I watched Russian Doll over the weekend. Actually, I've watched it on a loop, three times now and I love everything about it. The little details like how every song has a thematic tie to the scene it is in in a way that’s the most profound use of music I’ve seen in years or how starting from the very first loop there are details to be gleaned if you watch for them that may escape the casual glance the first time through. I can’t recommend this show enough.
Interestingly, I’ve seen it compared to The Good Place and it’s actually an apt comparison. They are both dealing with an existential dread and what I find interesting is that while The Good Place starts from a place of joy it works its way into a place of utter darkness with the end of the latest season that is profoundly heart breaking Russian Doll starts from a nihilistic dark place and ends at a place of joy at the end of the first season. I’m unclear where it’s going to go from here but I’m really interested to find out.
I love how the “Groundhog Day” premise has become its own genre in recent years. It’s got legs because it can play as comedy (The Good Place), action (Edge of Tomorrow), horror (Happy Deathday), and drama (Source Code?.)
IMO, the “Loop” in Russian Doll started in Safe Mode with the graphic settings turned way down to conserve power... you know how many objects get drawn in is a common graphic setting right? Like that. After they figured out what they had to do it corrected some settings and then restarted in normal mode and loaded all the people. If they’d screwed that up though I don’t think there was enough power/memory/whatever to do another one.
One other detail I really liked was how subtly they showed that each reset of the time loop it was getting smaller/weaker. First the pets vanished, then the fruit was rotten. As soon as I saw all the fruit in the store was spoiled, I knew entropy was flooding in and the loop was actually collapsing and the loop had a finite - and imminent - limit. *I’m calling it a loop but I think the resets were actually happening in a bubble or pocket universe.
The show really picks up when we meet Alan and learn he’s also trapped in the same time/death loop as Nadia and we learn about both of their backstories and personality quirks. Unlike Nadia, he’s a control freak who finds knowing exactly what’s going to happen comforting...until Nadia changes his loop and they both realize that they have to work together to figure things out, two people who have friends, but are still loners, who prefer to not deal with their sh!t and now forced to deal with it or else keep dying. The big revelation about his first death shook me as much as it did Nadia.
What about Oatmeal? And that Horse fellow? Horse reminded me of the Fisher King. I wondered if Oatmeal was some strange version of the Holy Grail. What do you think about the theory that Horse not only knows all about the loops, but is actively trying to help people (especially Nadia, in this season) get through their loop dilemma? If you assume that he’s basically a shaman masquerading as a “crazy homeless guy”, an awful lot of the weirdness falls into place and the parade scene at the end suddenly makes total sense. My take on the parade is that it’s a ritual celebration of Alan and Nadia’s “initiation” through having worked out their loop dilemmas and merged their timelines. I think it’s part of a kind of new religion that’s building up around the loop phenomenon, which offers some really interesting directions for future seasons.
The last scene in particular definitely hinted at he and his fellow street dwellers being something more. The sudden parade of costumes felt like a Dia De Los Muertos celebration, begging the question of whether they’re in some sort of alternate afterlife timeline a’la Lost or maybe he’s an angelic figure guiding them like It’s a Wonderful Life.
Sure I'll listen to “Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson for two more seasons if they are as pitch perfect as this one was. Russian Doll gets my vote as the best new series for 2019 (so far.)
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