Russian Doll: Season 1 Complete
February 3, 2019 12:17 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

A 36 year old chain smoking computer programmer's birthday repeatedly ends in her death, only to find her waking up, back at the birthday party, as if nothing had happened.

This will be for the complete first season, and thus not spoiler free.

AVClub Review: Acerbic yet warm, Russian Doll is more rewarding than any puzzle-box show

Vulture Review: Russian Doll Is a Brilliant, Surreal Show About Women in Power

Holywood Reporter Interview: 'Russian Doll' Is Natasha Lyonne's "Autobiography Wrapped in a Mind-Bending Concept"

IndieWire Interview: ‘Russian Doll’ Creators on the Show’s Origins, Keeping Things Secret, and Season 2

I don't plan on doing individual episode posts myself given that each episode is only 24 minutes and the whole season is a little over 3 hours, but feel free to do so if you like. Vulture has individual episode commentary, I noticed.
posted by gryftir (167 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really enjoyed this - very creative and well written, I actually wish I hadn't watched the trailer beforehand because discovering the premise on the fly would have made it even more fun.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:46 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed this. Darkly funny to start with, managed to be genuinely creepy later on, and against the odds it pulled off an upbeat ending. And I stopped thinking about Groundhog Day within an episode or two, which is impressive.

It’s hard to imagine what Season 2 would be like. Something similarly high-concept but different?
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:46 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


Also, I like the half-hour episode length.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:55 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I thought this was really well done. I went into without any knowledge of what it was all about so was happily surprised.

I loved the interaction between Nadia and Alan, two completely different characters caught in this weird loop. The interplay between all the supporting characters and the way things changed whilst all staying true to who they were and what they did the first time we saw them was impressive.

Looking forward to watching this again some time in the near future to catch all the little things that I undoubtedly missed the first time.
posted by h00py at 4:52 AM on February 3 [11 favorites]


This was super good!
posted by sixswitch at 5:23 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Oh, I really liked this so much.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:00 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


This is pretty much the only Netflix original series I’d say is unabashedly great AND doesn’t feel like it dragged or went on too long. Just perfect all around. Great music choices.

Also, double deja vu cause that is so extremly a LES art/media party trending into middle age I was halfway expecting to be in the background of it somehow.

Also Lyonnne would make a great hard living, flat footed detective type. Columbo reboot now!
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on February 3 [35 favorites]


I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Found it really picked up once a few deaths happened. Love the half hour format too.
posted by kanata at 11:48 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


I watched the whole thing today and enjoyed it so much. It's something I'll probably watch again, to pick up on all the little things I missed first time round.
posted by essexjan at 12:28 PM on February 3


Yes, I would watch a Natasha Lyonne Colombo style show. I assume this season was a one-off for this show since everything seemed pretty neatly resolved, but if they do another I'd watch her investigate weird spacetime deaths or whatever.

edit: Didn't see that last link. I guess it's not a one-off, but I don't know how they bring back the whole groundhog day scenario for another season... or if they do something totally different.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:10 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


About halfway through I was getting a real Philip K Dick Ubik vibe, as people (and mirrors, and furniture, and canned goods) starting disappearing. Was half-expecting to finally just be the two of them, alone in a vastness marked only by lines where the buildings used to be.
posted by Mogur at 1:48 PM on February 3 [8 favorites]


This was great ! Liked the half hour format, makes it easy to watch in one evening and doesn't give that "treading water" feeling a lot of shows have.
posted by Pendragon at 1:52 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I agree with everyone else who says it's great. I had to look up the convenience store clerk because I couldn't recall where I recognised him from; it's Linus from Stitchers.

Even before the objects/people started disappearing, I found the decaying fruit to be really creepy and was hoping that Nadia or Alan would point it out to someone who wouldn't see the problem (like the mirror never being there). It had a bit of a Langoliers vibe, crossed with the surreal greatness of The Lost Room.

A+, Netflix, gib more.
posted by Marticus at 3:27 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Another fan here. The show combined two of my favorite tropes - Groundhog Day & transformative friendships. And I also liked the half-hour format, though it's funny, the episodes felt longer than half-hours to me as I was watching them. Not in the sense that they were dragging, just that they were so eventful if didn't seem like they could have packed so much plot into so little time. Anyway, it really avoided the whole 'flailing around' problem that so many other Netflix Original series hit.

I can't imagine what season 2 could be, but I couldn't have imagined this season either, so, it's something to look forward to.
posted by oh yeah! at 3:29 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


I agree. Netflix has done quite well with their original series (relative to their movies) but many or even most of them do feel like they would be improved by cutting 2-3 episodes of killing time. Better 8 consistently strong episodes than 11 or 12 episodes with strong highlights but a bunch of mediocre filler.

Season 2 of the Punisher is case in point. I thought there was a lot of good stuff there but also some extraneous material put in for time, much like an 11th grader who didn't quite reach the word count needed and starts inserting B-material to pad his or her report.

Some stories can carry 13 hour-long episodes. Many, however, can't... and RD handles that right by not trying.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Oh, Happy Death Day is a film-length take on this kind of story which I thought was quite well done for what it was. So if that's the sort of thing you like, you'll probably like that sort of thing.
posted by Justinian at 3:32 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


The computer programmer and the gamer, but they never suggested they were in a video game/simulation. Hopefully that get's explored in season 2?

I liked Horse as a character (and the fact that he was into crypto currency but became homeless... maybe that was a lie, but it seemed like a long way to fall). Also his animal head with the horns made me think of psychopomps and shamans. If it wasn't for him, correct me if I'm wrong, Nadia and Alan wouldn't have met on the elevator?
posted by gryftir at 5:58 PM on February 3 [9 favorites]


This show was Bandersnatch, except with female characters and good.

I really liked it, though I only watched it after I confirmed Oatmeal turns out fine.
posted by jeather at 6:10 PM on February 3 [12 favorites]


So this is what it’s like in the dot of the “i” in Jeremy Bearimy.
posted by roger ackroyd at 6:58 PM on February 3 [54 favorites]


Goddamn that was great. Incredibly sharp writing (Amy Poehler!), compelling characters, comedic with a twist of creepy, just… awesome.

I must confess that when I saw the posters and stills from the show I confused Natasha Lyonne with Anna Friel and wanted to ask "What's the deal with you and death?".
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:53 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Didn't Nadia say that she thought she knew Horse before her first death ? I think this Horse character has a bigger role than we think...
posted by Pendragon at 12:57 AM on February 4 [10 favorites]


Happy to see a show with Natasha Lyonne front and center. Really enjoyed this, I had no idea where it was going but the ride was worth it.
posted by jzb at 3:16 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


And *I* was happy to see a TV show where the female lead dressed appropriately for the damn weather, not going anywhere without a warm coat even if she had to steal, ahem, borrow it.
posted by Mogur at 4:06 AM on February 4 [25 favorites]


I thought of the Wild Hunt and Tam Lin watching that part! Both she and Alan talked about morality, and he wanted a moral universe and she wanted a purely rational one, and they ended up in a universe of the supernatural/natural forces - magical in a sense, much like how the Wild Hunt is not good or bad, but simply is part of the tides of nature in stories. Tam Lin for both of them almost, but she was definitely the active partner and the end with the two of them choosing vulnerable friendship with each other, friendly sex aside, was truly earned and happy.

I liked the web of friendships around them as well - Alan had people in his life, and aside from Mike who was garden variety awful, people were mostly decent people.

I did not expect the actress for her mother and I really loved her little choices - the hair, the way her eyes linger here then dart, the distance she holds from people.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:47 AM on February 4 [12 favorites]


Sweet birthday baby!

The ending made me cry, in a polar opposite way to how Alan knocking his spoon off the table did. Just the shot if Nadia in her white shirt and Alan with the little scarf, walking together. Because they made it through, together, and it was so perfectly pure.

Also, I want to introduce Maxine and Beatrice because I feel like Maxine will be interested in Bea’s work.
posted by RainyJay at 5:54 AM on February 4 [12 favorites]


God I almost cried so many times in the last two episodes.This really got to to me in a way so few things do.

I also seriously want that bathroom door.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:41 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Incidentally for those who love this I want to recommend Afterbirth, which is also weird, but very gross and features Natasha Lyons and Chloe Sevigny. And when I say gross, I mean like beyond early David Cronenberg gross.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:42 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I was excited to watch this because several of my friends loved it and I read three or four really positive reviews. I absolutely hated it. Like, I'm angry I hated it so much. What is wrong with me? I hate the characters, thought Lyonne's performance was beyond annoying, found the dialogue circular and irritating. I bailed after three episodes, figuring that was enough of a commitment to something I didn't enjoy. I REALLY WANTED TO LIKE IT.

