Since I reviewed the first two episodes of Russian Doll quite a lot has happened to Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia, and a fair few more mysteries posed, the biggest of these being that she has met another person who is also repeatedly dying in the form of Alan (Charlie Barnett) and the two seem linked, though they have no idea why. He’s a depressed guy whose fiancee was cheating on him and who committed suicide the night that all of this craziness began, and the two are not only repeatedly buying the farm but also doing so at exactly the same time.
Given the nature of the series a satisfying ending to the mystery was a huge part of it, without one it would still have been an incredibly fun ride but there’s no doubt that it would have been frustrating if it had either been left unresolved or it turned out it was all due to magic and God and no other explanation. Ahem, sorry, but I’ve still not been able to forgive the writers of Lost for how they ended that particular series. Fortunately while not everything is revealed it is an incredibly rewarding finale and so unlike Lost I don’t regret watching it for a second.
For a series that started off as a fairly fun romp it turned in to quite the dark piece, an exploration of the damage of poor parenting, how you can become hollow if you try to live without addressing your issues, and how suicide can take on many different forms. The seventh episode was the series at it’s bleakest, with nary an attempt at humour but it was also the most captivating of them all as we learnt why the time loop was taking place, or at least why the characters were trapped in the way that they were and what they needed to do to stop it happening.
Ah, but if it were only that simple, for though the eighth episode initially seems like it’s a return to a more upbeat side of things, from Nadia overcoming her fear of the stairs to Alan’s joy that his fish are still alive, it turns out they were in two separate time lines with Alan still suicidal in one and Nadia about to screw Mike as she did before she died the first time in the other. But rather than events playing out as they originally did the versions of Nadia and Alan who have the memories of repeatedly dying are fortunately on hand to save each other.
Lyonne wrote and directed the finale and it’s a superb way to end things, why the time loop exists isn’t resolved but then such things rarely are, and there’s no need to explain everything anyway, unlike Lost the mystery wasn’t what caused the time loop but why it was happening to these specific characters, and that was addressed in a thoughtful and gratifying manner. The main thing is that these characters have changed and grown and are better people because of it, because they’ve met each other and become an important element of each others lives, and if the mechanics of the time loop had been revealed it would have been a lesser piece so I’m glad that Lyonne and co didn’t go down that road.
Russian Doll really is one of the finest series that Netflix have so far screened, up there with Bojack Horseman in not only it’s examination of depression but also the playful way it covered such themes. The two central performances from Lyonne and Barnett were stunning, and will hopefully lead to both getting a massive career bump, and there was also impressive support from the rest of the cast (with Yul Vazquez, Greta Lee, Rebecca Henderson, Jeremy Bobb, Brendan Sexton III and Elizabeth Ashley especially worthy of praise). The script was never less than sharp, and often filled with wisdom, and it’s a rare occasion where such a thing can be said about a television show, and it was made all the more perfect by having an emotive and joyful closure to the story.
There’s no need for a second season of the show though, or if it does return it should feature different characters and tell a very different story at least. But I truly hope that Netflix give Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland all the money they could ever need to make another series as the trio have proven over the course of these eight episodes that they’re masterful storytellers, who have created an intelligent, insightful work and it’d be a tragedy if they weren’t given another chance to do so, that would be the darkest timeline indeed.