Possibly best left as a one-off triumph, the comedy series returns for more existential madness. Natasha Lyonne is sensational as the wisecracking Nadia in this hilarious and inventive show.
This review of the Netflix series Russian Doll season 2 does not contain any significant spoilers.
Just over three years have passed since Russian Doll first debuted on the small screen, all the way back in February 2019, and a lot has changed in that challenging, traumatic period of time. We’ve had to endure a global pandemic and multiple lockdowns, among other things, which in a lot of ways taught us the importance of family and the fragility of life. Co-creator, writer, director, and star Natasha Lyonne, like the rest of us, also learned this valuable lesson and runs with it in season two of the hit time loopy TV show.
The first season was an inventive and highly original comedy about Nadia Vulvokov, a potty-mouthed, chain-smoking software engineer caught in an endless time loop, reliving her thirty-sixth birthday party, where she continually died in a multitude of horrific ways. The second season decides to scrap the Groundhog Day concept and journeys into a different time-related field: enter the New York six train, which conveniently transforms into a time-traveling portal to the not too distant past. Nadia takes the subway home one day and ends up traversing the raging eighties instead, where she hopes to rewrite history and save her cursed family from its unfortunate past.
Nadia is as charming as ever, finding great humor and limitless irony in all her many encounters and observations whilst on her philosophical jaunt through the past. The existential madness only intensifies when Nadia discovers who actually stole her grandmother’s fortune and her rightful inheritance all those years ago, which she strives to return on her time-traveling mission. Nadia is doggedly determined to once again beat the very laws of space and time, stubbornly pursuing her goals at any cost. Close friend Alan (Charlie Barnett), who was also stuck in a never-ending time loop with Nadia last season, tries to warn her about the rules of time travel, but she seems more belligerent than ever.
The now commonplace time travel concept allows Nadia the opportunity to spend some precious time with her family. Cue the welcomed return of her psychotic mother Lenora (played by Chloe Sevigny) and the introduction of Nadia’s fiery grandmother Vera. There are also additional cast members in Sharlto Copley (District 9) and Schitt’s Creek star Annie Murphy, who both inhabit this eighties terrain. They’re clearly having a ball playing dress-up in this crazy comedy.
By exploring Nadia’s family history the show makes room for some emotional insight, as Alan and Nadia reconnect with their roots. It’s not overly sentimental or extensively moving, but there is thought and care in this plotting. Overall the writing isn’t as groundbreaking as the original though. The comedy is weaker and the endless tangents the show embarks upon do start to feel repetitive and tiring after a while. It has somewhat lost its spark in those three years away, but there is lots to praise as well, after all this is still a series that delivers, outshining most of the content out there today.
The series is grounded by a stunning Natasha Lyonne as our firecracker lead. This career-best performance from the New Yorker as the iconic and often hilarious Nadia has been sorely missed from our TV screens. She completely embodies the role in stirring fashion, with her genius evident off-screen as well. Lyonne writes and directs, bringing her unique style to the more experimental aspects of the show. Russian Doll is intriguing and unpredictable, with its own distinct edge. It may not have needed a sequel, but it makes for a comforting return to a whacky pre-Covid 19 world. I for one look forward to Nadia and Alan’s future endeavors.
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You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.