Russian Doll Season 2 Is A Messy But Fascinating Sequel To Netflix’s Best Show

Really, the impact of Russian dollThe first season of cannot be underestimated.

The show was a smash hit, garnered critical acclaim, and became an Emmy winner thanks to a script that didn’t seem to follow conventional guidelines. The trippy, mind-bending tale defied the stories television can tell, performed as one of the most successful Netflix series of all time, and thrust its long-suffering creator Natasha Lyonne into the spotlight.

But when I spoke to her, she was only concerned about one thing.

“As you know,” she said after I pointed out that we were talking on a Thursday, calling a now memetic line from season 1 of his show Russian doll“I’m only here for the memes.”

She was speaking ahead of the Season 2 premiere – a possibly pointless, albeit expertly executed sequel to the genre-defying original – and I was giddy. It’s because talking to Lyonne is a bit like talking to Russian doll‘s Nadia – the same acerbic, raspy-voiced character from the series she conceived, wrote, directed and starred in.

And the experience of talking to Nadia is something anyone watching in 2019 can imagine: she’s hilarious, wickedly smart, incisive, and just the right amount of confusing.

It’s a peculiar mix that three years ago produced one of the best and weirdest things on television, and Wednesday, a sequel: a second season that does everything to continue the exceptionally well-realized characters. that originally caught the public, but with a wider reach and a looser focus that makes the wheels wobble.

WATCH | Russian dollDish of Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett in season 2:

The dish Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett of the Russian doll in season 2

Actors Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett talk about embarking on an all-new season of the hit Netflix show. 2:09

The second challenge

It’s an interesting sequel to the original about Nadia, then 36, a freelance software developer who refuses to keep her cat indoors because she doesn’t “believe in dictating the limits of existence. a sentient being.

She then spends her birthday dying several times before doing it again. groundhog day style, as she tackles everything from the metaphysical ramifications of immortality, to the reckless selfishness of a mother who spent her inheritance on coats and a car, to whether it’s important if co-star and fellow timeloop prisoner Alan (played by Charlie Barnett) cleans up his apartment, because “it will reset when we die.”

The series about death, rebirth, endless second chances and the absurd nonsense of life is, unsurprisingly, drawn from Lyonne’s past.

After being pushed to play like a young child by his mother (she played Woody Allen’s daughter in Everybody say I love youstarred alongside Paul Reubens in Playhouse PeeWee at six years old and made an appearance in 1999 American pie) Lyonne struggled with addiction and nearly died in 2005 of a drug-induced heart infection, followed by open-heart surgery in 2012.

With all of this in her back pocket, Lyonne teamed up with longtime friend and comedian Amy Poehler to create a series based on her life. The first attempt, a pilot made for NBC called old soulfailed, prompting Lyonne to get even wilder on her next attempt – which would eventually become Russian doll – because she assumed he would disappear unnoticed anyway.

Actor Charlie Barnett appears as Alan Zaveri in episode 201 of Russian Doll. (Vanessa Clifton/Netflix)

Instead, we got 2019’s miniseries, a completely self-contained story with an arc and ending so perfect and impactful that this reviewer opened his interview with the off-the-cuff, unexplained quote: “Thursday, what a concept!”

So Lyonne, like everyone else, knows the cultural impact Russian dollThe first season of had – and the challenge of following it.

“It’s very scary to do some sort of sophomore album, that’s, I guess, how I saw it,” she said. “But there’s a real buoyancy factor, I guess the response from audiences who enjoyed the deep dive that was season 1.”

“They want to be part of this journey. And it was like, ‘Oh, maybe we’re all asking similar questions at the same time because the world around us is so crazy.'”

The cast returns, with new recruits

Season 2 also acknowledges the Herculean act it attempts by drawing inspiration from the original at every turn. Along with the introduction of Schitt’s CreekAnnie Murphy (as well as Rosie O’Donnell in a cameo as the train announcer featured in much of the show) the gang is back this time around.

Charlie Barnett returns, along with co-stars Greta Lee and Rebecca Henderson, and we get constant reminders of the original: the equally iconic “sweet birthday baby!” the line is started by not one, but two characters; Fan favorites Horse and Oatmeal (the latter Nadia’s pet and perhaps Schrödinger’s literal cat, the former a possible homeless, a possible weather god) are worth mentioning. After traveling in Europe, Lyonne’s character even swaps the Thursday line for a new one: “Time zones, what a concept!”

Perhaps trying to squeeze under the heel of a now oppressive wave of “many worlds theory”-inspired multiversal stories that have grown so numerous since Season 1 that they’re practically their own genre, Russian doll Season 2 instead leans into time travel.

Four years after the original, this time Nadia is caught in a cycle that regularly sends her back to 1982. There she stumbles to solve the mystery of what happened to the inheritance her mother squandered – over $500,000. in South African Krugerrands – before things get considerably more complex.

WATCH | Reviews of CBC’s Eli Glasner Russian doll Season 1:

Russian doll even more personal this time

A host of Netflix requirements keep me from explaining any further, while the deliberately confusing nature of the show itself means that the less you know, the better.

But suffice to say, Season 2 is an even deeper personal examination for Lyonne, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who was herself expelled from an Orthodox Jewish academy for selling weed.

But the personal exams at the heart of this season muddy the waters early on. Where Season 1 was tight, streamlined, and concise, Season 2 can feel more aimless, experimental, and gripping. Nadia alternately struggles to sort through her mother’s past, solve the mystery of time travel, come to terms with surrogate Ruth’s mortality, and come to terms with her own abysmal childhood – all while Alan has his own parallel adventure in the past.

Even the concept of a sequel itself seems out of the blue for a first season that ended with a few loose threads. While Nadia’s issues with her mother were discussed in the original, the big plot built around her for the new season feels more contrived. a spiritual sequel tied more by theme than by plot.

All that said, Russian doll did not fall. Even with a different feel to the original, Season 2 is still one of the best things on television. Continuing from the first season, a writing room and revolving director’s chair occupied entirely by women showcase characters so well-rounded and perfectly imperfect that you just want to be their best friend.

Mystery is good too. The further we go into Nadia’s (and therefore Lyonne’s) past, the more we want to know. And even though we spend a lot of our time there confused – just like my interview – it draws you in further.

I even asked Lyonne if there was still anything else to learn – a potential new story in a potential Season 3?

“We’ll see,” she said, raising her eyebrows. “Only time travel will tell.”