Russian Doll Review: Did We Need This Second Season? Yes, yes, yes | Television

Tthe first season of Russian doll (Netflix) was one of the best comedies of 2019, though to call it a comedy was to understand a rigidity it never actually claimed to have. It followed the trials and tribulations of Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), a video game designer on a self-destructive streak, who kept dying after her 36th birthday party, only to find herself reincarnated at the same party, doomed to relive the day of her death. death in all its glorious varieties, over and over and over again. Its creators, Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland and Lyonne herself, found a morbid wit in Nadia’s situation and extracted it for comedy, though it eventually became philosophical and profound.

Fans will remember that Russian Doll resolved its time-loop crisis at the end, when Nadia and her frequent-killer partner Alan (Charlie Barnett) finally teamed up, raising the question of what a second season could do. If it condemned Nadia and Alan to forget the lessons they worked so hard to learn in order to stick to the premise, it would have felt cruel, even nihilistic.

It is safe to say that this second season does not repeat its previous concept, except that it deals with the question of time, although that is all. it is safe to say. This is best enjoyed without spoilers; even revealing which actors play which characters would dent some of the satisfying surprises that pop up throughout the tracks. Nadia is now approaching her 40th birthday and, after the universe “tried to screw me,” as she once put it succinctly, she plans to celebrate with Alan in a more low-key way. It’s not going according to plan. “The universe finally found something worse than death,” Nadia begins, and I’ll leave it at that.

This is a truly beautiful series, from its aesthetic to its script, and it feels incredibly rich. It is full of directorial tributes to the cinema of the 1970s, particularly the Robert Altman, and there are many clever scenes involving mirrors and reflections. It’s jam-packed with Lyonne joking and strutting around in a variety of places (again, I’m wary of spoilers, though New York City is a key character at this point) in her trench coat and sunglasses, set to a fitting soundtrack by Personal Jesus. from DepecheMode. . She’s riveting when she drops erudite riffs on everything from hospital waiting rooms (“Is the hospital really treating patients today or are we just putting on a Beckett play?”) to her inability to quit smoking: “I’m very aware that My lungs are essentially two shriveled up Nick Caves.” Just wait until I say “cockroach”.

Once again, Lyonne is the center of attention here, and by all accounts, the family story that unfolds throughout this season is a personal one. The supporting cast, including Chloë Sevigny returning as her mentally ill mother Lenora, and Schitt’s Creek’s Annie Murphy appearing as, shall we say, someone else, are also excellent, as are Nadia’s inner circle, in particular Elizabeth Ashley as Nadia’s surrogate mother. Piety. He feels more in his own skin than the first season, leaning more toward drama than comedy, though the old adage that comedy equals tragedy plus time gets a vigorous cross-examination here.

I love this series and I love this season, although I appreciate that its quirks may not be for everyone. Nor is it an impeccable five star. Alan’s story feels adrift from the rest, as if it exists just to keep Barnett in the mix. He and Nadia are having experiences with each other, again, although they are less anchored to each other. It’s longer and less concise, despite having one fewer episode than the first season, and it lacks the easy charm of the time-loop concept, which in turn makes for a more demanding watch.

But it is so clever, creative and original, that it seems petty to object. As the story progresses, it gets smarter and weirder, and the surreal twists land once again in an unsentimental but beautiful place. He dares to ask big questions about trauma, grief, and fate. If that doesn’t sound like fun, well, it still manages to be. Lyonne has said that if the first season was about how not to die, the second is about how to live. There are few TV shows that I want to rewatch, and even fewer that I want to rewatch right after the end credits. Who has the time? But this is all about breaking the rules of time, and I plan to go back to the beginning to find out what I missed.

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