I did like the bathroom door, though.
posted by Aquifer at 11:39 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


What is wrong with me? I hate the characters, thought Lyonne's performance was beyond annoying, found the dialogue circular and irritating. I bailed after three episodes, figuring that was enough of a commitment to something I didn't enjoy.

I'm surprised at where you bailed. The twist at the end of episode 3 is where, for me at least, the show finally got interesting. I'd suggest sticking with it a little bit longer. You might still hate it, but episode 4 is the point where it stops being Groundhog Day if Bill Murray had no redeeming qualities.
posted by Gary at 11:49 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


Don't feel bad, Aquifer, one episode was enough for me to decide I didn't like the characters enough to stick with the show. I wanted to like it. The reviews make me think I should, and while I normally hate time loop/Groundhog Day episodes, that premise didn't bother me at all in this. I just couldn't get invested enough in the people to continue, although part of me did wonder if I could just skip to the last episode to find out why and how the time jump was happening.
posted by sardonyx at 12:54 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


There certainly doesn't need to be any more to this story, but I did find it intriguing that we still don't really understand...well...a lot by the end. I don't need to know why Nadia and Alan were subjected to this, but I am a little curious about what exactly this is. The fast-rotting vegetation made me think the branching timelines might be pocket universes that in fact did not continue, that were only intended to last a few days (or however long it took for Nadia and Alan to get themselves killed again). And moments in which the secondary characters seemed to understand exactly what was going on with Nadia and Alan made me think some or all of them were simulations -- knowingly or otherwise.

(That is: We see secondary characters interact in scenes without Nadia or Alan around, so if they are simulations, they apparently don't necessarily realize it. So, like, Mike is as much of a prick in the pocket universes as he would be in normal life, because he's a perfect copy, but he's not really Mike in a parallel universe that has existed throughout eternity. All of the simulated characters will blink out of existence when the pocket universe ends. They're sort of like the tulpas in Twin Peaks.)

The problem with this idea is that, in the last episode, it's clear there are at least two parallel universes that are intended to be permanent. So...are all of the other timelines we've seen still ongoing?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:17 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


I didn't find the elevator crash sequence particularly traumatizing while I was watching the show, but I found myself feeling kinda nervous once I got into the elevator at work this morning. On a happier note, "Gotta Get Up" kept popping into my head at random moments whenever I was walking around today; I think I need to buy it now.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:41 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


The pocket universes thing ties into the Donnie Darko movie (if you read the philosophy of time travel booklet that makes it a bit clearer), so I am now hoping that the future episodes get weirder.
posted by Marticus at 7:41 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating! I gave it the three episode tryout and ended up binging through e03.

It's interesting that she seems to retain - or process - the memories better over the iterations.

I wonder what scenarios one could game irl for personal gain/ grand goal for humanity, modulo how strongly one "trusts" the phenomenon and speculation on whether this is forever or if there's going to be an end.

Vaguely reminds me of a scifi short story where every time a person committed suicide, they just changed universes where everything was just a little bit worse, leading the consciousness to commit suicide again, repeat - but for the POV character, all memories of the previous existences persisted between universes.
posted by porpoise at 8:36 PM on February 4


Jeremy Bearimy baby!

I loved this so much. It reminded me of a gritty, color-saturated sibling of The Good Place. Pretty satisfying after having some Good Place withdrawal and wanting something similar.

I wasn’t a big fan of Nadia and her friends at first but those tedious conversations with her friends at the party get less and less and the plot amps way up. Man I loved watching this.
posted by bleep at 9:27 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


Nadia is one of the best-rounded characters in any medium, just perfectly unique. She’s unpredictable but coherent. When, in the last episode, Alan has to confront the Nadia who doesn’t know him it’s visceral what an impenetrable tower of a person she is — but she’s also wonderful in her way. Bravo.

I was suprised (not disappointed) that the video game she made didn’t really pan out, story-wise. It wound up as just a symbol, but I was suspecting it would be more causative. Oh well.
posted by argybarg at 10:08 PM on February 4 [26 favorites]


I was also thinking about how in this, the big, gentle intelligence sees something go wrong and tries to nudge things around to where they belong, even as it gets weaker and can’t sustain itself anymore, this force is just like a glimmering shape that you have to turn your minds eye to look at rather than a personified character. It’s lovely to have that opportunity.
posted by bleep at 10:16 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


Super interesting thesis on the show and Tompkins Square Park that apparently the creators liked...
posted by armacy at 4:45 AM on February 5 [21 favorites]


I really enjoyed this - loved the pacing and the characters. Went in with zero knowledge, and for once I was not disappointed by Netflix. More like this, please.
posted by motdiem2 at 5:48 AM on February 5


I watched the first two episode Sunday night, then binged the rest yesterday.

I loved this. I'm glad I didn't know anything other than die/restart bit, because I actually gasped out loud at the reveal at the end of episode three.

I think the silliest moment was the bees, and that was a little ridiculous, but it was totally worth it. That one I laughed out loud at. I usually don't have audible reactions to media I'm watching.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 6:23 AM on February 5 [12 favorites]


I really liked this. I think that creators are just beginning to figure out what to do with streaming video: right now they mostly just making broadcast TV shows that will be distributed via streaming services. But you can do things for Netflix or Hulu that you can't do if you need something to fit into a broadcast schedule. You can design things to be binge-watched and re-watched. You can structure things like a novel, with chapters that have a logical endpoint but aren't supposed to be able to stand alone. This is one of the first shows I've seen on Netflix that feels like it's taking advantage of the opportunities the format provides, rather than being a tv show that ended up on Netflix.

Anyway, I liked it a ton, and I can't wait to watch it again.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:57 PM on February 5 [13 favorites]




I watched this over the course of the weekend--does that count as binge-watching? I liked it a lot, especially as a counterpoint to the only other fictional series that I've really gotten into in the Age of Streaming (Good Place and Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt). I did feel like the Alan character was a little "off"--I mean, obviously, he was meant to be "off" in some ways but the character and his backstory didn't gel for me the way Nadia's does. So for me this meant that at the end, Nadia is the only really fully realized character in the whole series, and I think that could have been avoided if Alan's development was more balanced with Nadia's. Like I said, I really liked it, but I found the Alan character to be a weak point and I don't know if that's because of the writing or the acting or what.
posted by drlith at 4:56 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I loved this so much, and it made me miss New York.
posted by bunderful at 8:02 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


This was fantastic and dark and personal and uplifting and scary and beautiful.

Was the bathroom door a red herring/just artwork?

Was the implication that when Nadia was a child she intentionally ate glass so as to be taken from her mother?
posted by books for weapons at 10:20 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Am I misremembering the ending, or does Alan disappear completely as the timelines converge, leaving Nadia marching alone among the revelers?
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:42 PM on February 5


No, he's there, on the left.
posted by Pendragon at 2:07 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Was the implication that when Nadia was a child she intentionally ate glass so as to be taken from her mother?

I don't think so; I took it as a symbolic reference to the mirror/glass-smashing incident, a physical representation of the emotional damage inflicted on young Nadia that she was still carrying inside her as an adult.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:08 AM on February 6 [17 favorites]


I finished this over the past weekend, and last night sat down to re-watch the first episode, this time along with my wife. This is one of my favorite things that I've seen over the past few years...Lyonne is a damn force of nature, and this is a brilliant performance.

The comparisons to "Groundhog Day" have already been made, obviously, and having Nadia identify "The Game" as the movie that she herself thinks most resembles her troubling situation was pretty funny. But the thing it most reminded me off was Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King": both are stories set in NYC that really couldn't be set anywhere else. Both have a weird overlay of myth and legend sitting just above the bare facts of the narrative, and both are centered around the consequences of running away from trauma. They're not entirely of a piece, and I think "Russian Doll" works better and does more interesting things, but the resemblance was striking to me.

Oh oh oh, and also: killer soundtrack. I found a playlist somewhere, and of 25 tracks making up the list, 21 were by people entirely new to me. So THAT's nice.

