squid Game dominates the headlines, it is Maid – quieter, but nary little devastating – that is generating word-of-mouth buzz. The bid is connected way to bushed The Queen’s Gambit arsenic Netflix’s most-watched miniseries, estimated to beryllium streamed by 67m households by the extremity of its archetypal period connected the platform.

Adapted from Stephanie Land’s bestselling 2019 memoir, it follows a young mother, Alex (Margaret Qualley), arsenic she scrabbles to prevention herself and her daughter, Maddy, two, from a crushing rhythm of home abuse. Homeless and alone, Alex is tossed into the choppy waters of impenetrable bureaucracy. She can’t entree subsidised childcare if she doesn’t person a job, but she can’t get a occupation without childcare. She doesn’t judge she belongs astatine a structure due to the fact that the maltreatment was affectional not physical. She gets a cleaning job, but tin lone enactment constricted hours to suffice for authorities assistance. She indispensable prime her battles, reserving vigor for those that substance most. The lone happening much overwhelming than her circumstances is the immense shame she feels.

It sounds gruelling – and it is – but Maid’s tender storytelling has viewers intensely invested. Much of this is owed to the staggering, nuanced show of Qualley arsenic Alex, a quality who seems truthful existent arsenic she falls done the cracks. The narration betwixt Qualley and her on-screen daughter, played by Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, has astonishing authenticity to it, matched by that of Alex and her mother, Paula (played by Qualley’s real-life mother, Andie MacDowell). Indeed, Maid focuses not conscionable connected Alex and Maddy, but the flawed radical that cushion and compound Alex’s misery. Paula is simply a flaky, free-spirited creator with her ain past of escaping abuse, who is described arsenic having “undiagnosed bipolar disorder”. Meanwhile, the antheral from whom Alex is hopeless to flee, Sean (Nick Robinson), is an alcoholic who mines his ain wounds to inflict caller ones connected others.

Margaret Qualley arsenic  Alex successful  Maid.
Margaret Qualley arsenic Alex successful Maid. Photograph: Ricardo Hubbs/Netflix

We person go much accustomed to portrayals of affectional maltreatment connected tv of late, with everything from Dominic Savage’s I Am … bid to Coronation Street depicting relationships that diagnostic coercive control. Maid besides mines this vein, emphasising however hard it is to beryllium this benignant of maltreatment is taking place. Later, a guardian angel is dangled successful beforehand of Alex successful the signifier of Nate, a Nice Guy who wants to assistance … until helium doesn’t. Offering a benignant of generosity bound up with expectations of intersexual entitlement, his behaviour towards Alex is astir arsenic insidious arsenic that of her ex.

Alex’s isolation, and the full lack of helping hands, hits hard successful an epoch of pandemic-induced loneliness. In 1 episode, she virtually slips retired of sight, betwixt the cushions of a sofa, uncovering herself astatine the bottommost of a acheronian well. The bid besides makes predominant usage of phantasy sequences to submerge america successful the world of her experience. At an intimidating custody hearing, we perceive the tribunal vernacular arsenic it sounds to her: “She failed to ineligible legal, which is legally legal, per legal’. When she flicks done paperwork, the forms look to work “Welfare Bitch”, “No-One Cares” and “Go Fuck Yourself”. On-screen graphics amusement the pitiful magnitude successful her slope account. This immersive prime is portion of wherefore Maid ne'er becomes “poverty porn”: we are not simply witnessing Alex’s lowest points but afloat progressive successful her world, which affords her dignity.

Qualley herself has pointed retired that Alex’s privilege arsenic an educated, charismatic achromatic pistillate – besides 1 of the reasons that she yet has a accidental to claw her mode retired (“It’s much challenging to ‘other’ Alex successful this condition due to the fact that of those reasons,” she told Elle magazine. “A batch of radical successful these nonstop aforesaid circumstances get stuck there.”) While Alex’s likelihood are amended than most, Maid has managed to marque a singular communicative of parent and girl – punctuated by their regular wood walks, reciting We’re Going connected a Bear Hunt – consciousness cosmopolitan to the viewer.

Ultimately, it is simply a amusement that asks what comes easily, and to who. It is astir however performative kindness fails those who request existent help, and however rapidly things tin unravel erstwhile idiosyncratic has nary 1 to crook to. There whitethorn beryllium a glimmer of airy astatine the extremity of the passageway – but Maid takes nary abbreviated cuts successful getting there.

Maid is disposable connected Netflix