The biggest shock of HBO Max’s Made for Love isn’t its central premise, as twisted as it is: Hazel (Cristin Milioti) is a woman on the run from her billionaire tech mogul husband, Byron (Billy Magnussen), who’s implanted a tracking chip in her brain that gives him access to four of her senses and her basic emotions. (“Byron doesn’t believe in smell,” she explains, the eyeroll evident in her tone of voice if not her actual eyes.) We’ve seen more fucked-up things in other sci-fi dystopias before, including one that happened to star Milioti herself.
With every new piece of the puzzle, the image will get increasingly more attention-grabbing.
No, the shock is available in flashes, because the present methodically unspools its premise, and not one of the characters appear fairly as upset as you’d take into consideration the concept of somebody implanting a monitoring chip into their partner’s mind. It is not a stretch to think about a model of this story that is performed as straight-up horror (it will be The Invisible Man, principally), however Made for Love leans extra towards spiky satire. Mixed with the half-hour episode run time, Made for Love‘s mordant humorousness feels positively breezy compared to, say, the heavy-handed pessimism of a Black Mirror. It is simply troublesome to inform, not less than within the first 4 episodes given to critics, whether or not that is signal the present intends to stay to the shallow finish — or if hidden depths lay beneath its shimmering floor.
Both approach, it is ultimate binge-watch materials. Milioti is rarely lower than fully arresting as Hazel, even when the character appears like an extension of ones she’s already performed in tasks like Palm Springs, equal elements decided hero and dream lady. Her shrewdness finds an ideal counterweight in Magnussen’s Byron, who’s described as both a “genius savant” or a “megalomaniacal narcissist” however up to now largely simply resembles his oblivious brats from Into the Woods, Recreation Evening, and Aladdin. That it is initially a thriller how these folks ended up collectively within the first place is slightly bit irritating and slightly bit a part of the enjoyable; the present doles out backstory and twists at simply the suitable clip to maintain you on the hook with out both overwhelming you or shedding you fully.
With every new piece of the puzzle, the image will get increasingly more attention-grabbing. Made for Love premiered with the primary 3 episodes, and whereas it is intriguingly odd from the primary, it isn’t till the third that it turns into obvious simply how bizarre Byron and Hazel’s life with him are: They’ve spent the whole lot of their years-long marriage ensconced in an enormous VR construction that may simulate anyplace on the planet, and eat largely taste pellets engineered to imitate the style of actual meals. And it isn’t till episode 4 (which is able to premiere April 8 with episodes 5 and 6) that it begins to click on how and why she entered this world to start with, and who she was exterior of it.
However even right here, across the midway level of the eight-episode season, it is nonetheless unclear the place any of that is headed. Made for Love is plagued by breadcrumbs so huge and unusually formed that they have to be going someplace: Why would not Byron learn about regular issues like donut holes and piñatas? What is the cope with Zelda, the sad dolphin who lives of their pool? What methods do Fiffany (Noma Dumezweni) and Herbert (Dan Bakkedahl), Byron’s apparently disgruntled staff, have up their sleeves?
There are greater questions, too, about what bigger themes the sequence is reaching for, or what extra bold goals it would bear in mind. That Byron and his firm, Gogol (yup), are supposed to skewer right this moment’s tech giants appears apparent, however much less apparent is whether or not his sins are born extra of clueless entitlement or chilly calculation. There is a conspicuous parallel between Hazel’s relationship with a controlling man and her estranged father’s (Ray Romano) relationship with a lady he can actually management — his intercourse doll, Diane — nevertheless it’s laborious to say what that parallel means. How a lot of any of that is meant as a commentary on fashionable romance generally, and the way a lot on poisonous relationships particularly?
And, once more, what are we to make of the present’s evaluation of our tech dystopia? In episode 3, Hazel, who is aware of Byron is seeing every part she sees, watches somebody in an intimate second, with out warning them that another person is watching too. It is not clear whether or not the present clocks this as a violation on Hazel’s half, to be adopted up on later, or whether or not it figures such surveillance is a component and parcel of life on this too-connected tradition, or whether or not it is merely didn’t issue within the different character’s emotions in any respect. Not one of the potentialities are essentially dealbreakers, nevertheless it appears telling that any of them appear to be they may very well be true.
Made for Love‘s wait-and-see method to storytelling imply the second half of the season, which runs eight episodes complete, will make or break the present as an entire. And its off-kilter tone signifies that second half may take us nearly anyplace. Maybe we’ll find yourself in a state of bliss, serene within the digital fantasy world the sequence has constructed for us, happy with its solutions and excited by its insights. Or it is doable we’ll find yourself upset or offended, keen to place as a lot distance between ourselves and this sequence as doable. As with anybody coming into a brand new relationship, all we will do is hope it’s going to be good whereas it lasts. Perhaps that is sufficient.