Netflix’s Russian Doll presents existential crisis after existential crisis until you’re having your own just trying to understand exactly what’s going on. Starring Orange is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll is the newest show that will have viewers either on the edge of their seats, wanting more or completely lost and frustrated by the abstract plot.
Nadia Vulvokov (Lyonne) finds herself caught in a time loop where she must relive her 36th birthday after dying a new death each night. Hypothermia, hit by a car, gas leak explosion and death by staircase are just a few of the experiences Nadia endures as she navigates through this journey of introspection.
Similar to how a video game saves a player’s progress where they can then later “respawn”, Nadia “respawns” in front of a bathroom mirror where her exhausted face stares into the camera as if she’s asking the audience, “Seriously, again?”
Just as Nadia is confused as to what exactly is happening and why the viewer is left asking the same thing in frustration because the show never explicitly answers those questions. Just when you think you have the answer, a new element or mystery is thrown in to reset you back to square one just as if you’re the one in Nadia’s shoes staring into that bathroom mirror.
One of these plot twists is Alan Zaveri (Charlie Barnett), a complete contrast to Nadia’s sarcastic, harsh personality, who is trapped in the same death loop as Nadia. When the two discover that they’re on this existential journey together, they battle with the alternate universes as they die and die again trying to discover answers. Love, depression, drugs and sex are the helm of their struggles that they must relive day after day until the loop is broken.
Aforementioned, the show really gives off two reactions: love or hate. Firstly, the concept of being trapped in a death loop or reliving the same day until you solve the ultimate riddle that unlocks the cycle is not new; watch Happy Death Day or Naked and you’ll understand. Secondly, because of the mystery of the time loop the plot moves very slowly. The characters obviously need time to discover what exactly is happening to them before they can pursue why. However, within the 30 minute long episodes, only about 5 of those minutes are exciting. Now, some might find the pace of the show alluring and suspenseful, but it’s easy to get bored if you’re not hooked from the beginning.
It is worth noting that the cinematography, especially in the later episodes, is complementary to the story of these alternate universes Nadia and Alan experience. When the two end up in separate timelines, the split screen display allows for the viewer to really experience both characters’ points of views.
Check out the show for yourself and let us know what you think. It’s hard to tell if there will be a second season as the final episode ends with a joyous moment that still leaves questions unanswered, but viewers could easily satisfy themselves with their own theories.