Thursday, May 26, 2022
HomeEntertainmentUnraveling the ‘Russian Doll’ in a New and Even Trippier Season Two

Unraveling the ‘Russian Doll’ in a New and Even Trippier Season Two

- advertisement -
- advertisement -

Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for the Netflix series, “Russian Doll.”

After a three-year hiatus, Netflix’s sci-fi comedy “Russian Doll” returned to the streaming platform for its second season on April 20. Created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler, software engineer Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) is back for another trippy time-warped adventure, with this season feeling a little more like “Freaky Friday” while last season was similar to “Groundhog Day.” 

Season 1 followed Nadia on her 36th birthday, as she ended up ditching her party and getting hit by a cab, only to find herself back at the party. She soon realizes that she is stuck in a time loop repeating the same day over and over every time she dies. However, she meets Alan Zaveri (Charlie Barnett) who seems to be going through the same predicament when he dies. The two form an unlikely pair –– Nadia being a wild chain smoker while Alan the meticulous neat-freak –– and they must find a way to break the never-ending time loop.

Season 2 opens up with a similar premise, but this time Nadia will be celebrating her 40th birthday. She hops onto the six train to her friend Maxine’s (Greta Lee) house and notices something strange. After spotting a poster for the movie “Sophie’s Choice” and the musical “Cats,” Nadia realizes she has been transported into 1982. Thanks to her usual laissez-faire attitude about most things, she does not take much alarm with the time jump and continues to roam the streets of New York City as she usually does. She enters a pub called the “Black Gumball” and ends up going home with a stranger; however, whenever she stares at herself in a mirror, the face that looks back at her is not her own. In complete horror, Nadia realizes she has not only been transported into 1982, but she has also taken the form of her mother who was pregnant with her. Taking this new twist of fate as a second chance, Nadia is determined to find a way to fix her mother’s past mistakes in an attempt to reverse her familial trauma.

Photo provided Russian Doll @RussianDoll/Twitter

“This year, it’s a bit of a deeper dive,” Lyonne explained during The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “If you think of the ‘matryoshka’ doll there’s, you know, ever deeper dolls inside of there. And so if Season 1 was sort of a meditation on ‘how do I stop dying?’ In a way, Season 2 is posing the question of, ‘how do I start living?’”

Like a traditional Russian doll, this season slowly begins to unravel truths that were only briefly mentioned in the first installment of the show. In the last season, audiences learn that Nadia’s mother Lenora (Chloë Sevigny) was not always a present figure in Nadia’s life, and she ended up stealing and using her mother’s Krugerrands. When the Nazi regime was present in the ‘40s, Nadia’s grandmother converted all their savings into the South African gold coin Krugerrand as a safe keep and future inheritance for Nadia. When Lenora stole the coins in 1982, she destroyed the relationship between her and her mother, which in turn also impacted the relationship she had with her own daughter. As Nadia’s consciousness flows through different bodies –– even into her own grandmother’s during 1944 –– she realizes that she can not prevent the travesties that befell her family. Instead, she comes to accept the way her life turned out and understands the things that she cannot change. 

Photo provided Russian Doll @RussianDoll/Twitter

Perhaps what is most important about this new season is the heartfelt narrative it tells of family, especially of found family, through the character of Ruth Brenner (Elizabeth Ashley). Due to her mother’s mental state, it was Ruth who raised and took care of Nadia. She even pawns her wedding ring to get back the Krugerrands for Nadia. When Nadia misses Ruth’s final moments due to the time jumping, she feels broken and devastated for not being able to be there for the one person who always took care of her.

As was the case with the previous season, Nadia is not the only star of the show nor the only one flying through different timelines. Alan returns in Season 2, and while initially a bit skeptical of Nadia’s train time machine, he too decides to take the leap and see where time takes him. Alan comes to find himself in his grandmother’s body in 1962 East Germany. When his grandmother’s friend Lenny (Sandor Funtek) plans to escape to West Berlin through a tunnel under the Berlin Wall, Alan must try to save him. 

“Russian Doll” earned a 96% tomatometer score for its chaotic take on the qualms of being alive. With only seven episodes averaging around 30 minutes each, “Russian Doll” is the perfect show for the casual weekend watch.

Kamilla Jafarova is an Entertainment Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at kjafarov@uci.edu.