Russian Doll is a series that shocked audiences when it first hit Netflix back in 2019. Blending drama, black comedy and a Groundhog Day style situation, Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) uses time to reflect on the many issues she has in her life. Now, the series is back, playing with the concept of time travel in a new way, and delivering a mind-bending journey into inner demons and grappling with a life you think you know.
Set years after the events of season 1, Russian Doll season two has Nadia, and her time-travelling friend Alan (Charlie Barnett) living out their lives in the wake of the time loop that trapped them for countless cycles. It is now on the verge of her 40th birthday, so no time like now to break reality once more, this time involving the New York Subway. As she steps on the train, she finds herself back in time, unsure of how she got there or what this could mean for her future. Confused? Don’t worry, it only gets more complicated from here, with the story travelling across the globe though decades of time.
Four years later, Nadia is still as self-destructive and unfazed by the fantastical events as ever. What should be one of the most mind-bending moments in Nadia’s life is played with the charm and style Natasha Lyonne is known for from her portrayal of the character. Through her eyes, the insane world we are watching seems to make a level of chaotic sense, even as the fabric of reality slowly breaks down as the season goes on. Even a trip back to Nazi occupied Europe is just one more place for Nadia to find herself in on her journey of self discovery.
“…Russian Doll seems like a much grander story than the first season.”
With the many time periods, settings, and locations, Russian Doll seems like a much grander story than the first season. Moving beyond just coming to grips with oneself, this entry into the story looks to expand on her connection to her family, her past, and the countless assumptions she has about her life. Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek) plays an old friend who brings a sense of compassion and hope to what Nadia is facing. As the season goes on, and the fabric of time is less consistent, it is this connection that makes the latter part of the season so bittersweet, with each interaction feeling more meaningful and impactful.
But like any followup, not everything can flow as well as it did in the original. With Russian Doll being a much more complex and elaborate story, not every episode hits or pushes the message forward as well as it could. This is a season that throws a lot of balls into the air, and while it does a good job catching most of them, there are a few storylines that feel unfinished, or lack a substantial overall payoff considering the stakes.
Much like season one, Russian Doll makes each location and time period feel like a character in itself. This is a living, breathing reality that bends and warps with the characters, giving each action a sense of weight and impact on everyone’s lives. Much like the classic TV show Quantum Leap, Russian Doll focuses on small characters against the backdrop of major world events, and that works. The history of the characters is as important as the major events that helped shape the modern world, each filling a small piece of the whole that is Nadia.
With a phenomenal cast, and a mind-melting story, Russian Doll Season 2 is more of Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia in the best possible way. While not everything the series brings to the table works, what does makes the series once again a must-watch affair. It is a drug-fuelled trip through time that will make you hug your family and never let them go. Russian Doll Season 1 gave us a taste of what nihilism and time travel could look like, and Season 2 carries that idea forward. If you love science fiction or just love pushing the boundaries of what TV can deliver, don’t wait, dive into Russian Doll, you won’t be disappointed.