More than anything else, what impressed me was that the show attempts more audacious tonal shifts that anything else I think of seeing in many years, and succeeds at them! Completely organically! It was like watching an Olympic gymnast.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:46 AM on February 6 [14 favorites]


Gah, I feel dim. I tried to figure out during the first episode how the idea of a russian doll fit into the concept of the story, then forgot. I just now realized that each iteration of the loop, their world got smaller, by having fewer things/people in it. Also, the title is a sexist description of the main character.

Oh, I suppose also that her younger self could be seen as being inside of her, which puts another layer in there.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:13 AM on February 6 [16 favorites]


Just finished watching it this morning. Am also halfway through a class on psychoanalysis and international studies, in which we're learning how to use psychoanalytic theory to analyze commentary on trauma, hysteria, repression, and et cetera as depicted in films and other media, and HOOOOOOOO BOY is this show ever a rich fuckin' seam of material to analyze. Oh man. I doubt I can pull off making it the focus of my final project, but my GOD, this is meaty.
posted by palomar at 7:59 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


Fun bit of trivia: In a recent podcast interview (unfortunately paywalled) when asked about her distinctive way of talking, Natasha Lyonne explained that as a child she'd had access to a handful of VHS movies which she would watch over and over again. One of the movies she watched repeatedly was Rocky and she admits that the characters' gruff, Philly tough-guy speak had a huge influence on her dialect and manner of speech.

In the first and (maybe?) last episodes, there is a memorable cameo by none other than Burt Young, the actor who played Paulie in the Rocky movies.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:52 AM on February 6 [12 favorites]


I do like the way she says cockroach... cockAroach..
posted by Pendragon at 1:10 PM on February 6 [13 favorites]


In the first and (maybe?) last episodes, there is a memorable cameo by none other than Burt Young, the actor who played Paulie in the Rocky movies.

He IS in the last episode, and the conversation his character has with Nadia is one of my favourite things.
posted by chrominance at 6:24 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


I thought of him as Bobby Bacala Sr. To each his own.
posted by argybarg at 6:45 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]




I was processing some of my big reactions to this series cause it;s not just a very specific NYC story it's a very specific Lower East Side story and I came up with "At least part of this series is the nagging guilt that we allowed something awful to happen to New York and we don't know how to fix it."
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


on the one hand it's half Maniac and half what-if-The-Good-Place-except-good. but on the other hand it destroys Maniac (which I liked) with its big reveal of the lead's secret shame. where Maniac was very literal about that, here they recognize that what she actually did or didn't do to her mother doesn't matter. not that it wasn't real because she was a child & children have the duty of innocence and have to be wrong about feeling guilty; and not that it wasn't real because she remembered it backwards. it was significant, but what happened doesn't matter because the guilt was over what she chose in her heart, not in anything she said or did that other people could see. they knew better than to try and represent that with some kind of externalized flashback.

like in the Buffy ep where she's stuck in the dream loop and the important part is when she pauses for just a second, pulling the book out of the bookcase, because that was when she gave up. but she has to explain why the moment's important because it didn't look like anything from the outside.

of course that is all sentimental garbage, mostly it was just good because of Natasha Lyonne

speaking of Maniac & TGP, somebody probably has few dozen cogent gender-based critiques of the brutal strong woman/quivering quavering fragile man partnership-concept that's sweeping the nation. but I don't, I like it a lot.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:48 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed this but actually think it could have been longer -- some of the character development didn't have enough room to breathe, imo. Like Alan went from being a wreck to having a really deep and well-written empathy for his wife in a way that didn't feel "earned" by what we'd seen in the story till that point. Maybe that just means I enjoyed Alan and Nadia's characters so much I could have happily lived in this world with them for much longer, which is hardly a complaint.

I really liked the deep empathy the show had for even the story's "villains," and how much it left unexplained/implied about the relationships between all the different characters, trusting the viewers to get it. The world felt very real and lived-in.

I caught the fruit decaying but how early did people start disappearing from the party? I didn't notice until one of the women waiting for the bathroom disappeared. The episode where the decay ramped up -- and Nadia kept having heart attacks - was extremely distressing.
posted by Emily's Fist at 11:32 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]


speaking of Maniac & TGP, somebody probably has few dozen cogent gender-based critiques of the brutal strong woman/quivering quavering fragile man partnership-concept that's sweeping the nation. but I don't, I like it a lot.

Disclaimer, I enjoyed both this and Maniac a lot... but I'd kind of categorize this as a flavor of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. A better flavor, to be sure, given how awesome the female characters are & the fact that both shows edge away from being romances.
posted by Emily's Fist at 11:41 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I caught the fruit decaying but how early did people start disappearing from the party? I didn't notice until one of the women waiting for the bathroom disappeared.

In the first episode a bunch of fish disappear from Maxine's fishtank, leaving only two.
posted by Pendragon at 1:21 AM on February 7 [10 favorites]


I caught the fruit decaying but how early did people start disappearing from the party?

From Vulture's production design interview:
Around this time, viewers might also notice that other things start to disappear in their universes: animals vanish, plants wither, and eventually people start to go poof. “That was all totally mapped out, after the beginning,” Bricker said, noting that he pushed creator Leslye Headland and star Lyonne to have a consistent logic to the order of what disappears.

“The animals were the first to disappear, and plant life started to deteriorate, and the food, that was the next thing. And then onto the objects,” Bricker said, noting that they decided that organic things would be affected first but wanted to keep some of the logic a mystery. “It’s definitely difficult to map out while you’re shooting, but I think that we pulled it off, and it will be fun for the audience to discover.”

posted by oh yeah! at 5:12 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Natasha is so charming that I found myself beaming in the loop when she happily walks through the party and sees that all of her friends are still around.
posted by armacy at 4:31 PM on February 7 [19 favorites]


closing in on the end, fucking love it. Pulling for the Mr. Robot crossover even if it dilutes the piece. So many great jokes. I still haven't been able to explain to Viv why the Derek Jeter joke is so fucking great. I love this, a lot.
posted by mwhybark at 8:54 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


but I'd kind of categorize this as a flavor of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope

I don't think you can call this particular trope the same trope once it's gender-reversed, can you? and Alan's obsessive and repressed, not manic, anyway, even if he does pop into her life to teach her a little something about herself and give her a little fun no-commitment youthful-gym-bodied sex.

what's-his-name the fivehead Updike advisor, he comes closer, you could say he's trying to act out a manic pixie professor bit, but he's too self-aware about his place in women's lives to count. he knows he's not the catalyst for their epiphanies, he just happens to be in the room with his pants off when they happen.

and Nadia's gainfully employed and a genuine grown-up adult who knows what's what, she's nobody's pathetic old zach braff needs to be shown how to live a little before she falls all the way into middle age, she already knows how

her ex wants HER to be a pixie maybe, but the show's not about him and it's not very important what he wants.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:46 PM on February 7 [10 favorites]


plus! post-Russian Doll, nobody has to be tactful about Emily of New Moon ever again. Alan's boyish love for that book is at once the sweetest and cruelest thing. the most vicious of telling details.

plus! the first time she goes off into the deserted gloom with the Barber to see what he wants to do with his sharp scissors in private, and you get very impressed with her immunity to fear but also VERY UNCOMFORTABLE not knowing if this is going to turn out to be a real bad situation, as it would be in any other show context. but then suddenly you remember it's fine because you know what she also knows: he could cut her throat and it would be completely fine, she'd just wake up in the bathroom again and know better for next time. she can run around in the world and learn lessons and not die of it.

it's a setup where the usual movie rules about what meek safety-conscious women must and mustn't do, and how bravery and bad judgment are the same thing for women, not only don't apply but can't apply. you can't say she's dumb or unrealistically written for going off with that guy to the shadow haircuttery, because she knows and we know she can't die. or that she definitely will die but it won't take. same difference.

it just crushes all the usual moralistic objections to women having fictional adventures, never mind real ones; crumples them up like foil and throws them away. she can have all the ketamine and get in all the fights and fall down all the staircases and talk to all the sketchy guys in all the dark Knife Places she wants and nobody can even suggest she's taking a risk; she isn't. she's absolutely free to explore the whole city world without restraint. it's very beautiful in that way and it uses that aspect of the setup to the fullest. but it also doesn't give you the sense that she'd be any more timid on a normal night; she definitely wouldn't (she isn't on the first night). that's also great
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:14 PM on February 7 [37 favorites]


Ok I've never read Emily of the New Moon. I did read Anne of Green Gables as a girl and was meh about it in the same way I was meh about every "girl" book my mom gave me.

