Russian Doll

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Ever watched Groundhog Day? You like that? Cool, cus this is like that, but metaphysical, oooh.

Okay. Sorry for being snarky. The show’s actually good, I’m just mean.

The story is centred around Nadia, a 36 year old hard-drinking, hard-partying degenerate who finds herself living the same day over and over again after getting run over by a taxi on her birthday. Familiar premise, but the show’s not trying to reinvent the wheel here, it’s just attempting to tell a good story. And it succeeds. The story, while familiar, is immediately arresting, due in no small part to some great casting and wildly entertaining performances. All of the players in the show were pitch perfect in their parts, adding much needed humour to roles that should have essentially been bit parts. Special mention has to go to Natasha Lyonne for fleshing out what could have potentially been a one note performance, giving nuance and pathos to a character that is, at first glance, massively unlikeable.

And wow, unlikeable she is.

When we first meet Nadia, she’s a brash, caustic New Yorker with the sharpest mouth this side of HBO. She’s a wham, bam, thank you ma’am kinda woman, which is more than emphasised during the sexual tryst she has with a party attendee early in the first episode. Essentially, she is a woman completely bereft of fucks to give. And then she dies. And dies again. And again.

And again.

Each death almost serves as an onion layer, which, when peeled back, reveals a little bit more about our protagonist. We discover the reasons for her hardness. We understand the reasons she is the way she is, and by the end of the season, she becomes possibly one of the most sympathetic television characters I have seen in quite some time. Her journey is legitimately affecting, and I honestly devoured episode after episode in an attempt to learn a little bit more about who she was as a person. It’s basically Breaking Bad in reverse: an asshole learns little by little how to be a decent human being. In essence, the show is barely about its time-travel gimmick, instead using it as a plot device and an insight into the mind of a troubled, but utterly sensational character.

I realise I’ve made this show sound a bit more dramatic than it actually is, so let me put your mind at ease: it’s also quite funny. One particular scene of note would be the one where Nadia tries to navigate a flight of stairs without dying. And fails. Repeatedly. You wouldn’t think they’d find a way to make multiple gruesome deaths somehow hilarious, and yet, here we are.

All in all, the show serves not just as a kitschy rip-off of a rip-off. It actually has heart to go with Natasha Lyonne’s copious helpings of snark. It explores what it means to live with the effects of a traumatic childhood, and the long-lasting effects it can have on a person well into adulthood (which is honestly not what I was expecting from something that was sold to me

as another silly little time-travel show). It’s great, it’s sad, it’s well acted, it’s well shot. It’s just dope. So, yeah, check it out.

But, real quick, what the hell was that ending though?

Subomi Odanye