Before starting this article, I should point out something very important. I do not really consider myself a series fan. The reason is simple. You know, I am one of those people who favor forms of, say, standalone art crafted to give a sense of consistency and linearity to my otherwise inconsistent life. That is why I prefer watching movies.
Having said that, I thought I would give Russian Doll a try. I read the script that is concerned with life and death, a fundamentally existential question or, for some people out there, the source of all our first world problems (!!), I saw very positive comments from several series freaks, and I decided to start it. I was very proud that the money I have been paying for my Netflix subscription would finally be well spent, so I clicked on the first episode with unprecedented enthusiasm. It is worth mentioning here that the protagonist, Natasha Lyonne or Nadia is one of the main producers of the series, which consists of eight episodes of relatively short duration, an ideal starting point for my initiation into the world of series.
The Russian Doll deals with the life of a woman, the redhead, foul-mouthed and yet emotionally intelligent Nadia, who lives a never-ending deja vu, constantly dying on her birthday. Being a game developer herself, her life turns into an endless game over, except that she has absolutely no control over it. As the story unfolds, she meets a man who finds himself caught in the same puzzling deja vu experience, so they agree to try and find an answer to all that is happening to them. No spoilers intended here, so I would suggest you watch it to discover the rest.
The series’ fast transitions from comedy to drama and vice versa along with its peculiar, cynical humor captured my attention. Particular emphasis is placed on the futility of having high expectations from your friendly or social relationships as well as the void of existence. For me, an analysis of all this before a sex scene, for example, as is the case in Russian Doll, constitutes a rather fascinating contrast between purely instinctive acts and deeper existential questions such as the meaning of life versus death, the necessity of reconciling with what life throws at you, memories, time, childhood trauma, e.t.c. However, I sometimes felt that the pompous and sophisticated sentences, the cynicism and the ”badass” behavior of the main protagonist were a bit over the top or forced at times; I felt as if their role was merely to impress.
I also believe that the producers’ original script attempt should maybe be more consistent in that respect from beginning to end. To be frank, some clichés, tricks, and scenes reminded me of psychological thrillers of decades ago, elements that have been employed over and over in cinematography throughout the years. However, in terms of photography, editing and directing, especially in the last two episodes, the series did well enough.
Overall, I had higher expectations based on the reviews I had been reading, but what the Russian Doll taught me is that being OCD about perfection is absolutely vain.