Author Topic: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers  (Read 130 times)

Offline perc2100

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Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« on: February 11, 2019, 11:48:31 AM »
**NO SPOILERS HERE**  Spoilers to come in ensuing posts/replies

This relatively new series (dropped Feb. 1) has blown my mind completely.  The show is eight episodes/30ish minutes each and feels like it's MEANT to be binged: like a 4-hour movie.  The series is co-created/executive produced by series star Natasha Lyonne (who also co-wrote 2 episodes and directed the fnale), Amy Poehler (who co-wrote episode 2), and Leslie Headland (who also directed & co-wrote half the episodes), and IMO it's obvious we're watching an all-female creative team.  The female characters are richly developed, with main character Nadia being one of the most interesting and unique characters I've seen on TV in a long time: she feels very distinctly smart, pop-culture hip, and VERY NY.  In a way NY almost feels like a co-star of this film, as the vibe of the city always feels front and center: there's even a great throw-away line regarding Nadia's cat as "a deli cat."

This is a story that is hard to casually describe, but the "elevator pitch," so to speak, seems like 'GROUNDHOG DAY meets NO EXIT w/a touch of "Community" thrown in" (note: Community is heavily influenced by the play/movie NO EXIT).  Essentially Nadia dies leaving her 36th Birthday party, thrown by two close friends (who, as minor characters are brilliantly fleshed out in the smallish amount of screen time they get - after Episode 2 you're bummed they're not in the series, but you really feel like these are legit humans and not characters slotted into an archetype): chasing after above-mentioned deli cat across the street.  Upon getting hit by a taxi, Nadia immediately finds herself standing in her friend's bathroom, back at the party, with the same song playing and the same people doing the same stuff as when she left.  TOTALLY sounding GROUNDHOG day, which makes Harry Nilsson's "Gotta Get Up" Russian Doll's "I've Got You Babe."  Great song to get stuck in your head by the way.

So that's the set-up, which happens in the first 15 or so minutes of the first episode.  The rest of the series is Nadia trying to figure out what's going on, why this is happening to her, how to get 'right the ship,' so to speak, etc.  But, this series is no where NEAR as simplistic as all of that!  There's a sci-fi element, where details/people/things start "disappearing" from existence when Nadia dies and is 'reset' back at her party.  Approaching the end of the series, Nadia finds a kindred spirit in a stranger going through a similar experience (dying/returning to the same spot/time and reliving a night) and they realize that all sorts of aspects keeping getting messed up AND time seems to be running concurrent to their death/reset (for example, fruit in a deli is going bad throughout the series suggesting some semblance of linear time even though the rest of the human interactions feel like retreads from previous experiences).  Throw in the element of Nadia working out childhood trauma (involving her mom, played by real-life good friend of the star, Chloe Sevigny) and you have a very dense story-line.  But all of this is layered over 8 episodes so it never feels too confusing (like, for example, "Maniac").  You get sucked into the nuances of what's going on, but it never feels frustratingly overwhelming.

In fact, the real pleasure of of this series is the characters.  ALL of them are at least interesting to watch, most of them are a joy.  Natasha Lyonne is absolutely brilliant.  She FINALLY has a character that utilizes the talents she has, but have been underutilized up until now.  She has followed the Hollywood tradition of "there aren't any roles being written for my sensibilities, so I'm going my own way and creating my own," and this series is a 4 hour highlight reel of her talents.  Her comic sensibilities & timing, her snappy wit, intelligence, etc. all shine through.  This is in the vain of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or "Episodes," where Lyonne is playing an amped-up exaggerated version of her 'old' self.  She went through substance abuse, and then substantial health problems, a decade and a half or so ago and this series plays up (sort of subtly, in some regards) a bit of the substance abuse and health issues, and the feelings/emotions thereof.  Nadia is a compelling character: one you may not like at first, but as the viewer comes to understand her better, and as Nadia matures as a human being, you'll come around.

