TV Review: Russian Doll

Along with newest releases Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened and Sex Education, Russian Doll is another of the Netflix originals that has graced our screens this year.


“Lyonne’s dark humour forms the characterisation of the protagonist”

The show stars Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black, American Pie film series) and Charlie Barnett (Chicago Fire). Created by Lyonne, Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), and Leslye Headland (comedy screenwriter known for rom-com Bachelorette), the show embodies their shared comedy. Headland’s work as a comedy screenwriter helps to drive the plot, Poehler’s improvisational comedy skills are conveyed through offhand character comments such as “I love that you’re a c**t. It makes me feel morally superior”, and Lyonne’s dark humour forms the characterisation of the protagonist, making for an excellent dark comedy programme. (Plus, the series is made up of 8 half-hour episodes, making it thoroughly bingeable.)

“the audience forced into the same constant loop as Nadia herself”

The show follows much the same premise of 2017 film, Happy Death Day (just without the creepy mask); the protagonist, Nadia Vulvokov (Lyonne), keeps dying and finding herself back in her bathroom at her 36th birthday party, forced to relive the events of the day. She has to experiment with some of the seemingly endless number of possible outcomes in a way almost reminiscent of Netflix’s own interactive film, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

It is for this reason that the first two episodes could be construed as slightly slow, the audience forced into the same constant loop as Nadia herself, watching her die in various ways from being hit by a car, to falling down a hole, to a montage of her falling down the stairs, only to end up back in the bathroom listening to ‘Gotta Get Up’ by Harry Nilsson play yet again (although, it is undoubtedly catchy).

“They set about trying to find out why they keep dying”””

But if you hang in until episode three, things take an interesting turn when Nadia meets slightly OCD introvert, Alan Zaveri (Barnett). He has encountered much the same problem as Nadia in that he keeps reliving the same day, only this day is arguably the worst of his life. Finding out that the two of them are, in some way, connected, they set about trying to find out why they keep dying, and why they keep being transported back to the same moment in time.

“Lyonne’s character is sensationally presented as somewhat of an extension of her own person”

Lyonne’s character is sensationally presented as somewhat of an extension of her own person. Nadia’s casual drug use, coupled with her dark humour and witty remarks, make her a lovable character despite her flaws. Maybe it is these supposed ‘flaws’ that allow Nadia to work with Alan in such a humorous way. She is outspoken compared to his more reserved character, meaning that the two can juxtapose each other in such a way that they fit quite well as a pairing, their bond growing through their experiences throughout the series.

There has been quite a bit of speculation regarding the ending of Russian Doll, some viewers not fully understanding what happens, as the idea of parallel universes is brought into play. Regardless, the series finale leaves just enough unanswered to maintain the interest of the audience and leaves an opening for Nadia to return in a second season, which is supposedly already on the cards.


Emma Walsh

Featured Image courtesy of 3 Arts Entertainment and Netflix via IMDb.

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