‘Baby Reindeer’ Review: Richard Gadd’s Dark Comedy Dives Deep into the Nightmare of Obsession

By Daniel Hart
Published: April 11, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
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Baby Reindeer Netflix Review
Richard Gadd playing Donny in Baby Reindeer (Credit - Netflix)
4.5

Summary

There’s a lot to unpack in Baby Reindeer, making it a highly surprising series.

I would find it disrespectful to Richard Gadd to summarise Baby Reindeer in a few words. It’s a highly deceptive series that proposes a premise of a down-in-luck and aspiring stand-up comedian who finds himself systematically harassed by an obsessive stalker. It’s embedded as a dark comedy, but by the time I reached the pivotal halfway point, it was more dark than laughs.

Baby Reindeer Has a Deeper Meaning and Lasting Impact

And so here is some advice to the audience who are about to delve into this Netflix series: no matter where you are in the story, always cast your minds back to when Donny (Gadd) meets his seemingly innocent stalker, Martha (Jessica Gunning) for the first time. Richard Gadd had a mission in mind when writing this wide-scoped series. It is based on a true story about his own experiences, after all. This is not a one-and-done series; it’s a spoken memoir detailing a horrifying phase in the creator’s life.

I hate to be dramatic, but Baby Reindeer is not a series that comes by often, and it should be handled with care. Gadd has his DNA all over it. He understands that he’s nakedly revealing a dark place in his mind, bringing a common theme in this universe: you attract who you are. If you are a loathing, lonely, toxic, and trauma-dumping individual, then you are likely to attract the same. It reminds me of Dan Pena bullishly telling his supporters, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” Baby Reindeer is the living manifestation of that idea.

The Premise Cannot Be Simply Summarized

And you are probably thinking, “What the hell is this story about?” That’s where I become stuck because multiple narratives change the entire story by the finale, yet it’s a reasonable question. If I told you that Donny suffers constant harassment from his stalker, and it dismantles his ability to live properly, and it gets worse over time, then I’d be kind of right but also sort of wrong. Baby Reindeer is deeply layered, with many swerving nuances that will catch you off guard.

Once the comedy of the stalking wears off, the series becomes a personality analysis, slicing away at Donny’s life.

While it’s based on Gadd’s experiences, I think he cleverly made his foretelling metaphorical, which is refreshingly smart. I’d argue that Martha represents a demon, playing out all of Donny’s wants and desires, tapping into his insecurities, and unraveling his past.

I must forewarn readers that Baby Reindeer surprisingly holds episodes that are frankly shocking and unexpected. Episode 4 especially comes with a stern warning. The context is refreshing and elevates the series, but I was stunned by the details presented. Richard Gadd openly puts his life into this story and deserves applause.

The performances are well choreographed, too. Gad and Jessica Gunning do a sublime job of capturing the misplaced, confusing chemistry between a stalker and a victim. Gad clearly understood that most people do not understand the experience of being stalked, so it’s unsurprising that the relationship between the main characters is complex, misguided, and frustrating.

Baby Reindeer is a limited series for all the right reasons. It serves its purpose by the finale. It provokes its viewers. It catches you off guard by mixing comedy with overwhelming darkness. It’s a hidden gem and a shiny one at that.


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