HBO Max’s Made for Love: Premiere Episodes Review
The newest original series to hit HBO Max, Made for Love, is an intriguing dark dramedy that sees Cristin Milioti continue to kill it in a story where love and creepy tech collide.
Last year, AMC came out with their own Black Mirror-like series that sees love and technology collide in Soulmates that showed potential it could never reach. While it struggled to flesh out it themes or create thrilling concepts, Made for Love instantly hooks you on its story of a woman named Hazel (Milioti) attempting to escape her marriage to narcissistic tech billionaire Byron (Billy Magnussen) after he implants a chip in her brain.
Right away, we’re brought into both the manufactured world and marriage that Byron and Hazel live in together. The two live in a “tech campus” that’s meant to simulate the outside world and present the idea that they live as ordinarily as everyone else does aside from the fact that they live in a giant mechanical cube. Digital screens can pop up in an instant and even when they show Hazel getting the chip put in her head, the entire surgery and all the technology need is right within the house. Hazel even has a very realistic looking flight simulator at the palm of her hands. There’s definitely a tech obsession and rebellion as well when the series moves out of the hub and into the outside world, but there’s nothing really built there. Based on a news report and some wall writings, there’s clearly a distaste or some chaos surrounding Byron’s company and the way they’re implementing technology, but there’s nothing too heavily built around it yet.
Honestly though, that’s okay because everything surrounding how technology plays a major role in their manufactured marriage and Hazel looking for a way out. Within the first few moments of seeing how Hazel and Byron live, you can tell that Hazel is constantly under a microscope. There’re mechanical bird statues that watch Hazel’s every move in the house and tell her what she needs to do. She’s unable to leave and experience anything from the outside world without Byron’s approval. No one can even come into the hub without being blindfolded. Even her orgasms are tracked to make sure she’s being honest with Byron and it’s a great build-up of not only why Hazel is desperately looking for a way out, but also how controlling and narcissistic Byron is.
There’s a great moment in the third episode where Byron is asked by a journalist about why he wants to make his new invention Made for Love – a brain implanted chip that allows couples to connect and read each other’s minds. His philosophical answer about relationships needing more transparency and that secrets are a part of the problems that eventually lead to divorce is certainly interesting and gets you thinking about relationships. However, we know there’re deeper insecurities to Byron with him implanting the chip in Hazel’s brain without her consent because he needed to “read her diary before she can read his.” His controlling behavior and insecurities are incredibly prevalent in the ways that he tries to pick at Hazel’s flaws to make himself seem not as bad. Magnussen’s performance is great with how it elevates the villainous qualities and even showcases that there’s maybe some personal heartache within Byron that’s shown in a birthday flashback.
Made for Love isn’t really about Byron though, its much more about Hazel on the run from him and facing her past as well as reclaiming her own sense of power. Milioti really showcases her wide array of skills in working with a darker strand of comedy and character-driven drama – kind of like she did with Palm Springs. She really showcases the emotional turmoil that Hazel is dealing with as her sense of privacy is stripped away even more than ever and she is willing to do anything to escape Byron’s control. It helps build towards Hazel seemingly coming into her own by the end of the third episode and Milioti’s dominant performance letting us and Byron know that’s she’s not going to be controlled anymore.
There’s also a solidly dark, more adult tone to the series that offers some good levity to moments and makes you laugh. Interactions between Hazel and her drunken, sex doll loving father Herbert (Ray Romano) and Hazel constantly injuring one of Byron’s associates to a hilarious degree. Even the whole section of the two of them getting interviewed by a journalist has a perfect kind of awkward comedy to it that calls out Byron’s hypocrisy in a really funny way. It’s also worth mentioning that the series uses flashbacks surprisingly well. Flashbacks can come off like unnecessary filler at times, but they don’t here. Whenever we flashback to another point in Byron and Hazel’s relationship or her relationship with her father, it fleshes out these characters and their stories much more and make you more attached to them.
HBO Max continues to dish out intriguing original series with as it showcases how great Milioti and Magnussen are in this thrilling narrative about control, love, and creepy tech with a lot of interesting potential.