After death, you get another try. The concept isn’t new, we’ve been used to this sort of thing happening ever since we first picked up Mario’s controller and ran into a mushroom and started the level over with this new found knowledge that mushrooms are deadly. Remember when Groundhog Day made us chuckle as Bill Murray relived the same day? Then we got the action movie treatment when Tom Cruise did it in Edge of Tomorrow. There was also that recent slasher horror movie Happy Death Day (and its sequel in theaters now, Happy Death Day 2U.) Star Trek even gave us a time loop in TNG’s Cause and Effect and Discovery‘s Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.
On February 1st, Netflix dropped Russian Doll, a story of Nadia who finds herself in this trap, reliving her 36th birthday. With eight half-hour episodes and a total run time around four hours this is a show you can binge watch all in an evening. This is definitely not a show for kids. The Bureau42 review for it is here, but be wary; It attempts to stay vague but it is difficult to discuss without spoiling more.
Title: “Russian Doll”
Creators: Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler
Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov
Greta Lee as Maxine
Yul Vazquez as John Reyes
Elizabeth Ashley as Ruth Brenner
Charlie Barnett as Alan Zaveri
Nadia keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party. She’s trapped in a surreal time loop — and staring down the barrel of her own mortality. (From Trakt.)
Nadia is a strong woman who has a good head on her shoulders and acts rationally in this highly irrational world. Additionally, Nadia, and the show, doesn’t pull any punches.
We get enough of an answer, and we get a complete story, but we don’t get a real explanation for why things happen. This is kind of a nit pick, because the show gives a satisfying conclusion, but I am not sure it was entirely internally consistent.
Originality: 3/6 As stated earlier, the premise is one we have seen before, but the reasoning and approach is explored in a way that isn’t as common.
Effects: 5/6 There aren’t effects to comment on, other than a few messes that are created, and everything that is depicted is depicted convincingly.
Acting: 5/6 Nadia nails her part, Alan seems a bit wooden, Maxine a bit daft, Ruth seems like she might be a crazy lady rather than a therapist, but I believe this is the way each character is supposed to be. That is, the characters themselves are all dialed up to eleven, not that the actors are taking it too far.
Production: 6/6 The production is excellent, letting you keep track as things reset and repeat, and occasionally giving you visual clues to help keep things straight later on.
Story: 6/6 The story pulls you in right away, as Nadia realizes she reliving the same day and immediately begins to problem solve. She’s more interested in why and how it’s happening to her, and takes a very rational approach to it. By the end, subtleties from earlier begin to pile up, and just after the audience begins to notice, the characters do and begin to address it.
Emotional Response: 4/6 It was very engaging. Not all of their issues evoke compassion from the audience as the urgency of the immediate situations, but the character’s decisions come across relatable.
Overall: 6/6 While it is difficult to continue the story without cheapening what was already presented, much more of this show would be very welcomed.
In total, “Russian Doll” receives 35/42.