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.

Wei Chee Chen’s Review of The OA Season 1 #questusreviewus

The OA is a mystery television show with a little bit of fantasy, romance, and science fiction. Overall, I really enjoyed watching the entire television show, so much that I ended up binge watching the show on top of a busy college student schedule during the school week. I loved how they added the supernatural elements throughout the show, starting off with Prairie Johnson receiving her eyesight back. I also enjoyed the way the directors depicted Hap’s crazy addiction and research to figure out more about the people that have near-death experiences (NDEs).

The show started off mysterious that kept me wondering what happened to Prairie’s eyes and why she was missing for so many years. The beginning of the show piqued my interest—something most shows don’t do since plots usually take too long to develop—by including Prairie’s first story about her childhood and how she lost her eyesight in Russia in the first episode. In the middle of the season, when Prairie tried to drug Hap, my heart was beating so fast. This part was filmed very well, evoking emotions that sided with Prairie when she was trying to put the crushed up sleeping pills into the stew. Another part of the show I enjoyed was when Alfonso found the books in Prairie’s room. I felt as distraught as the characters in the show, but I wouldn’t accept that Prairie’s stories were all lies and that she was just recovering from being locked up for eight years.

One part I didn’t enjoy was how they portrayed Prairie’s near-death experience; it seemed very inconsistent compared to the rest of the show. The colors were completely different with the neon purples, blues, and pinks against a black background. When Prairie swallowed the creature from the pond, it was glowing into bright lights even as the creature went down her throat. Although the near-death experience is part of the fantasy aspect of the show, the other captured people’s NDEs looked very realistic such as Homer swallowing a fish without anything glowing out of his body. I like how the directors ended the show with a mystery on whether she traveled to a different dimension or not, except watching the trailer to the second season immediately after gave away the ending to the first season.

The ending needed work as well, and other characters needed more development. The ending seemed rushed and unrealistic with the school shooting, why the kids and BBA suddenly started dancing, and how the bullet ended up hitting Prairie. Out of the five kids and BBA, Buck’s and Jesse’s story needed more development on their current situation. For Jesse, I knew his parents weren’t around and that he was a stoner, but I wanted more characterization.

I would definitely recommend this show for people to watch if they like mystery with a little science fiction. After getting through the first two episodes, I think those watching will want to keep watching to just figure out the ending. The plot is unique and creative, and I think the show is worth a watch.

Pierre; or, The Ambiguities #questusreviewus – Wei Chee Chen

I would not have finished the book if I didn’t have forced reading quizzes in my English course. Parts of the book had pages and pages of text without any breaks, which was followed by another large block of text about insignificant details of the novel like Pierre in the forest while thinking about a rock. Even while forced to read the novel, I still had to skim about a fourth of the novel to get the meaning of a section—I still didn’t understand the meaning even after skimming multiple times. I wouldn’t have finished reading the required pages in time without skimming, and would’ve been a miserable waste of time reading to understand every part of the novel.

The only interesting part of Pierre is the plot. I was truly interested in the readings that had quotes when the characters of the novel were interacting with one another, and mainly because it was weird. I only continued reading because a mom was calling her own son her “brother,” or Pierre’s weird impromptu decisions with Isabelle. The characters definitely do not follow the norm, especially in today’s society. I was so appalled at the plot that I told everyone around me what was going on in my reading. The plot pushed me past those long pages of text that Melville seems to think is “philosophical.” Melville may have tried too hard to make a better novel than Moby Dick after receiving negative reviews, but it only made parts of the book difficult to read continuously.

After watching The Eagleman Stag, a BAFTA winning short film that is also ambiguous, I realize that this review is only based on reading the book one time. The Eagleman Stag is about meditations on time that can easily be missed by watching it only one time. The first time I watched the short film, I had no idea what was going on and why Peter, the main character of the film, would do all the crazy choices he does. The second time watching it, I realize there is a deeper meaning that involved cyclical natures in life such as being a baby to becoming an old person that ends up acting like a child again. Maybe, just maybe, rereading the book will help people understand some of the ambiguities that Melville is trying to achieve, but I will not be one of those people rereading it unless forced to.