I was then and still am interested in unconventional literature and particularly disinterested in what I called in my head "standard female books" like Little Women. (Dear god did I hate little women.) I prefer Poe and Conan Doyle.

So now I'm curious about Emily of the New Moon. The description of it in the show interests me but I'm still a bit resistant, so is it worth a read?
posted by miss-lapin at 12:40 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Mogur swore by it - she preferred it over the Anne books, though she loved those, too. The TV adaptation is an odd duck that gives a bit of the flavor but more definitely comes across as "what if Anne of Green Gables, but from the Dark Shadows writers' room with some help from Stephen King?".

(link note: the TV adaptation is on Youtube - I'm linking to episode 1)
posted by Mogur at 5:17 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


To be clear, Mrs Mogur thought the TV adaptation was nothing like the books. I just love their campiness.
posted by Mogur at 5:25 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


About halfway through I was getting a real Philip K Dick Ubik vibe
I was half expecting Nadia to reach for her spray can of (safe when used as directed) Ubik as soon as the camera lingered on the dead plant at the end of episode one. From that point, I was also a little worried that the ending would be poor; this kind of reality bending stuff is so hard to finish well. PKD himself tended to alternate between offering no explanation, and an explanation that didn't fit the rest of the book. I guess the Russian Doll ending leaned a little towards no explanation, but they made it work by having the ending fit tonally so well with the rest of the piece, and making it so character driven. (The use of split-screen also reminded me of the similar tricks closing out Run Lola Run's time loops).

Mike who was garden variety awful
No doubt I'm overfitting, but in his flatness of affect, emotionless approach to sex, callousness, and seeming imperviousness, Mike reminded me of a PKD Dark Haired Girl.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:09 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Everyone has such a big apartment. Other than that, I loved it.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:27 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


Nadia is EERILY similar to my friend Amy.

Also, this show was great.
posted by kyrademon at 3:27 PM on February 8



So now I'm curious about Emily of the New Moon. The description of it in the show interests me but I'm still a bit resistant, so is it worth a read?


a lot of people love it and some of them are my friends so I have to be nice.

they will tell you it's better than Anne of Green Gables and here is the thing: it isn't. it (or they; it's a series) aren't better as works of art. the particular character Emily works better for cheap self-insert identification purposes for a lot of people than the particular character Anne does. she is, as Nadia says, "darker." Anne with her studied big-eyed tweeness is off-putting to many children and Emily isn't, as much.

but to carry this fact forward and take it to mean that the Emily books are better is no way to judge a novel if you take it seriously. making the main character a writer is a terrible decision and the books suffer thereby. this is true of just about all books like that, they are all claustrophobic and depressing and ultimately hollow, it's nothing against LMM especially. it's just a fact that you have to give an autobiographical inspiration a little room to breathe, you have to let a character's ambitions be more and other than a literal tracing of your own. like imagine if Lyonne had had Nadia written as an actress instead of a software designer, it'd have been just an awful conceit. it's like that.

anyway, Emily makes terrible romantic choices but is given a real bad set of options to choose from, among them an Older Man who is the Worst and a younger man who is the Dumbest. though no man in any LMM book is ever all that bright, and the arguments for their worldliness & appeal are never convincing. this is what makes it hilarious when Alan says he loves it, but you have to have read it to enjoy that, it's not funny if you just hear it told.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:46 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


I actually thought the apartments were a very telling in character/thematic detail

Nadia has a classic pre-war two-room apartment modified by the light and air laws that's probably been in her extended family or peer group for generations - it is 100% rent-controlled and I have personally been in that exact apartment a thousand times. A writer friend of mine whose had the same place since 1987 has basically the same place, down to the galley kitchen and french doors.

Alan has the newest looking apartment, like it might as well be an Airbnb dorm, it's deeply impersonal and unconnected to time and kind of looks like a hotel room? It still has that typical Kitchen at the Front Door layout tho.

Bea has what looked like a cleaned up railroad apartment - that is an old pre-war tenement apartment common to the LES gussied up with modern lights and decor. Both her and Alan's apartments are about money and newness, going foward.

Ruth, however, has the most classic of classic set-ups. Townhouse with office space? In the E 12s? Not unreasonable to think she bought it early in her career as a therapist in the late 60s or early 70s. Peggy from Mad Men bought a BUILDING back then, it was a different time. Anyway her stuff is all arch traditional and homey and totally unattainable now.

The Party Loft in the converted Yeshiva school? Well, we don't know Maxine's finances or her friends /standing in the art world, but it's both not unreasonable to think someone could have access to some party loft no one *lives* in and that keeping with the time-shifting element of the series, it is much more thinkable on Ave A in say 1991 then 2018. But such places do exist.
posted by The Whelk at 10:12 PM on February 8 [34 favorites]


I wonder what Alan was doing when Nadia was falling down the stairs? The stairs bit was really stupid and annoying to me, it felt like very literal refusal to advance; time-wasting, padding. Also sort of represented a way the show wasn't really as cute as it thinks it is (but then aren't we all). Ultimately though they forget about it.

I did like Nadia getting distracted by her ex; she'd be in the middle of working through things with Alan and the ex would show up and she'd run after him, completely switching tracks with no awareness.

Natasha Lyonne made it all worthwhile though, and I really liked Nadia and Alan's friends.
posted by fleacircus at 11:44 PM on February 8


queenofbithynia thank you for that review. I looked at some descriptions of the book and I couldn't reconcile what I read with "dark" so that explains quite a bit.

The Whelk, at one point being hustled to the fire escape she remarks "I have a fire escape? I have to change my air bnb listing." My assumption is used this place for airbnb listings to make money and was using it for the party. I have a friend in california who does this. He's s a former clothing designer so the spaces are very visually striking and I could totally see him saying something like that. (I think he would also appreciate her eye make up.)
posted by miss-lapin at 7:01 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


Started strong, ended incoherently. (Nice imagery! Nice messaging about carrying our issues around with us! But a blur of pictures and feelings that didn’t add up for me.)

Early on, the scene where they talk about video games and how the idea of a game where you have to get by on your own without any outside support is impossible worked fine as a bit of heavy metaphor, but as someone who has played a game or two it felt like an obvious tell that the writers haven’t.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:28 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I loved this! Meant to watch one episode then start my Saturday and watched the whole thing. It felt really fresh, and seconding queenofbithynia that it was a weird feeling to be apprehensive when Nadia follows Horse for a haircut(!) and then realise he could kill her and be fine.

I wouldn't have wanted to know beforehand but it was difficult watching suicidal idealisation being played out. Glad it ended realistically positive, with her telling Alan of course she couldn't promise happiness, just being present.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:48 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Loved this series - so many layers. Regarding Emily of New Moon, isn't Nadia's childhood experience more similar to the character of Ilse in the book? It's been decades since I read it (and re-read it, over and over) but iirc, Ilse herself was carrying somewhat of a bad reputation because her mother had supposedly abandoned her family. (So, child bearing a burden for the mother's "faults.") And then Emily and Ilse become friends, but then there is some sort of falling out, and then later Emily has a dream or vision that SPOILER ALERT Ilse's mother had actually fallen down an old well.

So I can see child-Nadia reading Emily of New Moon and thinking she's like Emily, because she's got the godmother who can provide stability and proper meals, but she's actually Ilse and she's going to carry this awful burden. But she has to face what really happened as an adult,even though it's not as tidy as what really happened with Ilse's mother, because she can't not be the person who lived through that experience.
posted by stowaway at 9:20 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Whoops, I watched the whole thing.

I was surprised at how much I cared about Nadia and Alan by the end. Also, really glad I didn't know about Alan before watching, the fact that he's half the show took me by surprise (in a good way).

I think the only part that didn't really work for me was when Nadia started seeing her younger self. There wasn't an Alan equivalent exchange, and it felt like a shortcut to make Nadia realize what she had to do.

It was also funny! I was not expecting funny! Most of the background conversations were great.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:29 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Early on, the scene where they talk about video games and how the idea of a game where you have to get by on your own without any outside support is impossible worked fine as a bit of heavy metaphor, but as someone who has played a game or two it felt like an obvious tell that the writers haven’t.

does it really strike you as likely that none of the writers has ever played a video game, heard of a video game, or heard anyone talk about playing a video game? more likely, I mean, than any of them daring to make a joke at the expense of video games? b/c I don't think making broad fun of video games is that unthinkable.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:02 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


does it really strike you as likely that none of the writers has ever played a video game, heard of a video game, or heard anyone talk about playing a video game? more likely, I mean, than any of them daring to make a joke at the expense of video games? b/c I don't think making broad fun of video games is that unthinkable.

