Evaluation: In ‘Made for Love,’ She Can’t Get Him Out of Her Head

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Cristin Milioti has claimed a curiously particular character area of interest: girl escaping from twisted sci-fi lure. Within the “Black Mirror” episode “USS Callister,” she was programmed right into a simulation by her creepy boss. In final yr’s “Palm Springs,” she and Andy Samberg puzzled out how one can break freed from a time loop that caught them in a vicious “Groundhog Day” rom-com cycle.

In “Made for Love,” a light-handed and dark-minded comedy of expertise, management and gaslighting whose first three episodes arrive Thursday on HBO Max, the snare is all in her head.

As in bodily. As in implanted. As in a microchip.

Hazel Inexperienced (Milioti) acquired this undesirable {hardware} improve from her husband, Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), who runs a world-dominating tech firm. (Be happy to mess around with the primary vowel sound in “Gogol.”) For 10 years, they’ve lived in a gilded cage — or slightly a gilded dice, a virtual-reality surroundings referred to as the Hub, secluded from the messy outdoors world, with eternally good climate and a dolphin sporting within the swimming pool.

And for 10 years, Byron has grown extra devoted. Too devoted. “Have your spouse assessment her biometrically recorded orgasms to higher optimize them” devoted. Lastly, he decides that he loves her — and his expertise — so deeply that he and she is going to turn into “Customers One” of his new product, Made for Love, which makes {couples} into two-person neural networks, their brains digitally linked. No extra secrets and techniques, no extra miscommunication, no extra non-public ideas.

Who the hell would need that? you may ask, a query “Made for Love” raises however doesn’t solely reply. For the needs of the story, what’s vital is that Byron desires it and Hazel emphatically doesn’t. This impels her to fly the dice, a madcap and violent escape with Byron watching from behind her eyeballs. (Seems he implanted solely her chip, not his: “I needed to learn your diary first to know if I might allow you to learn mine.”)

Based mostly on the novel of the identical title by Alissa Nutting, a author and producer on the sequence, “Made for Love” performs out as a screwball motion satire, which possible makes its chilling premise — patriarchy and techno-utopianism as two sides of the identical chip — go down simpler than it might as a straight drama. (Christina Lee of the mordant “Search Celebration” is the showrunner; different producers embody Patrick Somerville of Netflix’s “Maniac,” with which this shares a skeevy-dystopian vibe.)

The metaphors are by no means far below the floor right here, like Byron and Hazel’s double-finger wedding ceremony bands, harking back to tiny handcuffs. And when Hazel seeks assist from her widowed father, Herb (Ray Romano), she finds him having taken up a dedicated partnership with a intercourse doll — sorry, “artificial associate” — named Diane. Their one-way relationship is an echo of what Byron is making an attempt to make Hazel into, a spouse machine, however it’s additionally oddly tender and respectful.

“Made for Love” is hardly refined, and its cautionary tech story has been advised repeatedly in “Black Mirror” and elsewhere. Nevertheless it’s playful and humorous and nearly momentum-driven sufficient to get away with hand-waving away its many implausibilities. Amongst these is the query of why Hazel, introduced as a wily, resourceful skeptic, would have been swept off her ft by Byron, who from their first assembly throws up sufficient crimson flags for a large slalom course.

The casting helps put this over. Milioti, along with her appeal and anime eyes, is an nearly too-perfect rom-com-lead kind. (She broke out on TV because the title determine in “How I Met Your Mom.”) However she neatly performs in opposition to that kind in tales that subvert expectations. Her Hazel is crafty, feral and sardonic on the lam; in flashbacks to her married life within the Hub, you may nearly hear her scream behind her 10,000-watt smile.

Romano, in the meantime, could also be one of many few actors you would introduce in mattress with a humanoid intercourse toy, whom he clothes in his useless spouse’s clothes, but have your viewer suppose, “You already know, this looks as if an advanced man who’s been by just a few tough patches.”

And Magnussen, given the broadest of the central roles, pushes Byron’s zealotry previous tilt. Inept at most human relationships, Byron has funneled all his emotional capability into Hazel, out of each ardour and the gamifying impulse to get the all-time excessive rating on his marriage. He’s the epitome of each the obsessive Spouse Man and the hubristic Tech Man, and he makes plain the connection between the 2 sorts.

He’s additionally pitiable, insofar as a billionaire with godlike powers might be. “I’m the one one who truly loves you!” he pleads to Hazel. “Objectively!”

Nevertheless it’s Milioti who provides the season’s first half (I’ve seen 4 episodes of eight) its adrenaline. “Made for Love” is a crazy jolt to the cortex that calls for a excessive tolerance for absurdity. What grounds it’s Hazel’s journey from stored girl to motion hero, decided to not be a personality in someone else’s love story.

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