One of the newest Netflix shows to come our way is a dark comedy which was co-created by Amy Poehler and stars Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Orange Is The New Black) and Charlie Barnett (Chicago Fire). The show is called Russian Doll and is essentially a story involving two characters who repeatedly die and have to relive the same day over and over again. I know what you’re thinking, “thank god, something original for once!”
For those of you who thought that was serious, let me remind you of a few little shows called Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, and about 50 more that I won’t list here. But I’ve long since given up any hope of a totally original idea in film or television, so let’s just go ahead and jump into my analysis of the show.
The plot follows Natasha’s character named Nadia as she attends her 36th birthday party. Nadia is an extremely rough around the edges and no-bullshit character (basically envision any character she has ever played) who prides herself on her independence. She ends up leaving the party with a guy and sees her missing cat, but when she tries to chase the cat she ends up getting hit by a car and dies.
Nadia then finds herself back at the party in the bathroom once again with the same song playing (and I hope you like the song, which is Gotta Get Up by Harry Nilsson because you’re going to be hearing it a lot during the course of the show). Of course, she struggles to understand what is happening to her and the stereotypical time loop events occur.
Charlie Barnett’s character named Alan comes in after a couple of episodes (well sort of, which will make sense once you watch the show) as someone who is going through the same thing but as an entirely different person as Nadia. Alan is a neurotic guy whose life is so closely linked to other people that when he gets dumped by his long term girlfriend he becomes an absolutely life-altering level of distraught.
Once Nadia and Alan get to know each other they decide to team up and try to stop the death loop from occurring. So now that we’ve covered the basic plot of the show, it is time to move on to what I thought of it.
The premise, although done way too many times, actually had enough of a twist that I actually enjoyed it. The performance of Natasha Lyonne also helped, because she is a really good actress that does a phenomenal job in this role. Plus, unlike a lot of other shows that use the death loop storyline, Russian Doll included a lot of humour in it, which is always a good way to win me over.
Unfortunately, that is where the compliments about this show come to an end. I found that the longer the show went on, the more confusing it got. But this is not out of character for shows that involve time travel or time loops, which is why I try to avoid these shows as much as possible.
Nadia’s backstory is attempted to be explained, but honestly, it just comes off as rushed and irrelevant. I’m not able to form a bond with Nadia or her mother, and it leaves me wondering what the hell happened to her as a child and why the show is unnecessarily dumping this on me.
My biggest pet peeve with the show is that the last episode (don’t worry, I won’t give anything away) seems extremely random. It definitely kept me on my toes, which I definitely appreciated, but it doesn’t seem to flow with the rest of the story.
Overall, the show is a good way to spend a few hours but don’t expect it to blow your mind. I give this series 3 out of 5 Russian Dolls.