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As Season Two of Russian Doll was added to Netflix recently, I found myself compelled to re-read my previous review of Season One, and potentially watch it again before starting into Season Two of the Netflix Original Series Russian Doll. I have since updated the original review, and will be adding to it once I finish watching Season Two. Keep reading below to find out what my thoughts are of Russian Doll!
So I don’t know if any of you have been watching Russian Doll on Netflix, but I recently binge-watched it and decided to write about it today. If you haven’t seen it yet and plan on it, maybe don’t read on – I can’t guarantee no spoilers! However, if you haven’t seen Russian Doll yet, and you can’t decide whether or not to watch it, maybe I can help.
Russian Doll is currently on UK Netflix, and flashed up in my “Recommended for you” section just around a week ago. Actually, on a side note, I kind of want to start watching more of these Netflix Originals this year… sorry, side tracked. Where were we?
My Summary of Russian Doll
Right, Russian Doll. On the night of Nadia’s birthday, she goes to a party thrown by her friends. A series of events happen, leading to her being hit by a car. Only, instead of dying, Nadia wakes up again back in the bathroom, back where we first saw her. A serious case of deja vu happens, until she realises that actually no – she is dying and coming back to life. After a series of trying to fight her way out of the loop – and multiple stairs deaths – Nadia gets into a lift beside Alan. The power cuts out, and as the rest of the people in the elevator panic about their impending death, Alan seems ridiculously calm. Looking up at him, Nadia asks did he not get the memo? They’re all about to die. His reply? “That’s okay, it keeps happening”. All of a sudden, Nadia isn’t the only person in a continuous loop of living and dying. Together, Nadia and Alan try to figure out why they keep looping, and realise that somehow or another they are connected. As we learn more and more about their own backgrounds, Nadia and Alan are forced to accept that they need each other if they are ever going to stop dying.
My Thoughts on Russian Doll
It sounds a little bizarre, and for that one reason I chose to press play. While it didn’t grip me straight away, I became addicted – I just wanted to find out what was happening and why Nadia and Alan had to keep going through the layers of the Russian Doll.
With a diverse, yet riveting cast, and an ever changing plot and storyline, Russian Doll is one of those shows that’s hard to explain in a good way, and yet it’s also one of those shows that I would recommend anyone watching.
Final Words on Russian Doll
By now, you’ve probably heard that Netflix’s Russian Doll is the new Groundhog Day – new but not necessarily better according to many reviews on IMdB! I wouldn’t know having never seen Groundhog Day… do you think I should? However, ignoring me getting side-tracked once again, Natasha Lyonne’s inventive black comedy has far more in common with the likes of Edge of Tomorrow or your favourite roguelike game, where different actions open up different story paths, but every time our main character dies (and it happens frequently), she’s transported back to the beginning of the story cycle.
For Nadia, the only way to complete the quest is to dig into both the physical and mental things that are holding her back from processing an early trauma. This complicated, twisty-turny series is one of the most creative and stirring uses of the time loop structure we’ve seen in recent years, maybe ever, managing to be deliciously engaging without being overly gimmicky. Netflix’s Russian Doll offers a truly fresh and surprising subversion of a cinematic storytelling trope that, in February 2019 alone, was also used in Happy Death Day 2U and The Flash. Again, I haven’t seen either, but with time loops and alternate universes becoming more and more cliched in the entertainment industry, it is nice to find a new take on the same storylines.
Lyonne (who also co-created, executive produces, writes, and directs the show) has said in interviews that Russian Doll is both autobiographical and fictionalized, but mostly that it stems from her “personal experience of nearly dying very often as a result of addiction,” and that specificity is written into every scene. Because addiction and other mental health issues can feel exactly like that; a time loop that never ends — the repetition of the same actions in search of a different result. Or, for others, an unpredictable, self-sabotaging flight to get through the day. There’s something very soothing about a routine; maybe it’s not necessarily the repetition of acts themselves, but the comfort that those familiar results bring.
That’s what makes Alan such a tailor-made foil to Nadia’s more freewheeling way of life: he’s type-A, highly addicted to routine, and obsessed with fixing everything in his life that may seem chaotic. He’s perfectly fine living the same, excruciating moment over and over again without looking for answers on how to change it. He’s scared where Nadia is curious. He prefers willful ignorance to the terror of knowing the truth. Where Nadia needs to seek out a method behind the madness, Alan just sits and waits for something to happen. They’re different ends of the addiction spectrum in terms of how people deal with trauma, pain, and the unknown.
Things to note before watching Russian Doll:
There are 8 episodes, and each episode is approx 40 minutes long
The language – while it doesn’t bother me personally, there is a considerable about of strong language that may offend some people.
Use of drugs and alcohol – again doesn’t bother me, but smoking, drugs, and drinking are an important piece of the storyline.
Talk of self-harm – not frequent, but a significant feature of the last 3 episodes.
Have you watched Russian Doll yet? Or do you plan on watching it? Please do let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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