Russian Doll: Season 2 Review

Russian Doll: Season 2 premieres on Netflix on Wednesday, April 20.

Russian Doll is back after three years with a suitably absurdist sequel to its excellent first series, in which Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia is once again trapped in a frenzied prison of metaphysical psychotherapy. These seven new episodes don’t quite match the grandeur of the first season, but this year’s surreal odyssey — dropping the “time loop” for Quantum Leaping — is still a whimsical, fantastical hoot.

Since Russian Doll’s great first season could easily stand on its own as a limited series, with a definitive ending (relatively speaking, in Russian Doll terms), creating more chaos was a risky move. Thankfully, Season 2 only mildly suffers from the most predictable flaw a sequel can have, which is that it isn’t very well as what preceded it. That said, Season 2 is as good as it could ever be, and that’s more than enough to offer a ton of great temporary trickery and truly transcendental moments of warmth and heart.

Check out our review of Russian Doll: Season 1, 2019…

With that warmth, of course, comes Lyonne’s personal wit and snark and this season, after already experiencing an endless night and countless deaths, Nadia is more than ready to just jump into a new kind of fresh hell when her rides the New York subway. her back to 1982 and to the pregnant body of her own mother, Lenora (Chloë Sevigny). It could be a few years later, and Alan from Nadia and Charlie Barnett may have spent every birthday since the time loop in locked mode, just to be on the safe side, but once the universe gets going, Nadia quickly dives into the paradoxical puzzle of trying to to solve it. Except now, the learning curve has all but disappeared and she treats everyone around her like an NPC from the start. It makes sense, saves time and allows us to get into the pleasurable madness.

Co-creators Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland (Sleeping With Other People) are all back, throwing everything they have to poor Nadia, who initially sees this time swing as an opportunity to make up for past mistakes with her mother and grandmother (and ultimately herself) regarding the legacy — a valuable Krugerrand cache — that we learned in Season 1 that her mother spent carelessly. As Nadia gets to know people in her mother’s life – scheming lover (District 9’s Sharlto Copley), her grandmother (Irén Bordán), and a younger version of adoptive mother Ruth (Schitt’s Creek’s Annie Murphy) – her mission blossoms into something more elaborate and related to family healing.

The time-traveling subway isn’t a prison like Season 1’s time loop was. It is a tool and a lot of fun is had from it. After Nadia discovers she can return to 2022, she bounces back and forth to find clues (or just use the internet) that will lead her on the right path. And since the present is easily accessible, she can join Season 1’s Elizabeth Ashley, Greta Lee, Rebecca Henderson, and—of course—Barnett in her whirlwind plan to correct the sins of the past. As Copley’s character explains so perfectly at one point, Nadia wants to chase her “Coney Island.” That makes sense when he describes it, because it’s the one thing from your past that you think, had it been done differently, would have changed everything.

Russian Doll’s second season finds a way to keep the spiciness of time deception alive.

Again, Nadia and Alan seem to be the only ones (at least in this story) capable of using the time train, although Alan’s experiments with it take him on a different arc, which doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as Nadia’s journey. I’ll steer clear of spoilers here, except to say that time travel doesn’t only stick with 80s New York. It’s a big part of the show, but it’s not the only wild destination. Alan’s story begins as a curious exploration of both his family and himself, but then unexpectedly changes into something more powerful and haunting for him. It’s the lesser of the two time stories, but it makes for a mesmerizing and memorable endgame with both of our headliners.

Russian doll: season 2 photos

As for the show’s core gimmick, that of Manhattan in ’82, the season strikes the perfect atmosphere/balance between reality and cartoon. With some nice needle drops — Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” opens up the adventure and acts as a recurring theme (Bauhaus fans will find a few other Easter eggs) — along with costumes, sets, and an overall crime-y, dirty sheen, Nadia’s main train destination is a mix of authenticity and cliché. This was a time, a decade, when murder and mayhem hit an all-time high for the city, and that would be until the early 90s, so the particular look of those streets is more or less captured in cinematic stone and Russian Doll. has fun with it.

Since Nadia isn’t trying to figure out how to free herself from a time loop or some other elevated, hilarious temporary trap, but instead uses a cosmic mesh to her advantage, Season 2 is simmering in various spices. It also means that the underlying common thread shifts more often than in Season 1 as Nadia and Alan’s priorities shift occasionally due to family secrets, historically relevant twists, and their own shifting perspectives. This allows Season 2 to feel special in its own way and escape the shadows of Season 1 as best as possible.

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