You appreciate Natasha Lyonne’s performance in Netflix series Russian Doll, but the whole concept driving the story gets a little irritating and repetitive.
As I was recapping the first episode of Netflix series Russian Doll, I remarked that it was about time the streaming giant gave Natasha Lyonne a solo gig. One of the shining bright stars of Orange is the New Black is Natasha’s character, often misunderstood and misplaced in the story. Credit is where credit is due, Natasha is an exceptional performer, even in less noticeable material she features in. Russian Doll relies on the actress, and it’s her series.
The story follows Nadia, a loud-mouthed New Yorker who is attending her birthday party. She looks in the mirror, with a fly buzzing around her, and decides to take on the party again. As boisterous as Nadia is, you can tell that Russian Doll is parading a character that is wild by default, stubborn and also covers her issues with humor. At the party, she wants to get laid, and she does, by some random gentleman who somehow gauges her sense of humor and style. Soon after on the same night, a car runs over Nadia, and as she lays there dead, the next scene is her looking at the same mirror in the party. She’s looped back to the beginning of the night.
Now, it takes a while for the character to realize she is in some time loop, firstly blaming it on drugs and her mental wellbeing, but the story is routinely Natasha Lyonne’s character figuring out how to stop looping back to the party. It’s the comedy that sells the concept, as we have all witnessed these types of time-travel, alternate timeline stories, and tightening it into a narrative was always going to be a hard feat.
And the Netflix series does struggle to keep the concept entertaining. Despite the strong performances from the lead actress, Russian Doll does get tired halfway through the series. I’m not surprised the creators decided to keep the episodes around the 25-minute mark, because having full-hour chapters would have been courageous. At one point, I did sigh as Nadia experienced the loop again, coming out the other end with expletives and the New Yorker vibe.
Fortunately, the series does get more intriguing after the halfway point due to an unforeseen twist that is not present in the trailers. Because of the twist, Russian Doll keeps you engaged, and adds more comedy to the drama. Despite my criticism of the repetitive storyline, which was unavoidable given the concept, I would recommend watching Netflix’s Russian Doll if you want to see Natasha Lyonne on her own stage.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.