The first season of “Russian Doll” a Netflix original series, was released on Feb. 1. Compared to both “Groundhog Day” and “Happy Death Day,” the show centers around a woman seemingly doomed to live the same day again and again. Created by Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland and Natasha Lyonne, the dark comedy stars Lyonne as Nadia, a blunt and fiery software engineer who attends her own thirty-sixth birthday party, dies and begins the night over again. Lyonne’s fellow “Orange is the New Black” star Dascha Polanco plays a supporting role in the series.
The show differs from predecessors following the same premise in both subtle and glaring ways, while at the same time drawing smart parallels and alluding to them. Nadia’s demeanor is comparable to the gruff and cynical Phil in “Groundhog Day,” and they each begin the repeat to their own theme song; Phil’s “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher and Nadia’s “Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson. While early on it may seem that this will be the only song in the show, the soundtrack is diverse and suitable to the setting, making it an unsung hero.
Unlike previous works within the same genre, Nadia is not the only one reliving the same day. Early in the series, she discovers that there is someone else stuck in the same loop as her. With each restart, they begin to notice changes and disappearances in their environment. In addition, they do not live the same amount of time each day or even die the same way, a portion of the entertainment comes from observing the different, often funny, ways they die each time. (Watch out for those stairs!)
Overall, the show is hilarious, dark, melancholy and a bit off-putting all at once. The portrayal of mental illness is delicate and thought-provoking, creating an intricate story with multi-dimensional characters. Throughout the series, Nadia must come to terms with her mother’s schizophrenia and the impact that had on her childhood and her own life, while also fearing that the time loop she is stuck in is a product of her own mind. The eight 25-minute episodes make it easy to watch back-to-back, and leave the watcher wanting more. Mollie Rudow, a St. Mary’s College of Maryland student (‘22), said “I watched it all at once! I did not even realize it when I made it to the last episode. It went by so fast, and I don’t know if I will be able to wait until next year for the next season.” While Netflix sometimes announces a second season along with the release of a first season, it is unclear whether they will continue “Russian Doll.” It likely will depend on the show’s reception, which seems very good so far. “It is the first new show I have really liked in a little while,” Ryan Gullang (‘22) said. “At first it seemed like the concept of reliving the same day had been overdone, and the show might become repetitive, but it was very well done and did a good job distinguishing itself from the others.”