I didn’t consider it a joke at the expense of video games - I considered it a convenient line of dialogue that pushed the theme forward. (It wasn’t a joke at all, as far as I could tell - Alan just complains that it’s unreasonable for Natasha to have made a game where a character has to get through the entire thing by herself.) It just rang entirely false to me, and suggested that yes, the writers were not people who played console video games on any sort of basis. I mean, I’ll withdraw the haven’t, but the bad line is what it is.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:01 PM on February 10


I caught the fruit decaying but how early did people start disappearing from the party? I didn't notice until one of the women waiting for the bathroom disappeared.

In the first episode a bunch of fish disappear from Maxine's fishtank, leaving only two.


Well the whole series starts with añadía looking for her missing cat.

One thing I didn’t like or understand is how, if there are all these extra universes, how come we never see Nadia in Alan in different ones until the final episode. Buuuuuut... maybe that’s what they’ll do for Season 2.
posted by Brittanie at 10:35 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I love shows and movies that are about PTSD and trauma without being literal. The feeling of being inside it and having to regress through it to get out the other side. That we can only heal ourselves, no one else can do the work, but that we often need a partner while we do. I love that Nadia and Alan are so different in their approach before meeting each other and that those approaches map with pretty common ways of (not) dealing with trauma. Absolutely fucking stellar.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:20 PM on February 10 [20 favorites]


What was the significance of the painting Alan was staring at? It looked like numbers, but I wasn't sure.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 4:56 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


It just rang entirely false to me
Yeah, the video game stuff was a bum note, and mostly could have been dropped, except for the awesome passive-aggressive code review scene. That dev team was brilliantly toxic.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:41 AM on February 11 [7 favorites]


The stairs bit was really stupid and annoying to me, it felt like very literal refusal to advance; time-wasting, padding.

I found it to be a good metaphor for Nadia's hesitance to go any deeper into the root of her damage.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:02 AM on February 11 [13 favorites]


Fans, critics, and designers have discussed egocentrism in game design going on 30 years now. So I read that line as less disbelief that the genre of "difficult," "retro," single-player platformers exist than suggesting that Nadia's choices to design one (especially given the blatant self-insert) may inform the problem they're in. The scene is revealing in another way in that we have a designer who apparently doesn't play or play-test, admitting in a small way that yes, she made things unreasonably difficult for others. Also, Alan may be reflecting the mainstream trend for multiplayer and accessible difficulty which retro gaming is, in part, a reaction against.

I'm intrigued a bit by Max's role as a meta-character who doesn't know she is one, both with the "I can't leave" line and in the last episode where she throws her drink at Nadia and immediately says, "I don't know why I did that!" (The storytelling reason becomes clear just a bit later when we're dealing with two Nadias and two Alans.)

I think the stairs and the sidewalk trap door were highlighting one of the new rules of the game-like universe: Doing the same thing repeatedly results in very similar kinds of deaths.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:04 AM on February 11 [18 favorites]


The video game stuff rang false to me, but in a totally benign way. The point was clear: woman designs game where the character has to figure out everything on her own in an unreasonably difficult world, and then discovers the game is too hard even for her. The actual accuracy of the fake video game they were playing or the conversation around that game was immaterial to me, probably because I'm so used to TV shows and movies getting that stuff wrong anyways.

Frankly, I was amazed they thought enough to bother licensing footage of the Tomb Raider reboot for the first scene of Alan pigging out and playing video games at home. (Though as someone on a gaming forum I frequent pointed out, he's playing it with a Dualshock 3, which is unlikely!)
posted by chrominance at 9:16 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


The actual accuracy of the fake video game they were playing or the conversation around that game was immaterial to me, probably because I'm so used to TV shows and movies getting that stuff wrong anyways.

I honestly assumed that the actual game sequence was deliberately off as a meta joke: "we all know this show has better uses for its budget than a few seconds of game footage and that whatever we gin up will be dragged as unrealistic, so here's a little animation."
posted by Going To Maine at 9:38 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


It's one of those "achiever vs. socializer" debates we've been having continually in the 22 years since Bartle. On top of what reads like a game-inspired universe with scripted NPCs, quests, glitches, and an endgame challenge, it says to me that writers are somewhat literate in game criticism as well.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:17 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


I'm intrigued a bit by Max's role as a meta-character who doesn't know she is one, both with the "I can't leave" line and in the last episode where she throws her drink at Nadia and immediately says, "I don't know why I did that!"

Actually the drink throwing reminded me of Bandersnatch, where the main character ALSO designing a game finds himself doing things although that is tied to audience choice. He also faces multiple deaths, but unlike Nadia, he doesn't have an Alan counterpart.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:06 AM on February 11


I forgot to add that I found Maxine's "I AM the party" to be really creepy and ominous.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:07 AM on February 11 [8 favorites]


So now I'm curious about Emily of the New Moon. The description of it in the show interests me but I'm still a bit resistant, so is it worth a read?

Emily is worth it for "the flash" alone.

And then, for one glorious, supreme moment, came “the flash”.

Emily called it that, although she felt that the name didn’t exactly describe it. It couldn’t be described — not even to Father, who always seemed a little puzzled by it. Emily never spoke of it to anyone else.

It had always seemed to Emily, ever since she could remember, that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside — but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond — only a glimpse — and heard a note of unearthly music.

This moment came rarely — went swiftly, leaving her breathless with the inexpressible delight of it. She could never recall it — never summon it — never pretend it; but the wonder of it stayed with her for days. It never came twice with the same thing.

posted by roolya_boolya at 2:54 PM on February 11 [11 favorites]


I wonder what Alan was doing when Nadia was falling down the stairs? The stairs bit was really stupid and annoying to me, it felt like very literal refusal to advance; time-wasting, padding. Also sort of represented a way the show wasn't really as cute as it thinks it is (but then aren't we all). Ultimately though they forget about it.

Since I'm not sure any of the alternate timelines are "real," per se, the stairs felt to me like something in a video game you just can't do because...that part of the game doesn't exist. If every timeline Nadia and Alan visit isn't a completely new parallel universe, but instead a simulation of the real world, then that timeline's version of the world would probably be pretty small -- it would only include the places Nadia and Alan are intended to visit, for one reason or another. So I think Nadia gets killed going down the stairs because they (whoever "they" are) just never completed that part of the simulation. There's literally nothing down there. Obviously, this is an oversight of some kind, because you'd expect her to need to leave the building. This implies not simply a lack of omniscience, but even a dubious competence on the part of the designer(s), a possibility that frankly seems all too plausible in the world of the show.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:25 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


I think Nadia gets killed going down the stairs because they (whoever "they" are) just never completed that part of the simulation.

The stairs work fine then stop working.
posted by fleacircus at 4:11 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


In my interpretation, deaths in this absurd storybook universe is a consequence of moral and relationship failure. So Nadia dies on the stairs multiple times because she freaks out and blames her friends multiple times. Arguably the stairs are "fixed" once Nadia trusts Lizzie (Ruth's stove is fixed once Nadia confesses her survivor guilt to Ruth), but Nadia and Alan are not the most reflective people and don't really figure out the rules until the very end.

The elevator probably is Alan's fault (lying to mom). The chicken bone might be a Maurice Sendak reference. I have no idea about the bees.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:47 PM on February 11 [17 favorites]


The meaning of the bee death, of course, is that Nadia and Alan are allergic to be-ing.

She falls down the sidewalk cellar doors because she has made the pitfall of reducing herself to cargo, to someone else's problem, to be carried here and there.

Her first death is the most symbolic of all. Her mother could not feed her or care for her -- watermelons and broken glass. So: Nadia dies failing to look both ways before crossing the street (which every child should know not to do) in her quest for the warm family breakfast she never had, her "oatmeal".
posted by fleacircus at 2:50 AM on February 12 [34 favorites]


I'm just here to say how much these comments, and their insights, added to what was already a very rich viewing experience. Thank you.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:26 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


So: Nadia dies failing to look both ways before crossing the street (which every child should know not to do) in her quest for the warm family breakfast she never had, her "oatmeal".

