There is an intentional paradox in Russian Doll, a dramatic comedy of extreme sensitivity and nuances: the repetition is completely different each time. Nadia Vulvokov, the character of series creator and star, Natasha Lyonne, managed to reverse her impending death from Season 1, but being alive makes her relive the traumas of her complicated past, which, we know, is another completely unpredictable loop.
When we first meet Nadia, she is living her last night of life. However, like us, she finds it strange to wake up on the same day and, no matter what she does, end up dead. She finds Alan (Charlie Barnett) the only one going through the same thing, and together they decipher the painful and intricate way to overcome the loop. It’s exciting and surprising at the same time. As Natasha explained to The Hollywood Reporter, the main message is overcoming “self-destruction”, as soul-wounded people die every day until they truly connect with someone else and start believing in people and in themselves again.
“Now that I’ve stopped dying, what does this alive mean?”, she teased in the interview, acknowledging that if the first part of the story really looked like Groundhog Day, it is now the 1980s series, Quantum Leap, in which time travel is the premise rather than being stuck in a moment like a time spell, is what serves as inspiration. That’s right Natasha finds – literally – the trail of time that takes her to different decades and where she tries to remedy her mother’s and grandmother’s fights and the situations that accelerated the conflicts that shaped her very existence. As Alan recalls, every movie about going back in time reinforces that we can’t change the past, but Nadia insists. Once again the paradox: we cannot change what made us who we are, but in the present, with perspective, we can change ourselves.
The actress herself confirms that the main concept of the story is that there are no shortcuts to our transformation. And, as the plot is extremely intelligent, it is for her the metaphor of the possibility that everyone has to change their lives and start over. First connecting and wanting to live, then putting the past in perspective but here’s the final twist, not missing out on the present and the chance to be with the people who love you, before you lose them. In this case, Nadia loses her last moments with her “adoptive mother”, Ruth, who is dying of cancer. Immersed in her own pain and inner growth, Nadia only realizes the importance of the present too late.
The story is left open for the third season and Natasha speaks openly about it. Russian Doll is one of the most profound series on Netflix, I left out many details and psychological metaphors that the actress inserted in the character arc. It invites us to reflect, forgive and live. Nothing more important in still pandemic times.