Russian Doll Review
by Dillan-James Carter
Russian Doll has given new life to the Matryoshka novelty that sits in your granny’s display cabinet with an existential and intimate narrative along with the tour de force of Natasha Lyonne making it the best show 2019 has yet to offer. Russian Doll follows Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), a fatally flawed east village New Yorker as she celebrates her 36th birthday in an apartment that could easily have been owned by a 21st century Holly Golightly – without the yellowface neighbour. However, after ditching it for a casual hook-up and a cat hunt – she gets knocked down by a car, dying instantly.
Though instead of reaching the river Styx or the pearly gates, she ends up back at the apartment (in a very fashionable bathroom) awoken by Harry Nilsson’s ‘Gotta Get Up’ and so the Groundhog time loop begins. Though, unlike her Bill Murray counterpart, she engages in a ‘Philip Marlowesque’ hunt for the divine providence of her reoccurring death along with the straight-laced Alan (Charlie Bennet) equally stuck in his own death cycle, and the psychiatrist and mother substitute Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley) with the husky yet hypnotic voice of a seasoned smoker.
The success of Russian Doll is crucially linked to the brash confidence and charisma of Lyonne who also wrote and directed the series. The show is the embodiment of why we loved her so much in Orange is the New Black and the Slums of Beverly Hills; she can be darkly comical and defensive at one moment then genuine and candid the next all while maintaining a unique eccentricity. Though, due to the series lasting only eight episodes, her spontaneity never becomes laboursome and the pace is just right for the novelty of reanimation to be intriguing.
Russian Doll is ground-breaking TV, it is a show that has a high concept story that is not stretched out nor leaves the viewer feeling disappointed and unsatisfied. While also having Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler from Parks and Recreation and Leslye Headland, director of Bachelorette, have all shaped the female lead. Instead of portraying another Bechdel failing woman, we find a character who likes herself and does not blame the loop on her faults, but rather searches for the source of the never-ending spiral out of her control.
The unique story of Russian Doll blends the hard-hitting reality with philosophical undertones and a sardonic humour which doesn’t quit: making it an endearing watch, and one that makes you wish you had the ability to relive the day you binged it- without the gruesome deaths attached to it.