Spoilers are still looking for the cat.
Sometimes you find the better shows on a whim. That is the case of this series, which takes the now famous premise of Groundhog Day (1993) and adds its own spin on it. The day repeating itself might be part of the premise, but aside from that aspect it is is the actual character development and world built around them that adds colour and flavour to this show. The quirky feel will be an acquired taste for some viewers.
Russian Doll was created by Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler. Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) is celebrating her 36th birthday thrown by her friends Maxine (Greta Lee) and Lizzy (Rebecca Henderson). She ends up leaving the party and later in the evening gets run over by a car. The next moment she’s back in the bathroom at the party earlier. As she navigates the same day again, she finds herself eventually getting killed in different scenarios after which she returns back to the same day.
Depending on your mood, you’ll either find the dynamic between Nadia and her friends endearing or annoying. You might consider them pseudo-intellectuals or hipsters but the important thing is that they’re entertaining. Nadia herself has a bit of a laissez-faire attitude in which she can carry a conversation with a stranger or let the homeless man at the park give her a haircut while she keeps looking for her cat. It’s kind of a New York microcosm that you’ll either love or hate. If you are engaged, you’ll discover more twists and turns as the show progresses.
The other character in the show you’ll get to meet later is Alan (Charlie Barnett) who suffers from OCD and is reliving the day he went to propose to his girlfriend Beatrice (Dasha Polanco) and found out she has been sleeping with someone else and wants to break up. Alan is a complicated jungle of nerves, with compulsion and anxiety turned up to eleven. The fact that he won’t seek therapy because he’s scared of it is truly self-sabotage – that’s exactly what he needs. Instead he ends up running into Nadia and forming a bond first by convenience and then by actual friendship.
Does it work? Yes. I think it’s both brilliant and casual. The world of Nadia, where everyone we meet is a character that we run into again, is bright and colorful and also broken and full of pain. Nadia remains close with Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley), a therapist and a close friend of her mother. She’s a mother figure for Nadia and I found their relationship very warm and healing. I also liked the whole New York scene without the usual New York icons showing up every second which I truly appreciate.
Highly recommended with just one reservation. Yes, it’s a different take on the whole relive-the-day formula with a lot of personality and character. The characters will be either endearing or insufferable, and on that will hinge whether this is entertaining or annoying to you. Don’t expect grand vistas of New York landmarks, this is all street view and I’m glad for it. The time loop plot device is used to an incredible potential here aided by characters which seem real and familiar to us. Personally, I found the atmosphere and relationship dynamics of the characters interesting which hook me into watching the entire season in one day. I wouldn’t mind repeating that experience.
That will do for now.