Adapted from Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will To Survive,” showrunner Molly Smith Metzler’s (“Shameless” and “Orange Is the New Black”) new Netflix series “Maid” tells the story of a single mother named Alex trying to escape from domestic violence and survive in America. It’s very easy to let this story fall into the territory of melodrama, even manipulative torture porn, but turns out the series strikes a perfect balance between realistic and gut-wrenching dramatic thanks to Margaret Qualley’s heartbreaking performance. 

The young star who stole the shows in “The Leftovers” and “Once Upon a Time …in Hollywood” gives one of the most phenomenal television performances of the year. Stepping into the unknown with her emotional expression and observing the world through her big ocean-blue eyes, Qualley, nearly at the center of every single scene throughout the 10 episodes, is so brilliant that she finds the purest beauty and grace. You will care about her as an actual human being, and even the tiniest kindness that happens to her will make you heart melt. It’s her award-worthy breakthrough that I can already see the buzz around her in the next awards season.

Metzler uses Alex as a vessel to confront the social issues from domestic violence to poverty to the failure of social services. Despite suffering from emotional abuse, Alex doesn’t feel like she is a “real victim” due to her situation. Feeling herself worthless of help and being loved, she also doesn’t think she deserves the assist from social workers nor does she need shelter for DV. That sense of worthlessness is exactly why thousands of women are still trapped in the cycles of poverty and abuse, and Qualley’s multidimensional role is merely one of the luckiest ones who gets a chance to regain her self esteem and open a new door.

It’s not just our protagonist that is treated with complex character arcs. All the supporting roles here, despite entering like typical soap opera characters, are much richer than they first appear, including Nick Robinson, Andie MacDowell (Qualley’s real-life mother), Billy Burke, and Anika Noni Rose. These characters often trigger Alex’s memories while she is trying to fix everything in her life. The invincible trauma she’s suffered feels personal and intimate that will definitely help the audience to look deeper into the systems which fail to provide help to those who need most, and emotional abuse is no doubt one of the worst kinds of abuse. “Maid” is a grounded, sensitive drama that finds a very sincere humanity. It’s a triumph on every level that will earn your tears from the beginning till the end. Hands down, “Maid” is the best show of the year (though the upcoming “Succession” season three is reclaiming its crown)! 

GRADE: A+

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  • Distributor: Netflix
  • Production: John Wells Productions, LuckyChap Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Television
  • Creator: Molly Smith Metzler
  • Director: John Wells, Helen Shaver, Nzingha Stewart, Lila Neugebauer, and Quyen Tran
  • Writer: Molly Smith Metzler, Bekah Brunstetter, Marcus Gardley, Colin McKenna, and Michelle Denise Jackson
  • Producer: Bonnie Benwick and Colin McKenna
  • Cast: Margaret Qualley, Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, Nick Robinson, Andie MacDowell, Anika Noni Rose, Billy Burke, Tracy Vilar, Raymond Ablack, Xavier de Guzman, and BJ Harrison
  • “Maid” available on Netflix Oct. 1, 2021

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