While Netflix might capitalise on some questionable releases (while we’re here, what’s with all of the musical episodes in almost every original series anyway?), it hit the nail on the head with the release of the new hard-hitting drama series, Maid.
Released earlier this month, Maid follows a young mother, Alex, and her journey as she leaves the emotionally abusive relationship she’s in with boyfriend and father of Maddy, Sean. And it executed this challenging, sensitive subject with grace, based on real life events.
If you’re yet to devour the series (there will be spoilers, sorry!) or just want to dive into the storyline deeper, read on to find out why Netflix’s Maid is a vital watch.
It’s a hard-hitting representation of emotional abuse
Netflix manages to do what so many series and films have failed to do before. We see an honest, raw insight into the lead protagonist, Alex (Margaret Qualley), and the struggles that she faces everyday living with an abusive partner.
Straight away we’re already rooting for her as the opening sequence unfolds, displaying Alex as she attempts to leave her abuser in the middle of the night, gather a small bag of belongings, pick up her daughter from the other room and venture into the unknown, away from her trailer home, with no more than her car and the clothes she and her daughter, Maddy, are dressed in.
Within ten minutes of the episode starting, we’re already faced with the reality that Alex has nowhere she feels safe enough to go, a reality that so many victims of abusive relationships will know and understand.
From flashbacks to hours before where we see Sean (Nick Robinson) in an intense, alcohol intoxicated state punching the wall and throwing glass objects just above Alex’s head, with the glass shattering down onto her and Maddy, to the constant rows and abuse that Sean spouts at Alex, it’s emotional abuse that’s staring us straight in the eye. It’s heart wrenching and tough to watch, but so raw and emotive for viewers at home.
Alex is resilient
There are so many words we could use to describe Alex and her story, but the word ‘resilient’ springs straight to mind. Throughout the whole ten episodes, we so rarely see Alex break down – she’s strong, despite enduring so much pain, struggle and poverty.
From coming to terms with her abuse when trying to get governmental support to her first few days at the domestic abuse shelter, we see Alex up against so much with little financial or family support, and yet she takes it in her stride, never breaking down, and doing everything she can to be strong for her daughter.
It’s based on a memoir
Perhaps hardly surprising, after all, most of the best Netflix shows and films are based on books. Maid is, in fact, based on the memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land. Of course, some areas have been fictionalised but the narrative is so powerful as it’s based on real events, many of which are faced by victims in real life every day.
The fact it’s based on real events also helps to show to those experiencing abuse at home that things can – and often do – get better.
It’s a realistic representation of everyday poverty
Alongside the abusive aspect, poverty plays a significant role in Maid’s storyline. Alex, having lived on her boyfriend’s land and trailer, has no job, money or dependable family support. We see her attend a meeting in the hope of finding a job – or, at least, some governmental financial support. In order to find a job, she needs proof of residence but without a job she can’t afford to find somewhere to live – it’s a never ending cycle. Her best bet? File a police report about the abuse she’s facing and get a place in a domestic abuse shelter, which she eventually does, once she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s being abused.
If there’s one thing that Maid does brilliantly, it’s the pinpointing of how difficult it is to get the financial support from government aids and the process that it comes with.
Even when she can get a job, all that she can obtain is a maids position (clue’s in the name of the series really), cleaning the houses of the elite on Fisher Island. The money’s terrible but she takes the job in the hope of making a small amount of income to help out her and her daughter.
Money is a constant theme. Multiple times throughout the series, an icon at the corner of the screen shows how much money she has in her account, after being paid, paying bills and fines she faces along the way. We also see her struggle to put a roof over her and her daughters head, time and time again, which is yet another reminder of the struggles faced by abuse victims.
It also outlines the problems with the government support
If there’s one thing that Maid does brilliantly, it’s the pinpointing of how difficult it is to get the financial support from government aids and the process that it comes with. From mountains of paperwork to fill in to the struggles Alex faces when trying to find an apartment for her and daughter Maddy, it’s a jungle of paperwork that she always comes into contact with, and even when she does receive money, it’s always the bare minimum, barely enough to cover the cost of daily essentials. It showcases the backward system that is faced in America – and let’s not forget, other parts of the world too, including the UK – and that change is vital in order for survival.
The turbulent mother-daughter relationship
We can’t forget the mother-daughter dynamic between Alex and her mum, Paula (Andie MacDowell), who just so happen to be mother and daughter in real life too. It’s a challenging relationship to say the least.
From the outset, Alex makes it clear that she doesn’t have anywhere to go – at least somewhere she feels confident she’ll be safe to go. In the first episode, we see Alex head to her mum’s trailer and ask for help as she has a job interview, Paula is willing to babysit Maddy for the afternoon – and at other times later on in the series, we see her step up for the challenge when helping for small, minute support. But it’s never long-lasting.
Day after day, Paula fails to provide a support system for Alex, and we quickly learn that she’s been this way throughout all of Alex’s childhood and adulthood. Not to mention, she constantly belittles Alex, always asking her why she’s left Sean in the first place and essentially that she should toughen up and take him back.
It’s only later we find out that Paula herself experienced domestic abuse by Alex’s father, Hank (Billy Burke), when Alex was a child and that she’s dealing with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Despite this, Alex never gives up hope, always showing up for her mum and even invites her to join her when she decides to move to Montana for college with Maddy. It’s a relationship fuelled with ups and downs, heartbreak and torment, but one that blossoms as the narrative goes on and one you can’t help but root for.
Danielle’s character is extremely poignant
Danielle is a character that plays such an important role for two reasons. The first being how open and compassionate towards Alex and Maddy when they first arrive at the domestic abuse shelter. From the bin bag full of My Little Pony toys she offers Maddy to the support and love she gives Alex when she’s coming to terms with her emotional abuse and when Alex momentarily loses custody of Maddy, despite being the more reliable parent of the two. We see the pair write down things that make Alex angry and follow them on their trip to Fisher Island to get the money Alex is owed by the individual’s house she cleans, Regina (Anika Noni Rose). It’s these simple affectionate momentos that show Alex she isn’t alone in this.
The second reason Danielle’s character is so important to the series as a whole, is the reminder that leaving an abusive relationship is extremely hard. We see Danielle root for Alex as she comes to terms with her issues, and yet days later see Danielle slip back to her physically abusive partner. Later on in the series, we see the pair bump into each other and Danielle is embarrassed and pretends she doesn’t know Alex when her partner walks past.
One quote that has stuck with us since watching the series, is when domestic violence counsellor Denise (DJ Harrison) says to Alex that on average it takes seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship, and for her personally, it took five attempts. We see Alex struggle to come to terms with this in the beginning, until she herself falls back into the familiarity of her relationship with Sean.
It shows the strengths parents go for their children
There’s no denying that Maid is an incredibly difficult show to watch, but throughout the whole series we’re always rooting for Alex to overcome and leave her Sean. We see her struggle tremendously, time after time, in order to provide hope and a future for her daughter, and by the end, when she does manage to set off on her new journey to Montana, you can’t help but feel happy for her.
Stream Maid on Netflix now