Russian Doll: Heart at the Core of Netflix’s New Dark Comedy

Natasha Lyon is having a bad day, again and again and again, in Netflix’s sensational Groundhog Day-esque comedy drama.

Nadia (Natasha Lyon) is celebrating her 36th birthday at her friend Maxine’s (Greta Lee) apartment, a massive downtown Manhattan space lavished with modern art. The room is filled with culturally rich friends, drink, drugs and fine food. After leaving the party to go looking for her missing cat, Nadia is hit by a taxi. Seconds later we are back at the party and Nadia is back in the exuberantly decorated bathroom we started in.

And there in a nutshell is Nadia’s predicament. No matter what she chooses, she just cannot make it through the night without dying and returning back to that same party. Was there something in that joint she smoked? Is she going crazy? Is she dead? Or is it her mother who never saw her 36th birthday?

Initially, Nadia doesn’t over think her situation, convinced it has something to do with the joint she smoked. Her ‘couldn’t give a shit’ attitude is echoed in her unique style and unruly red hair, reflecting her disdain to the world she inhabits – in Nadia’s case as a prominent game coder in a male dominate field.

As the series develops it becomes clear that this not just the side-effects of a laced joint. The show spends time exploring the ‘new rules’, whilst discounting certain possibilities. It becomes clear there is something much deeper going on here and like other shows with a similar premise, our lead must get to the root of what is stopping them from moving on with their lives. In Russian Doll’s case, the mystery is furthered with the introduction of Alan half way through the series, who also has found himself in a time loop. Unlike Nadia, Alan has found comfort in the predictability of the loop, that is until one loop doesn’t follow its usual course. The pair ultimately team up, with the development of their relationship throughout the latter half providing the series with soul.

Russian Doll’s star Natasha Lyons makes her directorial debut as well as co-writing the series with Leslie Headland (Bachelorette) and Amy Poehler. The series is wonderfully paced, revealing just enough each episode to keep the audience desperate to get to the crux of this mystery. Unlike some series it never outstays its welcome with each of the eight-part series at just 25 minutes long, demanding your attention for every wonderful moment. Just like the Matryoshka, Russian Doll asks wider questions; of self -esteem, of happiness, of depression, of personnel growth and confronting the past.
The latter half of the series takes on a slightly darker tone as certain revelations come to light. Despite this, the show still manages to retain its dark sense of humour throughout, admittedly less frequently as the plot thickens. Ultimately, the series’ conclusion was both perfectly executed and leaves you with a deep sense of satisfaction – leaving the audience with just two very important questions; when is the next of this three-part series going to be released? And what is going to happen to the characters now?

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