Netflix appears to be on a consistent roll at the moment. With the likes of Sex Education and Umbrella Academy, the best shows on the platform are those created by the platform itself. Russian Doll, a comedy-drama show, is yet another unmissable gem!
Russian Doll stars Natasha Lyon as Nadia, a sassy mouthed, chain-smoking New Yorker who lives life to the very edge – and beyond it. The show’s premise reworks a ‘groundhog day’ narrative where the main character dies, only to wake up at the same time doomed to go through the same day over and over. The interesting aspect about this show is that it is not only one character doomed to die and be reborn with no consequences, but she also has a buddy in the preceding. Alan, played by Charles Barnett, is similarly caught in a never-ending time loop and the two team up to try and discover what has caused the anomaly – before time runs out.
It not only offers a very entertaining interaction but is also heartwarming to see each character breakdown walls they’ve built up around themselves and become less selfish in order to help other people.
The most intriguing part of this show is the overarching anxiety that the time loop is not permanent and the dynamic duo must uncover the secrets connecting them before time ends. As more and more of their friends fade away from the narrative, the desperation heightens and the audience scrambles to decode what is going on at the same time as the characters. Additionally, the show carefully addresses philosophical questions of humanity through its titular, juxtaposing characters. Nadia lives life in the fast lane, she takes too many drugs, parties too hard and has no appreciation for her own life – it’s almost like she has a death wish. Whereas Alan is organised, never straying away from his strict and healthy routine, yet after breaking up with his long-term girlfriend, his ordered life is in utter turmoil. Watching these two very different, but equally, as stubborn, characters team up to try and help one another is brilliant. It not only offers a very entertaining interaction but is also heartwarming to see each character breakdown walls they’ve built up around themselves and become less selfish in order to help other people.
Russsian Doll successfully combines a mystery drama with sharp-witted comedy. Nadia is hilarious, and her various one-liners, as well as facial expressions, could sell the show all by itself. As well as this, the show represents a wide variety of people. From a homeless man in the park to drug dealers to high-class art students, a portrait is painted of the various personalities living in the crowded city. The show is fast-paced, and saturated with easter eggs and foreshadowing to the ultimate conclusion which is a visual and intellectual treat for observant viewers.
The editing and music, as well as rich mise-en-scene, are vibrant and add intensity to the comedy-drama
Without spoiling the ending, the show wraps up neatly. Nothing is explained fully so is open to many different interpretations and hypothesis which very much depend on how optimistic you are as a viewer. The plot of the show could be viewed philosophically or science, is this is a story of redemption and optimism, or are the characters simply linked in a strange scientific phenomenon – ultimately the open ending leaves the viewers to decide for themselves.
Overall Russian Doll is brilliant not only narratively but visually. The editing and music, as well as rich mise-en-scene, are vibrant and add intensity to the comedy-drama. One stand out scene, in particular, is in episode 2 where Nadia, desperate and confused, consume mass amounts of drugs and alcohol as she wanders around her party. The hand-camera is focused on her as Anika’s ‘I go to sleep’ plays. This scene is ambitious for a TV show and is incredibly immersive and visceral, we as an audience become Nadia and we see first hand the dismissal she has for her own life.
The combination of stellar acting, ambitious camerawork and intriguing narrative makes the show incredibly addictive and by the end of each episode, you’re desperate for more. If you have a weekend free soon, you should definitely be watching Russian Doll!