Eh, that feels a little facile. I think Oatmeal is, if anything, evidence that Nadia isn't as hardened as she claims--evidence of some nurturing instinct.

Hipsters name their pets after food.

(See also: Ketchup and Mustard.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:57 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I watched it in a single sitting this afternoon, loved it, came here, and found that every thought I had, other Mefites expressed better than I would have.

Save for one: maybe it is because I am not too familiar with Elizabeth Ashley’s work, but I feel that in most universes not the Darkest Timeline that we are in, Carrie Fisher played Ruth.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:55 PM on February 12 [32 favorites]


I think Nadia gets killed going down the stairs because they (whoever "they" are) just never completed that part of the simulation.

The stairs work fine then stop working.


wow, whole bunch of people here who don't reliably fall down the stairs every time they really need to get down a flight of stairs without falling down, huh

must be NICE
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:21 PM on February 12 [21 favorites]


A. when professor bastard asks his Styron Advisee how's his face, he can't tell because the mirror's gone, that's good. not just a motif-for-motif's sake, very Till We Have Faces.

B. when Lizzy wakes up in the pile, makes a big show of rubbing her eyes and looking around, "Oh shit, looks like I got mixed up in something..very nice," but then

and only then

puts her glasses on.
SO HOW DID SHE KNOW
this is the only genuine puzzle in what is not at all a puzzle show otherwise
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:00 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Are you saying Lizzie is the puzzle master???!!!!
posted by bleep at 11:19 AM on February 13


I dunno. My vision is pretty bad without my glasses, but I'm pretty sure I'd be able to hazard a guess what was going on if I woke up in a post-orgy fuckpile.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:32 AM on February 13 [20 favorites]


My read is that the universe was using the deaths to nudge Nadia and Alan along specific paths, albeit paths that seem meandering and obscure to mortals that lack its omniscient perspective. Certain things had to happen, in a certain order, before they could reach their critical insight. But I also got the sense that the universe had a sense of humor, and was in some cases just fucking with them to keep them humble. Hence the bees.

but I feel that in most universes not the Darkest Timeline that we are in, Carrie Fisher played Ruth.

I kept getting Carrie Fisher vibes too.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:43 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Was James Franco at the party?
posted by snofoam at 6:15 PM on February 13


I loved it. Part of it was it had such a 90s feel.
posted by fshgrl at 1:21 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I just binge-watched the entire series in one sitting. I have literally never come close to doing that before.

I'll need to rewatch, I haven't pieced it together yet, but there's a lot more to Horse than meets the eye, isn't there? Everyone else in the world besides our two main characters behave identically every time, they're clearly the same people going through the same motions every time. Not Horse. His personality seems to change pretty dramatically from iteration to iteration, and he keeps popping up in unexpected ways. There's Nadia's "don't I know that guy" deja vu the first time, when she doesn't know him yet; in a late iteration he's suddenly partners-in-crime with the same guy who stole his shoes in an earlier loop; at one point he's a literal stand-in for trashed suicidal Alan (or maybe the wall street drunks?) dropping things on the floor in the deli; and the scene where he talks about inventing the dark web and says "once I saw it was all bullshit I just dropped out completely". And then he and Oatmeal are just, like, hanging out together. "Oh, you think this is your cat." And of course the stag head at the end.

The one thing he's totally consistent about every time is wanting to cut Nadia's hair. The hair that he asks "is that a wig, or a hat?" The hair her mom called her "crowning glory". The hair he tells her "this is the old you."

I'm not smart enough to piece it neatly together but there's definitely some there there.
posted by ook at 12:02 PM on February 14 [31 favorites]


Chaotic trickster god....
posted by stoneweaver at 12:29 PM on February 14 [12 favorites]


As I puzzle through it I keep wanting him to be someone who got caught in the same sort of time loop as Nadia and Alan, but failed to ever break out of it and eventually just gave up. But I know that doesn't work because his world hasn't depopulated / rotted away.

Or has it?? DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN
posted by ook at 1:04 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


His world didn’t seem too full! I love this theory. It’s kind of like how every time Nadia tries to help him (which I thought was the right thing to do, it’s what Bill Murray had to do) she gets off track. The only person she had to help was Alan, the guy who didn’t seem to need any help by outward appearances. You can’t help everyone and the person you’re supposed to help might not be as obvious as the homeless guy. Maybe the homeless guy is there to help you. Think big, think different, pay careful attention, and just cause you saw it in a movie doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you. All great messages.
posted by bleep at 2:44 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]


His world didn’t seem too full! I love this theory. It’s kind of like how every time Nadia tries to help him (which I thought was the right thing to do, it’s what Bill Murray had to do) she gets off track. The only person she had to help was Alan, the guy who didn’t seem to need any help by outward appearances. You can’t help everyone and the person you’re supposed to help might not be as obvious as the homeless guy. Maybe the homeless guy is there to help you. Think big, think different, pay careful attention, and just cause you saw it in a movie doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you. All great messages.

Though helping Horse is what gets her on the path to running into Alan. Before that, her investigations were very impersonal and about finding the object that was causing the issue - the Yeshiva and the Israeli joint, and really ended up having nothing to do with what happened at all. After she tried to help out Horse, it's kind of like universe was saying 'close, but not quite'.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:53 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


Everyone else in the world besides our two main characters behave identically every time, they're clearly the same people going through the same motions every time.

Maxine tho!

Especially when she's dancing alone at the non-party as if that's not weird and then tells Nadia she can't go with her.
posted by jason_steakums at 3:06 PM on February 14 [7 favorites]


Yes yes yes! I loved that -- She's caught so tightly in the loop that she stays locked into the same actions even after they've stopped making any sense at all. (Also the line "I am the party" was hilarious.) (And "I can't" was heartbreaking. The explanation as bare and denuded as the world)
posted by ook at 5:55 PM on February 14 [8 favorites]


Something that I can't believe I had to have pointed out to me: 36 is twice chai.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:22 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


Also I somehow missed on first watch that she not only dies on her birthday, but seemingly at the exact minute she turns 36.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:13 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Or, rather, the reset starts. Wonder if there's significance to the reset moment for Alan.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:51 PM on February 15


Apparently there's commentary out there identifying the title of the last episode as "Ariadne" and the parade as a Bacchanal. Which lends credibility to the notion that Horse might be a mythological psychopomp or trickster. Also, is Beatrice a Dante reference?

It's not just Maxine that seems weirdly NPC-like to me. I think Mike kind of devolves over time to being Alan's Nemesis. His humanities-babble isn't just a joke, it's just concept-dropping with barely a nod to grammatical structure. Then when Alan comes to accept that his relationship is dead, and he needs to work on himself, we see a friendly, kind, and conscientious Mike. John can't have a civil conversation with Nadia until she admits that John blew up his life, and then he's agreeable to inviting his ex to lunch and gifts with his daughter. Another big metafictional "why did they do that" is Maxine's thrown drink/white shirt and Alan's scarf, which justify a visual signal once we hit parallel tracks.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:57 PM on February 15 [9 favorites]


Watched the last two episodes last night and loved it and am still processing. Some internet sleuth somewhere pointed out that "Ariadne" is an anagram of "Re-Nadia", which haunts me just as much as anything else in the series.
posted by vverse23 at 1:00 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


I'm not saying that this literally happens within a PKD/Black Mirror computer simulation. Just that there's some metafictional weirdness going on. In fact, I'd say that those metafictional elements make Russian Doll one of the best urban mythic works I've encountered lately. (Urban mythic in terms of applying traditional story structures into modern settings, not just sexy magicians, werewolves, vampires, or zombies in a film-friendly city.)
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:19 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


This Vulture analysis of the last episode connects Russian Doll to Lost, which I think is hugely insulting to Russian Doll as everything in that show is meticulously and carefully planned, while Lost was not. To be fair, Russian Doll has only had one season to Lost's 6 in which planned storylines were radically changed as a result of unforeseen circumstances (like a child actor hitting a growth spurt).

But I got a lot more enjoyment out of Russian Doll than I did out of Lost. This is probably because I am a New Yorker old enough to remember when Thompkins Square park was seriously sketchy as well as the daughter of a dangerously mentally ill parent.

Despite this, the analysis offers from interesting insights.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:36 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing there will be some clues revealed in season 2 but lots more new mysteries.

Anyway, I just love this. I watched the first episode and just did not stop. It lured me in thinking it would be funny but it just knocked me down emotionally.
posted by Monochrome at 7:04 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Among the many things I loved was how the episodes absolutely did not fit ‘traditional’ tv rhythms. No set-up, beat, punchline and now repeat- things happened then other things happened...

