Netflix marvelously juggles with a familiar, old and used formula, yet manages to deliver a fresh, layered and complex new story. “Russian Doll” is the latest Netflix original gem. Created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, the TV series appears initially as a banal “Groundhog Day” formula repetition. First appearances lie.
“Russian Doll” quickly and majestically distinguishes itself. The basic formula it borrows is already predisposed for existential questioning. “Russian Doll” uses that very quality to its fullest potential, becoming a mind bending philosophical and psychological trip. Is a preexisting destiny a possible reality? Are we the owners of our past and our traumas? How much is in our control? Are there different versions, different realities? Are we the cause of this strange, incidental havoc our existence seems to be? “Russian Doll” asks all these questions.
It starts from an old format, but evolves into an intrinsicate look into life, human consciousness and the possibility of multiple universes. Nadia (Nicky Nichols) is a young woman living in New York City. She starts dying repeatedly. Each time she reappears in the bathroom of her friend’s house during her own birthday party. This is the basic archetypal format. However, elements of it soon start contorting and deforming. Some things slightly change each time. Nadia seems to possess some power and agency.
Her past and her personality appear fundamental to her reality. They haunt her. They can take control of her. They can change her world. Yet, they can’t completely determine her actions and the outlook of her environment. The world of “Russian Doll” almost feels like the realm of the subconscious. However, it is not. Nadia has power over it, but not totally. It appears real not crafted. Nevertheless, if her reality even slightly looks as her inner mind, she might have to start questioning the control she possesses over it. This is one of the biggest philosophical questions the series poses. Do we control our environment?
“Russian Doll” is clearly not a simple “Groundhog Day” revival. It goes deeper. Starring the renowned “Orange Is the New Black” actress Natasha Lyonne, the series received critical acclaim. On the site aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 90% fresh rating based on 80 reviews. On the site aggregator Metacritic the series received a score of 89 out of 100 based on 24 reviews.
Nadia’s character is a reflection of her world. The series created an in-depth painting of her personality, her traumas and her soul. The physical world is part of this portrayal. For the viewer who seeks a complex, well-thought, character driven psychological ride “Russian Doll” is the show to watch. The desire to have the existential questions answered will drive the viewer to an immediate pleasurable binge-watching experience.
Netflix is a master at reusing, reformatting, giving new life to old formulas. “Russian Doll” is new data. It is more proof of the great ability of this successful streaming site. Some answers will be given. Most will be left still to be revealed. Unfortunately for the curious “Russian Doll” was not yet renowned for a second season. However, its major critical and public success supports greatly the possibility of a renewal. Netflix should not disappoint.
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