Earlier this year, Netflix released a show that flew under everyone’s radar, but might already be one of the best shows of 2019. That show is Russian Doll.
Created by Natasha Lyonne, who you might recognise as Nicky from Orange is the New Black, and Amy Poehler, of course from Parks and Rec and SNL, Russian Doll seems to have all the right requisites to be a killer comedy. And the series is very funny, but almost in a guilt-inducing way, as it is also extremely sad and heart-breaking.
The series has a high-concept premise: Nadia (Lyonne), who looks “like if Andrew Dice Clay and the little girl from Brave made a baby”, is stuck in a time loop. She keeps dying the day after her 36th birthday and wakes up again and again, standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom at her birthday party.
She needs to find out what is causing this and how to break out of it. And during her investigations she stumbles upon someone who, weirdly enough, is in her exact same situation, a guy named Alan (Charlie Barnett).
In the second half of the series, the two need to find each other in every new reboot, all while coming to terms with their mental health, their own past and the choices that have brought them to where they are.
The show has an immaculate flow. It builds layer upon layer of surprises until the bittersweet end. Digging too deep into what makes this show great would mean betraying too many of its secrets, and the joy of discovering them is just too much fun to ruin in a review.
Russian Doll is a twisty and complex puzzle and at no point does it lose its soul. The structure never feels tight or refraining. It is free-wheeling yet contained, intricate yet grounded, complex yet relatable. And it accomplishes what most shows are unable to pull off – it tells a universal human story in a specific and carefully constructed world.