The other characters are almost compelling.  From Nadia's two good friends throwing the party, to a homeless guy in the park that Nadia forms a pseudo-friendship with, to other partygoers, the cast is stacked with interesting characters that feel real and lived in.  As the series adds characters, and we learned how they're all intertwined, the characters just get more interesting.  And the show's continuity is mostly impeccable!  A college professor character in episode 1, whom Nadia half-jokes to stop talking about the college student he's having sex with?  We meet said college student around the half-way point (and she's an integral character).  If you think there's a continuity error in the first episode or two, such as someone not being in a shot, or even something disappearing and you think, "someone screwed up in editing?"  That's a factor in the 3rd act of the story.  This is one of the few series where after watching the finale (which I rewound/replayed the final scene at least half a dozen times) I immediately went back to episode 1 to see if the setup 'held' well compared to the last episode.  Spoiler (not really): the continuity is brilliant, down to specific camera shots/movement.  Re-watching the series you really get a sense of the craft involved with writing, directing, editing, etc. to make all the pieces fit perfectly.

And that ending!!  The philosophical as well as physical wrap-up brought both a HUGE smile to my face, as well as a "wait, WHAT?!" and a "DAMMIT this is over?!?!?!"  The end works in such a way that this could be a self-contained 4-hour story, or it could go in different directions with a 2nd season.  I think Lyonne has said in interviews she has some ideas for more, but is good if this is it.  We'll have to see if Nadia's plight continues, or if her story ended.  Either way, I'm 100% satisfied with the end of this series/season.

I can't recommend this series enough: a relatively short amount of time watching, for the payoff of a story and characters you think about a week after finishing.  And a song you'll download and play constantly :-P


Offline TardisMom

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2019, 01:31:51 PM »
I watched 4 episodes yesterday and CAN'T WAIT to watch the rest tonight!!  Great write-up!

Offline Miss Kitty

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2019, 01:57:43 PM »
I have the song stuck in my head! Binged it all....SOOOO good!

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Offline Virgo911

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2019, 06:21:32 AM »
I binged this yesterday. I really liked it. Although I really enjoyed Nadia, I most identified with Alan. My heart really went out to him.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestion!  :) 

Offline NCDS

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2019, 06:44:39 AM »
I will check it out!  Thanks for sharing.

Offline perc2100

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2019, 08:55:53 AM »
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I binged this yesterday. I really liked it. Although I really enjoyed Nadia, I most identified with Alan. My heart really went out to him.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestion!  :)
Yeah, I really dug the contrast of the two characters.  When the show first started, after the first episode, I was thinking, "I dunno if I can handle watching this show if I'm not really liking the main character," but then I realized that was kind of the point of 'early' Nadia: deeply flawed!  When we get to the last episode or two, and the
Sorry but you are not allowed to view spoiler contents.
Real tribute to the brilliant writing, how quickly that character believably/organically evolved!
I know what you mean about Alan; I think he was a more 'tragic' character intentionally: like the ying to Nadia's yang.  He seemed like the sweet, innocent, naive one while Nadia was the hard-partying [email protected]#$-to-give type (with my sense of humor!).  It's like both of them had a piece of what the other wanted/needed (Alan to be more relaxed and a little more care-free; Nadia to be more empathetic/appreciative of what she has in her life).

Ahhh; I can talk about this show all day (stupid having-to-work/teach-HS-kids thing  :P )

Offline Virgo911

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2019, 09:33:09 AM »
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Yeah, I really dug the contrast of the two characters.  When the show first started, after the first episode, I was thinking, "I dunno if I can handle watching this show if I'm not really liking the main character," but then I realized that was kind of the point of 'early' Nadia: deeply flawed!  When we get to the last episode or two, and the
Sorry but you are not allowed to view spoiler contents.
Real tribute to the brilliant writing, how quickly that character believably/organically evolved!
I know what you mean about Alan; I think he was a more 'tragic' character intentionally: like the ying to Nadia's yang.  He seemed like the sweet, innocent, naive one while Nadia was the hard-partying [email protected]#$-to-give type (with my sense of humor!).  It's like both of them had a piece of what the other wanted/needed (Alan to be more relaxed and a little more care-free; Nadia to be more empathetic/appreciative of what she has in her life).

Ahhh; I can talk about this show all day (stupid having-to-work/teach-HS-kids thing  :P )

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« Last Edit: February 12, 2019, 10:18:11 AM by Virgo911 »

Offline TardisMom

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2019, 10:50:02 AM »
An article to read before you re-binge:  You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

Offline perc2100

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Re: Netflix original series "Russian Doll" - spoilers
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2019, 11:02:10 AM »
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An article to read before you re-binge:  You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login
Or...er...re-re-binge  :-\