What would you do if you had to keep on reliving the same night, over and over again, only for it to end with a random and sudden death?
Well, for the main character in Netflix's newest dark comedy "Russian Doll," being stuck in a "Groundhog Day" time loop is the new reality for Nadia, who is brilliantly played by Natasha Lyonne, a co-creator and co-executive producer of the show.
Lyonne, who is best known for "Orange Is The New Black" and "American Pie" collaborated with fellow co-creators Amy Poehler and writer and director Leslye Headland on this eight-episode series that follows Lyonne's Nadia as she must relive her 36th birthday because she keeps on dying. And yes, it is somehow a comedy.
The mystery of Nadia's inevitable death is what immediately draws you into this show. Is she in purgatory? Did she really die? Is this all just a weird dream? It's the perfect show to be on Netflix because you can't wait to get to the next episode to see what happens.
The show is set in the East Village in New York City, where Nadia encounters an eclectic cast of characters who guide her on this journey of finding out why she can't escape death. Each of these people in her life make her confront the trauma that she has suffered throughout her life, which seems to have bubbled to the top on the night of her birthday.
The story of "Russian Doll" is a very human story, but the confines that Lyonne and Poehler have created for Nadia and this show is what sets it apart from other TV shows on today and makes it so special and insanely watchable.
The writing is incredible, and Lyonne spits out every line that Nadia says drenched in sarcasm and spunk. There are so many good one-liners critiquing today's culture, how crazy things were in the '90s and so much more, that you want to go back and hear the line one more time just to laugh again. The subject matter of this show is pretty heavy, but the ease that the characters possess makes things much lighter. You even start to laugh every time Nadia dies, which is an odd, yet hilarious situation to find yourself in.
But that just comes with the brilliance that is Lyonne and Poehler working together. If you're a fan of Lyonne's work, then "Russian Doll" is right up your alley. Many of Lyonne's characters have a chip on their shoulder (just look at her character Nicky in "Orange Is The New Black", who gets in trouble all the time for her mouth), so it only makes sense that Lyonne created this character for herself who mirrors a lot of the qualities that Lyonne sees in herself.
"It’s probably something closer to an autobiographical journey on my many dances with death, and skating around it in such a real way in my actual life, that it didn’t feel like a high concept, you know? This was based on my personal experiences, the rocky road I was living on," Lyonne told Rolling Stone in an interview.
Not only is Lyonne a co-creator, but she also co-writes many of the episodes alongside Poehler and Headland. She also directs some of the episodes. It's practically an all-female production team, which is incredibly refreshing to see.
Once Nadia starts to figure out her death day puzzle and the pieces begin to come together, that is when the urge comes to watch the show all over again. You start to realize that there might have been clues all along that would have helped you realize what Nadia's situation was in the first place. Little clues are sprinkled through the entire show, which just goes to show how clear of a vision the show's creators had when conceptualizing this project, which according to Lyonne, has been a few years in the making.
So please go and watch "Russian Doll." It's an incredible story about love, death, family, grieving, mental illness, forgiveness and even gentrification. All of these ideas and themes are slowly unpacked episode after episode, just like an actual Russian doll.
Graham Media Group 2019