After the success of both Parks and Recreation and Orange is the New Black, I was intrigued by a new Netflix series created by Amy Poehler and Natasha Lyonne. Many fans know them as Leslie Knope and Nicky Nichols, and I’m sure we can all agree they’d make a very interesting duo.
Immediately after seeing the promos for Russian Doll, it was clear that this was going to be a very different tone to their previous work, and felt incredibly offbeat and quirky in nature. The series follows a woman named Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) as she finds herself in a time-loop after she is hit by a taxi and dies. Unfortunately for Nadia, she has to relive her 36th birthday party over and over again. It’s Groundhog Day on speed, which is an utterly delightful concept.
Whilst it may sound similar to Groundhog Day, it’s actually a very unique story. At first it’s easy to worry about the repetitive nature of the series, considering Nadia spends most of her time dying and reliving the same moment. Somehow it manages to stay funny, fresh and watchable throughout all eight episodes. The pacing is spot-on and keeps you guessing, as you follow Nadia’s journey into discovering why she’s found herself in this loop. On this journey, she’s joined by a number of characters including her ex-boyfriend John (Yul Vazquez), close family friend Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley) and a stranger named Alan (Charlie Barnett) who is closer to this situation than he originally realizes.
As the series progresses, we begin to delve into some pretty heavy stuff. Without giving away spoilers, the episodes start to question morality, ethics, the past, and the future. Each character is so well fleshed out and we want to know more about them. It’s easy to become sucked into the world of Russian Doll, and trust me when I say it’s a binge worthy series. You won’t want to stop until you have answers. It’s a show that knows how to balance comedy and drama effectively, delivering laugh out loud then heart-wrenching moments in quick succession. You feel sorry for various characters and loathe others, and it’s an incredibly well fleshed out series.
In terms of its visuals, Russian Doll is a gritty, psychedelic glimpse into the lives of various New York City residents. We see rich and poor, confident and timid, good and bad characters as they go about their daily lives. It’s fascinating to watch and each location has been crafted to give you more insight into the characters in this world. From quirky high-rise apartments to homeless shelters, this series shows it all. It’s the Big Apple in all its glory, whether that’s good or bad.
My advice would be to walk into Russian Doll knowing as little as possible, allowing yourself to approach the situation in a similar way to Nadia. It’s a comedy, thriller and mystery all rolled into one, with each genre complementing the other superbly. As far as Netflix Originals go, this is one of the strongest ones I’ve seen so far. Eight episodes is just enough to keep you entertained, whilst still giving enough backstory to make it a compelling tale. Just when you think you know a character, the tables are turned and your jaw is on the floor.