Nothing in This World Is Easy
The Great Escape
A Warm Body
The Way Out
While the concept itself isn’t wholly original, 8 part comedy Russian Doll throws enough spanners in the works to make for an engaging and highly enjoyable show. With well written characters and a strong mystical theme tying everything together, Russian Doll is one of the biggest surprises of the year. It also packs one heck of a finale too with a couple of big shockers and one final thought-provoking twist at the end used to close the show out on a high.
The main crux of the story revolves around party girl Nadia; a woman who keeps experiencing the same night over and over again after dying on her birthday. From Happy Death Day and The Butterfly Effect right through to Groundhog Day, this concept of reliving the same day repeatedly is something that’s been a constant trope in film and TV. Thankfully, Russian Doll is original enough to make this concept feel surprisingly fresh, with both flair and a strong thematic core to keep things original.
After becoming accustomed to Nadia’s routine and experiencing the same night with her over and over again, what follows is a journey that sees her try to piece together what’s happening to her. With each subsequent death, more revelations come to light. From rotting vegetables and items disappearing, through to some pretty dark past events coming back to haunt her, this constant charade of weird and off-kilter things quickly become more important the longer the show goes on for.
Just as you begin to get comfortable with the set up of the show, a clever plot twist midway through turns the entire series on its head and changes the entire dynamic at play here. As more secrets and clues are slowly revealed, this all builds toward a climactic finale where one final twist keeps the surprises going right up to the end. While some may not like the open ending, personally I think this ending perfectly encapsulates the themes and mystery surrounding the show. I won’t divulge what happens but suffice to say the final scene of the show brings some clarity but enough questions here to keep fans talking about this one for a while. It’s also highly unlikely this will return for a second season and in many ways, I hope it doesn’t.
What begins as an outright comedy slowly evolves to a much more dramatic mystery with bites of humour sprinkled in. There’s some clever little Easter eggs and foreshadowing here too and what begins as a simple comedy quickly becomes much more profound and surprisingly dark. The moral ambiguity around death and why Nadia in particular has to repeat the same day is something that really helps drive the characters, and the theme, of the show forward. It’s something that’s explored constantly here too; whether it be karma, the concept of parallel universes or anything in between, Russian Doll keeps us guessing right through to the end.
Ultimately it’s the characters that really sell the concept of the show. While Nadia is the central character and the one who drives the narrative forward, the supporting cast all have their own vital roles that make this world feel real. I won’t divulge who these are, especially given the plot twist midway through, but suffice to say it’s something that becomes much more important the longer the show goes on. Russian Doll is definitely one of the biggest surprises this year and one well worth watching. The writing is solid, the acting on point and the various little twists along the way are clever enough to keep you guessing right through to the end. If there’s one show you watch this weekend, make sure it’s Russian Doll.
Verdict - 8/10