Bureau42 Review: Russian Doll

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

Cast:

Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov
Greta Lee as Maxine
Yul Vazquez as John Reyes
Elizabeth Ashley as Ruth Brenner
Charlie Barnett as Alan Zaveri

Premise:

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.)

High Point:

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.

Low Point:

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.

The Scores:

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.

 

8 replies on “Bureau42 Review: Russian Doll”

  1. Damien says:

    Agreed on the ending – it felt like it the story wasn’t fully wrapped up but instead prepped for another season. According to an interview the show’s creators did (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/russian-doll-ending-explained-season-2-interview-1182320) it was pitched as a three season show, so hopefully they’ll be back.

  2. That’s interesting, I wasn’t sure where they could go since it felt like Nadia’s story was done except for living “happily” ever after, but obliviously they have something in mind. I hope we get to see it!

  3. Hitch says:

    Elizabeth Ashley kept making me think of Carrie Fisher for some reason. There’s almost zero actual resemblance, but something about her….

  4. JD DeLuzio says:

    Looking forward to seeing this in the near future.

    The time-loop premise, which goes back to at least 1941 (Malcolm Jameson’s short story “Doubled and Redoubled”), was also used in Before I Fall

  5. lost says:

    Being a bit vague to avoid spoilers.

    Yeah, the ending was a bit WTF-y. Not bad, but a bit WTF-y. I mean the very end, not the sequences immediately prior to it which were, at least to me, somewhat expected. The actual ending might even be a hint about what was really going on but without Word of God or another season, that is not particularly clear.

    I actually got a very strong Z’ha’dum vibe as the story approached its climax though the situation is clearly very different. It is also clear that there is something more going on than was revealed to either us or the characters. In fact, we don’t know much more, if anything, than the characters themselves do.

    Given how the subtleties evolve and their eventual conclusion, I think most apparent inconsistencies within the narrative could be explained as a result of said subtleties. The remainder are probably down to the things we don’t know yet.

  6. PuppetSocko says:

    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.

    Do you ever watch so many movies about time-loops that you feel like you’re watching the same movie, over and mover?

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