‘Russian Doll’ Season 2 Assessment: Natasha Lyonne Breaks Time In A Flawed, However Nonetheless Compelling New Chapter


After a three-year break, Netflix’s Emmy-nominated dramedy “Russian Doll” is lastly again. When final we noticed Natasha Lyonne’s eccentric chain-smoking software program engineer Nadia, she had lastly damaged out of a time loop through which she repeated her thirty sixth birthday, together with dying a number of heinous deaths, again and again. Teaming up with a suicidal man named Alan (Charlie Barnett), who was additionally caught within the time loop, the 2 helped one another evade dying (and embrace life), breaking the loop by warning one another in alternate timelines. 

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Establishing alternate timelines within the season, one finale paved a path for this latest time-tripping installment. The season begins per week or so shy of Nadia’s fortieth birthday. Nonetheless associates with Alan, their distinctive connection has bonded them for all times. After a fender bender lands her godmother Ruthie (Elizabeth Ashley) within the emergency room, Nadia as soon as once more finds herself fascinated with her tumultuous childhood. On her manner house that evening, Nadia turns into unstuck in time after taking the 6 Practice at Astor Place Station, later seeing Alan caught on his personal practice heading in the wrong way. Get able to do the time warp once more, my candy birthday infants. 

READ MORE: Netflix’s ‘Russian Doll’ Is A Hilariously Vulgar, Witty, & Death-Filled Take On’ Groundhog Day’ [Review]

In season one Nadia and Alan work on their relationships with themselves and people round them by repeating the identical day again and again till they arrive to simply accept each the chaos and pleasure of being alive. Utilizing time journey as a tool in season two, the characters work by way of generational trauma particular to their immigrant backgrounds. Nadia investigates the lifetime of her Jewish grandmother, who fled Nazi-occupied Budapest. Alan learns extra about his Ghanaian grandmother’s surprising journey to America. 

Equally as twisting and braided as season one, the threads of the previous replay for Nadia and Alan like a suggestions loop. Every should study to decipher these previous occasions to be able to transfer ahead in direction of their futures. However like every suggestions loop, the one manner ahead is to return, again and again. On condition that we realized extra about Nadia and her household historical past in season one, her internal journey is extra fleshed out as she involves phrases together with her childhood trauma whereas chasing the gold Krugerrands misplaced by her erratic mom, Nora (Chloë Sevigny).

READ MORE: 15 TV Shows To Watch In April: ‘Slow Horses,’ ‘Russian Doll,’ ‘Tokyo Vice’ & ‘Barry’

Nevertheless, Alan’s character has all the time been much less nicely outlined, making his arc irritating this season. Usually his character disappears for lengthy stretches, and his time-warped connection to Nadia is tenuous at greatest. This can be a disgrace as a result of not solely is Barnett’s emotional fragility a superb counter to Lyonne’s frenetic vitality, the period he finds himself in deserves larger exploration.

Lyonne obtained an Emmy nomination for her daring, brash efficiency within the first season, and brings that very same swagger together with her on this new season. With an untamed mane of pink hair, Lyonne’s Nadia makes her manner by way of the streets of New York Metropolis with a simple cool. Having written and directed the primary episode, Lyonne performs to her strengths as an actress with rat-a-tat dialogue and reveals prowess behind the digital camera with slick monitoring photographs that solidify the present’s hip vibe. 

The is vibe carried by the present’s stellar soundtrack that features cuts from After the Hearth, Brian Eno, and Nena. A riff from “Bela Lugosi’s Useless” by Bauhaus replaces “Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson because the season’s oft-repeated soundscape. This serves to arrange the time warp to 1982, but it surely’s additionally an awesome nod to Nadia’s exploration of her Hungarian roots. Artwork imitates life as Lyonne peppers many references to fellow actor of supposed Hungarian descent Peter Falk into the present. 

Whereas the “Columbo” references act as an Easter egg of types for Lyonne’s followers, Nadia herself turns into a little bit of a detective, utilizing the time warp to analyze her household’s previous in a harebrained try to change her future. Nevertheless, not like Columbo investigating strangers, she is just not an goal viewer of her personal life or her household’s historical past. The additional she digs, the extra disoriented and untethered she turns into throughout the suggestions loop of time. 

Sadly, because the story turns into extra tangled and centered on Nadia, the aspect characters get short-changed. Greta Lee and Rebecca Henderson return as Nadia’s associates Maxine and Lizzy; nevertheless, they’re extra like one-note caricatures of bohemian New Yorkers than they have been within the earlier season. Sevigny is all the time a welcomed presence on display, however whereas she is given extra scenes than her earlier cameo, she too is underutilized. The identical goes for newcomers Annie Murphy and Sharlto Copley, who’re so good of their restricted appearances that their lack is acutely felt after they’re not featured in an episode. 

A lot of the season’s shortcomings stem from its formidable multi-era construction and truncated seven-episode season. With a lot plot crammed into episodes that clock in at half-hour or much less, the season barrels alongside at a breakneck tempo that borders on rushed. For a present with a lot thematic richness, it might have benefited from both longer episodes or extra episodes to be able to give it time to breathe.

Too many threads are left unexplored to make this new season of “Russian Doll” as wholly satisfying as its dazzling debut. Nevertheless, its exploration of how fruitless “what if” pondering is and the significance of taking company in your personal life regardless of your generational baggage builds splendidly on the themes explored within the first season. Regardless of its flaws, if Nadia and Alan develop just a little with every reality-bending expertise they share, I look ahead to no matter surreal journey awaits them in season three. [B]


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