On the night of her thirty-sixth birthday New Yorker, Nadia Volkova (Natasha Lyonne) is killed in an accident. Then she wakes up her friend, Maxine’s (Greta Lee) bathroom at the start of her birthday party… and it keeps happening over and over with Nadia dying over and over doomed to relive the same day.
Desperate to know what it all means Nadia attempts to investigate what may have trapped her in the endless loop but it is not until she meets Alan (Charlie Barnett) that she starts to make any progress. Alan has died after his proposal to Beatrice (Dascha Polanco) is thwarted by his discovery that she is cheating on him with Mike (Jeremy Bobb) and he too is reliving the same day.
Soon the two realise that their lives have crossed over many times before but what does it all mean? And how do they make it stop?
Russian Doll is such a complex show that it is hard to do a review that will do it justice. Nadia and Alan are such interesting characters both damaged, neurotic and buried in unhealthy coping mechanisms but also absolute polar opposites. Lyonne is beyond amazing as the disaffected, brash, defensive Nadia. It feels like a role she was born to play. She is ably supported by Barnett who embodies Alan’s obsession with order, cleanliness and routine covering up a fear that he might be a complete failure at life.
Digging into the underlying message and meaning of the show could be a dissertation but the essence is about people needing other people both for support and perspective. It is also about the need to make peace with elements of your past and forgive both yourself and others. By reliving the same day Nadia and Alan both have the opportunity to grow and to deal with challenges and truths they have been avoiding.
For me the best part of the show was the friendship between Nadia and Alan. They are not two people who would naturally befriend each other but they come to care for each other intensely and also to drive each other’s healing.
The only thing I wish there was more of was a look into Alan’s past. Nadia’s backstory is very clear and cohesive and it is easy to understand what has made her the way she is. Alan’s is less so and it feels like a missed opportunity to understand him even more deeply.
I absolutely loved this show. It is nothing like Maniac but it reminded me of it in that it is an alternative look at mental health and the damage we all sustain just by being alive. If you have ever experienced even the edges of an existential crisis it is a must watch.