Russian Doll Review by Wei Chee Chen #QuestusReviewus

Russian Doll is a comedy-drama television show that aired in 2019. The entire television show is about two protagonists named Nadia and Alan. They are both reliving the same day(s) over and over again, and they realized later on that they were dying at the same time. The plot to this television show isn’t unique, taking the idea from other shows and movies. Some examples are Happy Death Day (2017) and Groundhog Day (1993). However, the show has some unique twists that these other movies don’t have.

Since the plot wasn’t unique to me, I didn’t find the show interesting—even found it a little slow—for the first few episodes when it was just about Nadia. Once Alan was introduced for the first time in the elevator, I was finally eager to binge watch the show and learn about the new twist to the plot. Although I found Nadia’s personality annoying, I enjoyed the idea of completely different personalities for the two protagonists: one was completely carefree and another cared too much. Nadia was completely carefree and always smoking or drinking; Alan was very detail-oriented and clean, making the viewers assume that he was OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Nadia had a complicated past with her dead mother, and the audience only catches glimpses of the past that accumulate into what actually happened between them. Alan would recite affirmations every morning such as “I am beautiful. I am loved,” making it seem as though he doesn’t believe he’s loved or beautiful. Nadia’s death was mostly ironic and funny, and the first death was getting hit by a car because she wanted to get her lost cat. Alan’s first death was suicide by jumping off of a building since he was so sad that he was dumped by his girlfriend.

Another aspect of the show that should’ve been better was the change in the point of view (POV). Since the plot was building, I was aware of all the small details and one of them was the change in the point of view. I mainly noticed it with Nadia when she started to relive her day(s) in the beginning of the death loop. The two main point of views were first-person and third-person point of views. Nadia would walk on the street and then the POV would switch to first-person point of view, so the audience could notice the people or items that Nadia was observing. I liked the idea of letting the audience figure out about items and living organisms rotting, dying, and disappearing, even if the point of view made it obvious with the flowers drooping. I can see how the POV can be helpful if the audience thinks back to what happened in the show such as seeing the flower drooping or noticing Alan drunk at the store in the first episode.

One small improvement should be more character development with Alan. I understand that he has a girlfriend that wants to end the relationship, but I want to know why he needs to recite affirmations and why he’s depressed. Did something happen in his past with his family? The audience figures out Nadia’s relationship with her mom, but they don’t know much about Alan’s past relationship.

I enjoyed the distortion of time in the Russian Doll. Most shows have a timeline, but in the show, it would flash back into Nadia’s past life as a young girl. The audience would never know when they would be flashed back into the past, but the flashbacks helped fill in some past information about Nadia for the audience. Another distortion of time in the Russian Doll is when the two characters would live for longer by a day or two, which made me interested to see if the two main characters finally figured out how to stay alive. Some examples were when Nadia saved Ruth from the gas leak or visited her ex-boyfriend’s daughter for the first time. At other times, they would die ironically, which was sometimes funny and fit into the “comedy” genre of the show.

Overall, after I got past the first few episodes, I was hooked on the show and binged watch the rest of the episodes. I had to keep watching to figure out why two characters were stuck in the same death loop. As a comedy should, I ended up laughing towards the end after I realized how ironic Nadia’s death were. I loved the balance between the two main characters’ life, and I like how Russian Doll changed the idea of a death loop by adding two characters that live through the death loops.