As per usual, I was looking for a binge-worthy show on Netflix and stumbled upon Russian Doll. The show, written by Natasha Lyonne (of Orange is the New Black) begins by telling a story about Nadia, a 36-year-old woman who keeps dying the night of her birthday party. Although the previews on Netflix basically say nothing itself about the show other than “watch it” and yes, I’m glad I did.
I always enjoyed psychology in school. It took me a few episodes to realize that this show, at its core, is dealing with deep emotional trauma. Lyonne’s character “Nadia” clearly has issues – her mother died when she was in her 30’s, Nadia herself goes through mental health issues, she has issues with commitment (except commitments to addictions – cigarettes, alcohol and drugs).
It takes Nadia the whole season to break through the underlying causes of these, and not without a trip to the famed Bellevue hospital in the back of an ambulance where- you guessed it – she dies on the journey.
Joining her in her journey to death every episode is Alan, a seemingly perfect man who keeps dying after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Alan, through death experiences, realizes that no matter how hard he tries, his life will never be perfect. Boy does he try. Alan’s house is completely impeccable, he routinely feeds his pet fish to near obsession and is (on the outside) possibly perfect in every way.
Alan needs to recognize that he can’t force his life in to perfection. The missing pieces of him cannot be filled with a nice apartment and pretty girlfriend. His self-loathing doesn’t go away just because everything around him fits neatly into little boxes.
The show has been called TV’s answer to “Groundhog Day,” the cult classic movie starring Bill Murray, who plays a TV weatherman who relives the same day over and over again until he finally figures out a way to turn the situation to his advantage.
The name of the series “Russian Doll” is a testament to the classic Russian “matryoshka” dolls who open up to reveal a smaller version of themselves inside. The title most likely represent Nadia Volvokov’s Russian roots, or maybe Nadia’s metaphorical Russian doll syndrome where each time she is broken (dies), another part of herself is revealed.
I think the series teaches us that we all come with pain, trauma and baggage and the only way we can “keep living” is to discover and embrace the deepest darkest parts of ourselves.