In a world full of chaos and crisis, Hulu’s new original series “Maggie” manages to hit the mark despite its incredibly non-serious subject matter. Though it is ostensibly about a psychic who accidentally sees a glimpse of her future, the pilot episode delivers heavy-handed life lessons in a manner that somehow comes across as warm and lighthearted as opposed to cliché and patronizing.
The opening music sets the tone immediately; it is fun, jazzy and bright. As the scene unfurls, it becomes immediately clear that “fun” is not just a word to describe the soundtrack — it also very much describes the show itself. “Maggie” does not take itself too seriously — in fact, it could be argued that “Maggie” does not take itself seriously at all — and that is where its charm lies.
It is a show that is certainly funny, albeit in a cringe-worthy way. “Maggie” is filled to the brim with jokes and uncomfortable moments that cause simultaneous chuckles and wincing. They do not always land as well as they were perhaps intended to, but the actors are able to sell their lines for the most part. In particular, Rebecca Rittenhouse (who plays the titular Maggie) is excellent, striking a very nice balance between warm sweetness and dry sass without ever veering too far one way or the other. Other actors do not perform nearly as well, but the pacing of the script keeps the weaker performances from standing out too strongly.
In fact, the pace is a serious strength of the show overall. “Maggie” has a rapid-fire rhythm, one that forces the viewer to stay engaged if they want to be able to keep track of the story. At the same time, though, the episodes are less than half an hour long, helping to ease the strain on the viewers’ focus. There is never a wasted moment, never a superfluous line. Even the jokes, many of which contribute nothing to the plot, fit like pieces of a puzzle. While “Maggie” most likely will not ever win any awards for standout scriptwriting, everything serves a purpose to some degree, a quality that makes the show stand out a bit more than it might otherwise.
Alongside the speed, the music gives the show a little bit more depth. The song “Stay Alive” by José González bookends the pilot, framing two momentum shifts at the beginning and the end of the episode. The song itself is an interesting choice — “Stay Alive” is objectively a sadder and more introspective piece of art than “Maggie” could ever claim to be — but just as with all the other components, it somehow works, even when it feels like it should not. The song is weighty, to be sure, but it is also warm and bright, two qualities that tie it in with “Maggie” even when the two’s content does not match in the same way.
At the end of the day, though, a television show is only as good as its plot, and “Maggie” has a very middling one, all things considered. Maggie is a psychic who sees a part of her future for the first time when she is working at a party. As the pilot progresses, it becomes abundantly clear that what Maggie saw in her initial encounter with Ben — the person whose future she was predicting when she saw her own path — was not the full story, and Maggie must come to terms with the fact that even being able to predict the future is not enough to know how things will unfold.
This idea is one she grapples with from that moment on. She oscillates between jumping into situations without thoughts of the future and backing out of other experiences for the exact same reason. She struggles to reconcile her career and gift with the uncertainty of being a human in an uncertain world, and this internal conflict is what drives the plot, even as others move around her. She is torn between following her heart and trusting her visions, unable to determine which choice is the right one. The audience, meanwhile, is left with the sense that the universe is going to bring Maggie’s visions into reality whether she works toward them or not.
The entire pilot episode really does feel a little bit like a freefall — albeit a controlled and relaxed one. The show keeps moving based on Maggie’s willingness to jump, or lack thereof. As a result, the audience feels the same way. Every time things start to seem like they might be getting out of control, the show reels itself back in, in the exact same way Maggie does for the duration of the episode. On the flip side, the show never tries to delve into serious topics; instead, it very clearly stays in its lane. For example, Maggie sees the future without meaning to at multiple points throughout the pilot, but the show never stops to explore the repercussions that must result from a skill like that. The train just keeps on chugging along, and it is this philosophy that defines the identity of the show.
“Maggie” is certainly not a program that should be watched for the sake of provoking deep, introspective thoughts — but, at the same time, it does not feel precisely like a comedy either. Though the dialogue is corny and the plotline ridiculous, it still has an undeniable, hard-to-put-your-finger-on inertia to it, which makes it feel different than many other television shows billed as comedies. The entire pilot episode rings with the echoes of the injunction to “live in the moment” — a phrase both deeply cliche and deeply related to finding joy in a life like this one. As Maggie’s psychic, Angel, sums up for her, “The future always shows up, whether you want it to or not.” “Maggie” leans into that concept, bringing viewers down a road that is silly and unoriginal yet so self-aware that it is difficult not to enjoy.