Russian Doll is now streaming on Netflix.
By Rachel M.
When we are introduced to Natasha Lyonne’s character, Nadia, in Russian Doll, one can’t help but think of Nicky, the prisoner she portrayed in Orange is the New Black. Portraying a drug taking, alcohol drinking woman with a dysfunctional childhood, who does not have her life together at all, fits Lyonne well. In this series, she isn’t trapped in prison, but in a time loop reminiscent of “Groundhog Day.” The eight 30-minute episodes follow Nadia as she attempts to solve what is happening to her and to break the cycle.
While celebrating her 36th birthday party at her friend’s (Greta Lee) house, Nadia leaves and gets hit by a car. But she doesn’t “die” and awakes right back in the bathroom during the party. After struggling to solve the mystery for the first three episodes, in the fourth she meets Alan (Charlie Barnett), who is “living” through the same phenomenon. They become convinced that if they can figure out how they are connected, they can stop the sequence from recurring. Each must learn about the other’s lives and what they were doing on the night of their first death.
In this rather macabre show, both protagonists have had difficult lives and have developed serious issues. Chain smoking Nadia can’t commit to a relationship (with actor Yul Vasquez) and Alan is an OCD afflicted guy, about to be dropped by his girlfriend (played by Dascha Polanco, also of OITNB). Now they also have to live each day afraid they are going to die for real “this time.” But they are additionally given the opportunity to make amends and replay their last days differently that they did previously.
The first three episodes move pretty slowly but the series is slightly more interesting after Alan’s storyline is introduced. Time loops are challenging to do in a compelling way as the audience begins to know what to expect and is only waiting to see if the loop can be broken. Lyonne plays the role well with a balance of comedic dark humor and drama, and one has the feeling that the portrayal is not a stretch for her.
While I wasn’t engaged throughout the series, I did want to know what the outcome of the time loop would be and if the main characters would resolve their problems. Would they ultimately die permanently or stay alive with no more death-inducing events? If you peel away the layers of the Russian Doll what remains?
I give Russian Doll a B.