Russian Doll is an emotional roller coaster and a time loop mind-bending masterpiece.
Russian Doll is a very creative and imaginative series that addresses serious themes, wrapped up in a weird and bizarre time loop. With in-depth analysis of characters, their motivations and behavior and personal struggles this could have been a grave series, but is anything but.
By handling these serious themes in a playful and bizarre manner, without becoming too lighthearted, it’s a joy to watch, the more while main character Nadia is a complex individual and a loose canon, making her a one of a kind, although all her traits can be very relatable. It’s a series like no other and a definite must see, and despite the time loop element not that hard to grasp as you might think.
This first season consists of 8 episodes with each a duration of 24-30 minutes. Although it’s a time loop and many scenes are repeated, it’s still different every time and it never gets boring. The short episodes are perfect to binge watch, even more so because you really want to unravel the mystery behind it.
Nadia Vulvokov is celebrating her 36th birthday at her friend’s house. Nadia takes a guy Mike home with her and after a one night stand, she goes to a Deli to buy some cigarettes. Across the street she sees her cat Oatmeal and when she runs out on the street to get him, se gets run over by a car and dies.
Only to wake up at the party in the bathroom. She thinks she’s having a bad trip, but when she dies again, something very strange is going on, and she has to avoid dying. But fails, ends up in the bathroom again, and she has to come up with a plan.
At the same time Alan Zaveri is experiencing the exact same thing. They must figure out together why they keep dying and more importantly how to break the cycle and to stay alive.
Why you should watch it
Russian Doll is a unique blend of drama, existentialism, science fiction, and dark humor. This special mix is outstanding, but also filmed and shot in a fantastic way. Every new loop has new elements due to the fact Nadia is desperately changing things to avoid dying. The fist couple of times, she makes small changes and she doesn’t get through the night, but as she gets better at not dying, the further she gets in time. So it’s not totally a ground hog day event. But every time something else changes too, like the world around her is emptying out.
Her deaths are pretty fun and different from each another. A car, stairs, a lift, drowning, bees, and even a heavy object falling from a building, like in a cartoon, make brilliant ways to die. It’s steeped in dark dry humor and Nadia’s reactions are evenly funny. It’s hilarious and absurd and it is a big part of the series.
But it’s not all fun and games. Underneath all these weird deaths lies something very serious and epic. Nadia is struggling with a childhood trauma, mental problems and feelings of guilt and is searching for her own individuality. Her character is disguising all these inner struggles. She’s foul-mouthed, rude, a misanthrope, cynical, a daredevil, selfish and uses alcohol and drugs to repress her feelings.
Alan is practically the exact opposite of Nadia, he’s a controlfreak, but both have built a wall around themselves never letting anybody in. The characterization and personal struggles are the key to the problem and to the solution and form a big contrast to the absurd and bizarre happenings.
That’s why this series is a real roller coaster of events and emotions, sometimes making you laugh out loud, sometimes making you cry out of sadness and sometimes out of pure epic joy. In any case, this series lets you feel something, and therein lies the key to the plot.
It’s a well-made series, with fleshed-out characters, a great story that is funny, bizarre, heavy and epic. The structure is fast paced, intriguing and the mystery keeps you guessing what’s going on and why. It’s also a series with body, with a big world created within a small area, due to the many different characters Nadia is involved with and each one of them brings in something defining.
The series takes the time to lay out the story, to craft the characters and themes and connect them to what is happening in a very intelligent way. And Nadia and Allan soon conquer your heart, making it all the more gripping.
My favorite part
The deaths are hilarious and the way Nadia is trying not to die is maybe even funnier. She goes through great and absurd lengths not to die only to die in a very ironic way. It never gets old. Getting down the stairs was never this hard and you’ll never look at a staircase the same, absolute deathtraps.
But the ending is heartwarming and brilliantly done. It’s so epic making it real moving instead of ironic. The story is so well-crafted that you don’t see it coming up till the end, but you don’t feel cheated or fooled. No plot devices or illogical or unexplained events were used to accomplish this great plot and that makes this series all the more talented and intense.
I can’t say much more for that would be spoilers, but this series deserves to be watched, and then probably watched again, because it’s that great.
Epic factor: ★★★★★
Drama factor: ★★★★★
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
Russian Doll is created by Natasha Lyonne, Lesley Headland and Amy Poehler. It stars Natasha Lyonne (Nadia), Charlie Barnett (Alan), Greta Lee (Maxine), Yul Vazquez (John), Elizabeth Ashley (Ruth), Rebecca Henderson (Lizzy), Ritesh Rajan (Farran), Jeremy Bobb (Mike), Dascha Polanco (Beatrice) and Brendan Sexton III (Horse).
Music: Joe Wong. Cinematography: Chris Teague. Edited by: Todd Downing, Laura Weinberg. Production company: Universal Television, Paper Kite Productions, Jax Media, 3 Arts Entertainment. Original network: Netflix.