I was not in love with Nadia as a character for the first couple episodes and the actress didn’t do it 100% for me either - at first.

And Alan was weird, ungainly in a way that only made sense once his friendship with the bodega guy was established and developed: he’s a figure that doesn’t show up much in fiction.

And the smaller parts - (Maxine (Greta Lee - who had a great recurring role as Homeless Heidi in “High Maintenance” another love letter to NY) and of course Pauly and David Cale and Brendon Sexton III (! Horse!) ...

I can’t imagine where season 2 would go - I really liked the ending and thought it brought it all to a very satisfactory conclusion.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:01 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


We binged this last night and loved it.

- the art that tells you about the characters (Alan has a framed picture of the top of a building, which was his first death)
- passes the Bechdel test with flying colors
- the beautiful vibrant saturated colors in Nadia's world contrasted with the austere and limited palette in Alan's
- I loved the short, snappy episode lengths
- "like if Andrew Dice Clay and the little girl from Brave made a baby"
- I loved how it was funny AND creepy as heck, and how much there is to unpack
posted by biscotti at 5:27 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


We started this last night and really fell in love with it. We couldn’t finish, so we have two episodes to go (I’m not looking at the spoilers here, honest) Lyonne has always been one of my fave character actors, and it’s great to see her in a project like this.

I agree with others that the 30 minute format works really well for this story. It keeps things small and focused.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:39 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]




Just finished and loved it. Am I the only one who doesn't want another season? I don't want some Lost-style fanwank explanation of how it happened, and I don't see how more detail on Nadia's childhood would add any value. If more of the same happens to her it undermines her hard-earned growth in this season, but this setting without Lyonne would be very dull.

I'm sure I'll be proven wrong and will love whatever they do next. But sometimes it's nice to just have an ending.
posted by harriet vane at 7:47 AM on February 17 [24 favorites]


It’s sort of a dark Marie Kondo take on the universe, isn’t it? If X is inessential, it’s a distraction, an obstacle preventing you from facing your inner trauma, and it doesn’t matter who or what X is, you must get rid of it to move on.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:27 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]


Oh, yeah, of COURSE John's daughter is named Lucy. *Canadian facepalm*
posted by maudlin at 5:51 PM on February 17


I don't want some Lost-style fanwank explanation of how it happened

if this was a 4th wall breaking type deal I imagine Nadia saying

hey writers don't you midichlorian this shit.
midichlorians are the tiny cock-A-roaches of the starwars universe
posted by lalochezia at 8:21 PM on February 18 [7 favorites]


I also wish they'd just leave it at this. It's kinda perfect as it is.
posted by fshgrl at 12:04 AM on February 19 [7 favorites]


Season Two, Episode One, Scene Two

New main character: Hang on, I think I know that lady. Shouts across street at homeless lady in park: Hey! Do we know each other?
Nadia: Fuck off!

Srsly I can't imagine what a season two would look like, and don't feel like one is necessary at all, the story is perfectly self-contained and ended at exactly the right moment. But I trust the show not to just drag out The Continued Mysterious Adventures And Backstory Of Nadia And Alan; that'd be stupid. Like LOST was.
posted by ook at 6:09 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


As part of the gimmick, it would be interesting to see one of the characters get looped but not the other and how they interact with that.
posted by Marticus at 3:27 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


"like if Andrew Dice Clay and the little girl from Brave made a baby"
On first hearing this line, I thought she'd said "Braid", not "Brave" and I liked that choice of time-bending, Princess-non-rescuing, toxic-masculinity-examining, video game to reference.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 12:03 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Canadian Content: Sara Fraser of CBC on Emily of New Moon gets a star turn in Netflix hit Russian Doll.
posted by larrybob at 2:16 PM on February 21


Just downloaded Emily of the New Moon onto my Kindle, thanks show!

Had an acquaintance who died after falling down some stairs at a nightclub at around that age, I thought of her a lot during the earlier episodes. Then started to relate to Nadia more on my own behalf as the show progressed.

Some discussion of Game culture in the show on Buzzfeed (possible spoilers for Serenity and a whole bunch of other shows.)

Also on Buzzfeed: "Russian Doll" And "The Good Place" Want Us To Be Better (spoilers for both shows.)
posted by Coaticass at 9:56 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Maxine throwing the drink and giving Nadia her white shirt made total sense to me. Nadia and Maxine’s friendship has clearly been in a toxic loop for a long time before the time loop started, there’s a lot of simmering resentment and anger and codependency there. Maxine needed to be allowed to get really truly angry at Nadia for constantly trashing her efforts to care for her, so she could then forgive her and ACTUALLY give Nadia something, unlike the party, and the joint, and inviting her ex to reconcile with her, and the birthday chicken, that Nadia actually wanted and could accept. Maxine needed to actually be honest about how angry she was first, in a big dramatic way, not just the circular “let people help you” conversations that they keep having. But she also isnt the kind of person who would have an easy time owning that kind of gesture of pure rage, so having her throw the drink and then say “I don’t know why I did that” worked for me, it didn’t feel contrived at all.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:25 PM on February 21 [15 favorites]




I have super curly red hair. Thanks to this show I now have super curly red hair with bangs.
posted by MaritaCov at 3:17 AM on February 22 [14 favorites]


I'm not saying that this literally happens within a PKD/Black Mirror computer simulation. Just that there's some metafictional weirdness going on.

The one weakness of this (great) show is the metafictional deus ex postmoderna. It's a weakness that almost all of these kinds of stories have, that whatever the magical metaphysical structure of the world happens to be, it must be such that it produces gratifying character conflict, development, and resolution. What makes it particularly postmodern -- as opposed to just normal fantasy or SF -- is how shows like this and The Good Place explicitly identify the deus ex machina with something fairly literally deus-like, so that instead of a bunch of plot devices, world features, and coincidences driving the characters through drama and personal development, there's actually some real or implied governing entity doing it, and that entity seems to want what exactly what we the audience want: moral development through drama. On the one hand, that seems a bit narrow, since surely there are other ways to learn to be good besides tragedy and hijinks, but it's also part of a larger moral argument these days that we don't really learn to be good except via experience. What's interesting about The Good Place is how it makes this issue even more explicit -- God is (fairly) literal, and the characters themselves debate the relative importance of moral development via experience versus moral development though philosophy, etc. But of course ultimately in that universe the magical world ("heaven" , "hell", etc) becomes just another bit of SF/fantasy, a set of superpowered entities who have no more claim to morality than anyone else, just power, so that at some point (perhaps already) the characters are on their own, and any moral development they experience via drama will once again be due to the machinations of the writers, not the deus in their universe -- ie, eventually it will stop being postmodern and just be science fiction. So in that sense, Russian Doll is currently a bit more appealing to me in its chaotic mix of happenstance and fate, a perplexing and distant guiding intelligence that seems to lightly overlap with the needs of the writers to please their audience, but in no clear way, allowing a bit more room for those of us who think that moral development through drama is about as implausible as the idea that a white-haired superman has intrinsic access to goodness. I guess what I'm saying is, I hope Russian Doll doesn't explain itself any time soon, because then it just becomes science fiction (which I also love). Though admittedly, this is why I love the first seasons of so many shows the best too...
posted by chortly at 8:52 PM on February 22 [6 favorites]


My sister described it well - this show is about death to the ego. Both Nadia and Alan have been avoiding the truth about themselves and only when they boldly face it can they move on. Nadia was Terrified of having her ex's kid see her die... I think she watched her mother die by eating glass? Episode 7 was the most twisted and dark, because they were at the core of their fears. The E7 conversations with Beatrice and Ruth were eerie... At some points both B and R ceased to be their own people and were clearly working with Nadia and Alan very explicitly like psychological guides for eg when Beatrice asks "and did you go get help?" It's past tense, direct, and speaking as if their lives are already over. It felt like the quizzing at the exit gates of purgatory. Did you learn your lesson yet? On that note great finale Mardi Gras / Day of the dead imagery that is coming up from the underground (tunnel). Like a rebirth.

Other neats
- stair death only stopped when she stopped getting angry at Maxine
- heart attack / seeing her child self, she had to stop trying to get her friends out of the party (Maxine's "I can't leave")

If they do season 2 I think it will be the two versions of Nadia and Alan trying to find each other and / or realizing that they're in a simulation created by her.

