Cristin Milioti has declared a curious specific character: the woman who escaped the twisted sci-fi trap. In the episode “Black Mirror” “USS Callister”, she was programmed into a simulation by her terrifying boss. In “Palm Springs” last year, she and Andy Samberg were puzzled about how to break out of the time loop that left them trapped in a vicious rom-com cycle of “Groundhog Day”.
In “Made for Love,” a dark and light-hearted tech, control, and air-lighting comedy that has its first three episodes airing Thursday on HBO Max, it’s all in her head.
As physically. As in implants. As in an IC.
Hazel Green (Milioti) receives this unwanted hardware upgrade from her husband, Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), who runs a world-dominating technology company. (Feel free to play with the first vowel in “Gogol.”) For 10 years, they lived in a gilded cage – or rather a gilded cube, a virtual reality environment called is the Hub, secluded from the messy world outside, with eternal perfect weather and sporting dolphins in the pool.
And in 10 years, Byron gave more. Too conscientious. “Ask your wife to review her biometric-recorded orgasms to better optimize them.” In the end, he decides that he loves her – and his technology – so deeply that he and she will become the “User” of his new product, Made for Love, making couples into two-person neural networks, their brains digitally connected. No secrets, no false information, no private thoughts.
Who wants that? you may ask, a “Made for Love” question poses but not completely answered. As for the story’s purposes, it’s important that Byron wants it and Hazel is definitely not. This spurred her to fly the cube, a frantic and violent escape with Byron watching from behind her eyeballs. (It turns out he just implanted in her chip, not his own: “I have to read your diary first to see if I can let you read my diary.”)
Based on the novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting, a writer and producer of the series, “Made for Love” serves as a frightening action satire that could set the cold premise – fabrication Patriarchy and techism are two sides of the same chip – going down is easier than a straight drama. (“Search Party” Christina Lee is the host; other producers include Netflix’s “Maniac” Patrick Somerville, with this sharing a distorted vibe.)
Here, never far away metaphors, such as Byron and Hazel’s two-finger wedding ribbons, are reminiscent of little handcuffs. And when Hazel seeks help from her widowed father Herb (Ray Romano), she finds him committed to a sex doll – sorry, “synthetic partner” – named Diane. Their one-way relationship is an echo of what Byron is trying to turn Hazel into a wife-making machine, but it’s also strangely gentle and respectful.
“Made for Love” is barely subtle and its tech-alert story has been told many times in “Black Mirror” and elsewhere. But it’s playful, funny, and almost motivated enough to remove many of its absurdities. Among them was the question of why Hazel, presented as a wise, resourceful skeptic, was thrown by Byron, who from their first meeting threw enough red flags for a giant slalom course. .
The casting solves this problem. Milioti, with her anime charm and eyes, is the type of person who leads the almost perfect rom-com. (She became famous on TV as the title character in “How I Met Your Mother.”) But she’s smart against that in stories that shake off expectations. Her Hazel is cunning, wild and sarcastic on rickshaw; in her married life flashback in the Hub, you can almost hear her scream behind her 10,000-watt smile.
Romano, meanwhile, may be one of the few actors you can showcase in bed with a humanoid sex toy, with whom he wears the clothes of his dead wife, but viewers of the you think, “You know, this looks like a complicated guy that went through some rough patches.”
And Magnussen, given the most central roles, propelled Byron’s past fervor. Regardless of most human relationships, Byron has focused all of his emotional abilities on Hazel, for both his passion and the urge to gamble to get the top score. era in his marriage. He was the epitome of both the Haunted Wife and the Overbearing Tech Guy, and he made a clear connection between the two types of people.
He is pitiful, too, to the extent possible a billionaire with divine powers. “I’m the only one who truly loves you!” he begged Hazel. “Objective!”
But it’s Milioti who gives the first half of the season (I’ve watched four episodes eight) of its adrenaline. “Made for Love” is a repetitive vibration of the cortex that requires a high stamina for stupidity. Based on Hazel’s journey from a well-kept woman to an action hero, determined not to be a character in someone else’s love story.