Nadia Vulvokov of Russian Dolls had been electrocuted, shot, frozen to death, and attacked by bees 26 times when we left her (twice). It happened to her, and it was all in the name of being better. Isn’t it supposed to be enough for one person? Russian Doll is back after a nearly three-year absence, and things aren’t looking good for our heroine. Season Two lures viewers in by sending Nadia on a time-bending adventure spanning 80 years of history, two continents, and maybe one parallel world. Season One saw Nadia imprisoned in a time loop that invariably concluded with her perishing in some horrible form.
All of this is done in order to explore the season’s Big Theme, which is how we deal with bereavement. Russian Doll succeeds in identifying a defining question for mankind in both seasons, and Season Two’s crescendo is gloriously, brutally familiar—especially given how awful the last several years have been for all of us. Season Two, on the other hand, is so confusing and full of superfluous red herrings that it doesn’t feel worth the effort to get to the finish.
Russian Doll begins up with Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) meets her godmother Ruth at the hospital after a fender incident involving Ruth, just shy of her 40th birthday. Soon later, Nadia boards a 6 train bound towards the south (nothing good has ever occurred on a 6 train), only to discover that she’s traveling in the other direction. In due course. It’s 1982 as she steps off the train, the year she was born.
The temporal leaps continue unabated. While Nadia (Charlie Barnett) travels through her own time warp parallel to Nadia’s, she considers (and attempts to correct) the perceived mistakes of her family’s women—inter-family theft! mental rehabilitation stints! family fortunes stolen by the Nazis!—Alan (Charlie Barnett) travels through his own time warp parallel to Nadia’s.