Trying to make it down a flight of stairs without killing yourself over and over gives a whole new meaning to the word hell. Russian Doll is the journey of a woman stuck in an unending time loop desperately looking for a way out. While there are some interesting and funny moments, certain plot elements introduced are never fully explored.
With her birthday party in full swing, Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) decides not to stay long and is out on the town. Spotting her lost cat, Oatmeal, on the opposite side of the street, she runs after him and is struck by a car.
Confused, she finds herself back at her birthday party staring into a bathroom mirror. After several more unintended deaths, Nadia discovers that she is stuck reliving the same day with no hope of escape.
During one of her many deaths, she encounters Alan Zaveri (Charlie Barnett) on an elevator in freefall. Before they hit the ground, Alan confides in her he dies all the time too. On the next loop, she manages to track him down, and they begin their quest to find a way out.
It’s not long until these two unique personalities come into conflict providing a good amount of comedic relief. Nadia has a tell it like it is New York attitude, and is more of a sex, drugs, and rock and roll kind of girl.
Alan is shy with a serious obsessive-compulsive disorder and kindness that leaves him at the mercy of others. No matter how bad one of his loops has been, he always has time to wait in the lobby of his building to open the door for an elderly man.
It’s not long before Nadia drags Alan from his comfort zone so he can face down the personal demons ruining his life. Lyonne and Barnett have a rich on-screen chemistry that will have audiences rooting for the duo as they go from one problem to the next.
There are a few memorable moments with the best being Nadia stuck at her birthday dying repeatedly as she tries to navigate down a flight of stairs. A catchy tune can be heard in the background and her frustration intensifies at the start of each loop. With no hope left, she finally discovers the fire escape that will become her main exit for the remainder of the season.
Nadia’s relationship with a homeless man named Horse (Brendan Sexton) feels like a missed opportunity. This bum, who has a weird obsession with Nadia’s hair, is encountered multiple times throughout the season. Subtle hints are given that he has a bigger part to play, but his story arch goes nowhere.
The great mystery as to why Nadia and Alan keep reliving the same day is never answered. It’s a disappointment to reach the finale only to find you know just as much as when you started. A few more details could have been given without wrecking any plans the creators had for another season.
Russian Doll builds up with each episode and leaves a lot unexplained at the ending. Natasha Lyonne’s amazing performance as the no-nonsense New Yorker Nadia Vulvokov along with Charlie Barnett helps to offset most of the lacking story elements.