Natasha Lyonne flexes her creative muscles in the new Netflix show “Russian Doll” as humor and wit abound in a fresh new take on a common premise. The show follows 36-year-old Nadia Vulvokov (Lyonne) who dies in a freak accident on her birthday only to wake up in her friend’s bizarre bathroom and live the day over again. And again. And again.
Nadia’s first repeat leaves her thinking she’s experiencing deja vu, perhaps brought on by a hit of a mysterious joint, but things quickly go off the rails as she continues to die and relive her birthday in different ways, and somehow as the story goes on it never feels repetitive even for a moment.
“Russian Doll” is a beautiful story about loss, coping with the past and letting people into your life. Nadia’s struggles feel real and relatable and her vices and flaws only serve to make her a better character whose compelling story is impossible to ignore.
Nadia, desperate to prove to herself she is not crazy, fixates on a birthday joint, hoping that its mysterious contents are the cause of her experience. This desperation and hope that she isn’t crazy is one of the show’s most compelling moments.
Who wouldn’t be terrified in her shoes? Who wouldn’t look for anything, any possible reason that would mean they weren’t actually going insane? Nadia’s desperation is captured perfectly in incredible acting by Lyonne and excellent framing and shots that make the scene feel rushed and stressed.
The show shines in its ability to keep the audience just confused enough to keep them on the edge of their seats without losing them as they follow Nadia down a proverbial rabbit hole of questions and mystery.
When we meet Alan at the end of episode three, Nadia discovers she isn’t alone in her struggle. Just before they die in an elevator both Nadia and the audience realize that somehow, Alan has been trapped in the same cycle of death and life.
The audience is left wondering, asking questions and wanting more. As Nadia and Alan struggle to find each other again, we aren’t spoon-fed answers. The story takes its time, letting the audience speculate and wonder what could be happening and even when we do get answers, the characters themselves aren’t fully sure the conclusions they’ve drawn are right.
“Russian Doll” is refreshing in that it isn’t afraid not to answer all of the audience’s questions. Nadia and Alan are in no way experts on what is happening to them so it would feel unnatural if they suddenly had all of the answers. The show chooses instead to let the audience’s imagination fill in the gaps.
The show imparts its message of helping others and living a full life beautifully, and the finale ends on a high if somewhat confusing note. Overall this show is an intriguing must watch that demands your full attention.