‘Russian Doll’ season 2 review: Natasha Lyonne beats time at its own game

A still from ‘Russian Doll’ 

Season two kicks off four years after Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) and Alan Zaveri (Charlie Barnett) figure out a way to escape the never-ending time loop, just a few days short of Nadia’s 40th birthday. After four years of relative normalcy (experiencing time as a linear concept) the duo is drawn back for yet another tango with time.

While season one dealt with the protagonists saving themselves from repeatedly dying, now they deal with what it means to live. In the latest season, Nadia and Alan are often seen looking within themselves, looking at themselves, and looking out for themselves... making it all the more personal. 

Sprinkled with existential questions, the characters try to find closure with certain traumas that were hinted at in the first season. Throughout the seven episodes, the show, true to its nature, dabbles with questions surrounding the futility of life. Russian Doll also renders an intelligent commentary on the relationship that children share with their parents, and quietly wonders whether we choose to love the people we love.

The protagonists, in their quest to live, are seen delving into their past to understand themselves better, and the show, while successfully closing the time loop, opens up a portal to inspect time from a different perspective: that of time travel. 

Though the idea of time travel is fascinating, the show does not let the viewer get stuck in figuring out the logistics of it all; it directly takes on the task of decoding the matters of the heart and mind that trouble the duo. We see the characters deal with issues like generational trauma, and grief – something they inherit like prized heirlooms. This includes the characters swapping bodies, getting stuck in voids, and getting a chance at being a part of history that will eventually decide their own lives.  

Each scene, sequence and episode of the show is tempered with multiple social and philosophical questions, all of which are significant and carry a certain weight. The treatment of women through time is rewarding for the viewer, and its study of the human psyche, the philosophical questions that have plagued people through generations, and the incomprehensible nature of time are deftly dealt with, while leaving space to draw our own interpretations and conclusions.

The writers also bring in subtle commentary about the perils of greed and materialism – which like everything else, is neither overdone nor undercooked. 

Just like time, Russian Doll also has got a sick sense of humour and Lyonne’s comedic timing on-screen adds more brilliance to the dialogue.

The conversation between Nadia and Maxine (Greta Lee) where Maxine observes out loud, “Dead men get all the plaques?” and Nadia responds with, “Where are the memorials for us living women?” deserves a plaque of its own. The visual language of the show, especially while showing female friendships, deserves mention.

The metaphors, mainly consisting of mirrors and travel, fit perfectly in the chaos that keeps brewing until the very last episode. Also, the use of accurate historical events interspersed with the characters’ personal lives is a brilliant commentary on the politics of existence. Meanwhile, references to classic plays and great cinema are positioned in scenes with great ease; from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot to Robert Altman’s filmography.

As the show progresses, the plot gets weirder and the twists more surreal. But it all nicely ties up in the end, albeit not like a loop. The questions raised about fate, closure and generational trauma stay with the viewer well past the seven episodes... standing the test of time.

Season 2 of Russian Doll is currently streaming on Netflix

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Printable version | May 1, 2022 1:26:51 pm |