Russian Doll (Series Review)

A new Netflix show with an all female powerhouse team of writers/creators and directors.

Looking for your next Netflix binge? Look no further, Russian Doll is the perfect choice.

I recently watched the whole season, which actually isn’t that long, it is 8 episodes of about 25 minutes each. It is a short and crisp show that you could ideally finish in a day or two. The fact that it uses a short format with only 8 episodes makes it one of those rare shows that doesn’t divulge much into side plots or stray away from the main story. Essentially this is a comedy-drama with a sprinkle of science fiction/fantasy.

Natasha Lyonne’s character Nadia staring into the mirror

Without giving too much away, the show starts off with Nadia a cynical software engineer (played by Natasha Lyonne) who is staring at a mirror in a bathroom on her 36th birthday, at a party her friends have thrown for her. Beyond that the show dives into the surreal where Nadia starts to relive her birthday again and again with sheer dark humor. She spends the remaining of the show trying to find answers as to why this is happening while simultaneously pondering life, her relationships with people and her past.

The first episode does struggle to find it’s footing at first but the show goes leaps and bounds beyond my expectation, I am so very glad I stuck with the show. It is surprisingly whimsical and intelligent with a strong female lead character. At first the show can come across as slightly pretentious but trust me there is a good reason for all the choices made in the show, be it music or characterizations or even character choices. My favorite was the use of a book (Emily of New Moon) as a narrative device for the show. Anyone who has been passionate about a book or has a favorite “go to” book would understand why this is in the show and why Nadia is so attached to it.

Natasha Lyonne’s character Nadia with the book (Emily of New Moon)

My worry at first was how would a new Netflix show use a redundant narrative tool of time loop, where the main character relives the same day over and over again, and make it original and fresh. (Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code, Happy Death Day all used this same narrative device, some with success) Although my worry did not go away in the first 2 episodes, it was at the end of the 3rd episode that my interest piqued by a twist which I wish wasn’t ruined by the trailer. But even with that, the show is very strong and gets better with each engaging episode. There were times where I laughed and times where I honestly felt such high levels of tension to the point of feeling sick with dread with the sheer intensity of stress and drama. The show very intelligently flips through the emotions and tones with each episode, making the viewer hold on for a fun yet valuable ride down the rabbit hole. It is not very often that a show executes multiple tonal shifts successfully, but Russian Doll does it.

Let’s take a moment and talk about the women responsible for this show. This show is entirely created, written and directed by women. The creators are Natasha Lyonne (who is also the lead of the show, and plays her character astonishing well) Amy Poehler (writer-actor of Parks and Recreation, and of Saturday Night Live fame) and Leslye Headland (who has written several shows and movies throughout her career).

Left to right: Cindy Holland (VP of Netflix Original Series), Amy Poehler, Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland)

This powerhouse trio made one of the best new comedy/dramas I have seen. They make the viewer extremely invested and involved through the show and I kept thinking and coming up with my own theories as I was watching. There are so many subtle hints and easter eggs, it really makes the show a joy to watch.

If you like shows with strong characters and a unique plot with several twists, you will definitely like this show. When I started watching it I did not have very high expectations, which was a good thing, because this show proved me wrong. It is a show I should have never underestimated and I am glad there are talks of a Season 2.

I’m giving Russian Doll a 9 out of 10.
A slightly rocky beginning to an otherwise fantastically fun show that makes the viewer think and ponder on life and our choices of the past, present and future.

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