‘Russian Doll’: When ‘Groundhog Day’ meets ‘Happy Death Day’
Nadia Volvokov (Natasha Lyonne) finds it ironic to be going through a rough patch on her 36th birthday. By “rough patch,” we mean the Matryoshka doll-like dilemma Nadia can’t seem to extricate herself out of.
She keeps dying violent deaths, then finds herself resurrected in the birthday party organized by her coke-sniffing lesbian friend, Maxine (Greta Lee). Yes, it’s “Groundhog Day” meets “Happy Death Day”—with a twist!
Such is the compelling conflict fueling the narrative engine of “Russian Doll,” the eight-episode Netflix series that’ll be streamed starting tomorrow.
Nadia isn’t interested in attending her own party because there are more pressing issues that require her attention: Her beloved cat Oatmeal has been missing for three days, and John (Yul Vazquez), the married guy she’s been having a yearlong on-again, off-again affair with, wants her to meet his less-than-friendly tween daughter.
Nadia is a freelance software engineer who attributes her youthful looks to bad attitude. But when she gets hit by a speeding taxi while she’s in hot pursuit of her cat and dies, she quickly realizes with great horror that it’s going to be the first of many violent deaths.
In fact, when she succumbs to a gas explosion, a bike accident and a gunshot wound in Episode 5, she has already died 15 times by then!
Nadia’s situation takes a perplexing turn when she finds out that she isn’t the only one who has gotten herself into a similar pickle: Alan Zaveri (Charlie Barnett), the inebriated stranger she crossed paths with at the convenience store in the neighborhood, is having the same problem.
Strangely, Alan was also at her party to confront his cheating girlfriend’s lover!
But what does Nadia have in common with the muscular neat freak who has difficulty controlling his temper?
The show gets loopier as it eases into its confounding finale. But there’s something about “Russian Doll” that suggests there’s more to it than its thought-provoking psychobabble, especially when its characters dispense advice or reminders like, “Don’t confuse your mother with your damn age.” (This bit of info becomes key to understanding Nadia’s woes.)
Alan and Nadia grudgingly team up to find the reason behind their cyclical deaths.
In Episode 6, while Nadia begins to see her dilemma as a corrective situation that allows her to make the wrong things right, she finds it even more mind-boggling that, while she remembers how she died the first time, Alan doesn’t!
But as a well-meaning friend once told Nadia: Mysticism teaches that there’s wisdom inaccessible to the intellect.
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