When Russian Doll was released on Netflix on Friday, February 1, that entire weekend my Facebook and Twitter feeds were absolutely dominated by praise for the show. It was a chorus of "So good!" and "I can't stop watching!"
The only thing I knew about Russian Doll was that it starred Natasha Lyonne. I have been a fan since her role as Jessica in the very first American Pie movie back in 1999. I also think she's had some excellent material on Orange is the New Black (also on Netflix).
After two weeks of resisting, I decided to give it a go. The series has eight episodes, each is about 25 minutes long. The premise is that Lyonne's character, Nadia, keeps dying. Each time, she comes back to the exact same spot - the bathroom in her friend Max's apartment, in the middle of her own birthday party.
The first time Nadia came back, I was like, "Ok, this could be interesting." But as it continued to happen again, and again, and again, I found myself getting pretty annoyed. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That is this show.
It got better for me in the fourth episode, when Nadia met Alan, another person experiencing these deaths and subsequent re-starts. Alan is played by Charlie Barnett, who you may recognize from Chicago Fire, Secrets and Lies, and You.
In the story, Alan is engaged to a woman named Bea, who is played by Dascha Polanco from Orange is the New Black. This was such a polar opposite look for her, I was totally taken aback when she came on screen!
In episode seven, we flash back to Nadia's childhood, where her mother is played by Oscar-nominated actress Chloe Sevigny. Sevigny and Lyonne are very close friends in real life. In an interview with INSIDER, Lyonne says, "She's like my sister. She's been a very specific figure in my life and it's like the decades keep flying by and we stay that close."
As the episodes roll on, you find yourself wondering, "Why is all this happening? Will it ever end?" In the final episode, we get our answer. Without giving anything away, I thought the eighth episode was the best of the entire series. Though the ending didn't make any sense to me, my favorite critics on NPR's podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour called that final moment, "incredibly satisfying."
Fun fact: in addition to starring in the show, Lyonne is one of the co-creators, along with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland. It's incredibly exciting to me that there are more and more female creators and show runners in 2019.
Tell me, were you one of the early binge watchers and rabid fans of Russian Doll? Or were you perplexed like me?