Loved the use of split screen and four way split screen at the end. It's rarely done in film.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:55 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]


I have super curly red hair. Thanks to this show I now have super curly red hair with bangs.

I can only wish to have glorious hair like Nadia's, but I did get my hair cut a few days after finishing the series.
posted by littlesq at 5:27 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


For a next season I think an anthology type series would be better than the further adventures of Nadia unless they come up with something completely new for Nadia to do.
posted by bleep at 1:28 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


I don't think they would film my fanfic about Nadia becoming the next Doctor Who companion though just because I don't think we could afford to bring Capaldi back.
posted by bleep at 6:49 PM on February 24 [5 favorites]


I really liked this. It was just about perfect overall. I cried and cheered and was happy that it ended so well.
posted by numaner at 10:57 AM on February 26


I loved this and convinced Mr Corpse to watch it. He thinks it's a rom com. He thinks they end up together as a couple in the end. What do I do. I love Mr Corpse but...
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:42 PM on February 26 [5 favorites]


Apparently two people have already written shippy fanfic for it on AO3. So he's not alone?
posted by dinty_moore at 6:07 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Three people, now.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:51 PM on February 26


If they do season 2 I think it will be the two versions of Nadia and Alan trying to find each other

They already did -- the very last bit is whiteshirt-Nadia and scarf-Alan dance-marching together in the homeless parade.

Y halo thar, new sentence in English!
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:39 AM on February 27


Was the implication that when Nadia was a child she intentionally ate glass so as to be taken from her mother?

That was my understanding, that it was literal. I could be convinced that it was symbolic/metaphorical, though.

I wonder what Alan was doing when Nadia was falling down the stairs?

[cw: suicide] I assumed pretty much exactly what this fan theory suggests - that Alan was repeatedly attempting to kill himself.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:49 AM on February 28 [4 favorites]


I thought it was just that she spoke up about feeling unsafe and was just beating herself up about this "terrible betrayal" way too much but it being literal is also interesting! I only thought that because I have observed from others that a bad mom will sculpt your impressionable little brain with all of her bad judgements and you can actually beat yourself to death over basically anything your mother wouldn't approve of.
posted by bleep at 12:03 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


I thought it was just that she spoke up about feeling unsafe

but she didn't speak up. that was the whole big plot-turning conversation with Ruth, when Ruth corrected her on her false memory. she was loyal to her mother out of her mouth when questioned and only secretly wished she'd be taken away. and then she was, but not because of what she said; because her mother's negligence was evident to any adult paying attention.

she had been remembering it wrong the whole time, but just like it would be in real life, that was not very important. partly because children take intent very seriously, as a byproduct of being young enough to take morality seriously, partly because since her mother relied on her she had an unrealistic idea of her own power to keep her mother's secrets, and partly because even without any so-called magical thinking, betrayal is always in the mind first, whether or not it gets out. her shame was over wanting to leave her mother, not over anything she said or did.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:51 PM on February 28 [13 favorites]


Yes brilliant thank you
posted by bleep at 12:13 AM on March 1


Probably a trite observation and people have mentioned the trapped-in-a-game red herring, but that blue-silver glowing "vaginal" bathroom door art was totally, totally a save point. Set me off wondering "Wait, are all save points inherently vaginal? Why have I not noticed this before?"

I really loved how the occasional moments of great, broad comedy (stairs, bees, haircuts, etc) were worked in without breaking immersion. Towards the end there was something visceral in there about living with the guilt and shame of having got something wrong as a child parenting their parent-figure. That spoke to me. Also, I'll never not love a Wild Hunt.

I do think the series/season is complete, it works as a whole. Would love a second run out from the same people that was either same actors w/different plot or new actors in a comparable (oho! rugpull! directly related!) situation.

Main concern: did we definitely see Oatmeal OK at the end of both timelines?
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 6:00 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]


I watched the first two episodes a few days ago to see if I was interested and just finished the season tonight. I have a lot of feelings, especially about the particular nature of Nadia’s relationship with her mom, which bumped right into some stuff that I carry around from my mom.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t imagine a season two. I will also never not love a Wild Hunt. I grew up reading and rereading and rereading the LM Montgomery books and identified with Emily’s books very strongly and will have to think about how they play into the show because I don’t quite get the connections except I feel like they are there.

Natasha Lyonne is fantastic.
posted by PussKillian at 11:18 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


Watching it again and just noticed that as soon as Nadia says her theory about this being a bug in time and they just have to recreate their first interaction, that's when she sees her child self for the first time, dies of a heart attack, and comes back to the first time the party has fewer people. As if the "time gods" (as she says) are responding directly to her engineers disease solution with "No. Stop. I'm done fucking around and I'm going to just keep stopping your heart til you deal with this other little girl who is unstuck in time with you."
posted by bleep at 10:56 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


Also I was wondering if her moms hair is a wig because I'm a red head and care about these things but I noticed it's actually going grey the exact same way mine is.
posted by bleep at 11:01 PM on March 3


I loved how short these were. More half-hour non-sitcom comedies please.

Though I honestly didn't really enjoy the first couple of episodes though, it was just okay. I like Natasha Lyonne and they were bite-sized enough that I kept on until it really picked up as the tension/chemistry between Alan and Nadia developed (I like that they are not really romantically linked too).

I think I may have spaced out, or maybe they just never made it explicit, but what was Nadia's mom's plan with the watermelons?
posted by skewed at 7:47 AM on March 4


I think I may have spaced out, or maybe they just never made it explicit, but what was Nadia's mom's plan with the watermelons?

I don't think it was ever made explicit, but I also don't know whatever plan Nadia's mom had would have been coherent enough to retain the form of a plan outside of Nadia's mom's head.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:33 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Getting a lot of watermelons and cutting them up was the whole plan.
posted by bleep at 10:30 AM on March 4 [7 favorites]


Since she has a focus on getting out of the city, it seemed to me that it must be a money making scheme. Alternatively, from the conversation that happens in the kitchen, it could just be a weird diet thing. All around, I think it's meant to leave us feeling flatfooted and confused - just like it left Nadia.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:04 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Just finished it. I really had the strong feeling that SOMEONE was controlling the scenario. And while some deaths were obvious "you went down the wrong path" scenarios (following the girls), at times They were getting frustrated and running out of options, and stopped bothering to make the deaths make any sense at all.
"Fuck it, we're done here. Im going to drop something heavy on you."
"Ok, whatever." *click* "You're allergic to bees." *click* "OK, so there's bees."

And i dont think the video game was metaphorical. They were literally doing the same things in the scenario as in the game. Repeatedly going down wrong paths, advancing, then making more bad moves, and then finally getting to the endboss stage.
posted by happyroach at 2:26 AM on March 9


The earlier-on issue about the joint laced with cocaine (we learn later was actually ketamine...) Horse = cocaine, right?

Anyway.. I nearly gave up 2 eps in also. Anyone thinking WTF, PLEASE keep going. You will be glad you did.

Also: the glorious Lillias White as Alan's mother (he lies to her about the engagement succeeding). At first I thought she was his therapist or something...

Repeatedly going down wrong paths, advancing, then making more bad moves, and then finally getting to the endboss stage

Yes! The use of the fire escape seemed to be the realest version of that. The workaround since the desired behavior was not functioning.

And when Mike came over to Beatrice's with his son, he seemed redeemed? That even he was a better person in the timeline where Alan and Bea reconciled as friends?

And who better than Chloe Sevigny to play Nadia's mother?

And that Alan remembered the exact dollar amount of the Krugerrand, and that ultimately, it was the mother's gift that was essential in fixing things, because it piqued Nadia's interest enough to get her to come down to the deli?????
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:00 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


horse is heroin
posted by bq at 6:45 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I thought it was really good. I'd be fine with a single season and no greater meta-explanation, but will definitely watch season two. About half-way through I was wondering if the hypnosis therapy was going to come into play as an explanation (they briefly tease some lights involved with it), and I was glad that didn't happen.
posted by codacorolla at 10:37 PM on March 19


Oh, huh, I was doing some cursory Googling to see if anyone had a theory about the hypnotherapy angle, and apparently the 'Russian Doll Technique' is a thing in hypnotherapy... It's about a quarter of the way down this page, but specifics are paywalled. For the record, it's also a term in cryptography / security, and yoga. Interesting connection to the show, though.
posted by codacorolla at 10:46 PM on March 19


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