Russian Doll Season 2: An overstuffed, brain-bending sequel

Russian Doll. (L to R) Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov, Annie Murphy in episode 202 of Russian Doll. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
Russian Doll. (L to R) Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov, Annie Murphy in episode 202 of Russian Doll. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 /

After 3 long years, the surprise-hit Russian Doll is back with its sophomore season. And this time, things get a lot more complicated for Nadia and Alan.

A little refresher…

Season 2 of Russian Doll picks up roughly 4 years after the season 1 finale, in which Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) and Alan (Charlie Barnett) manage to escape their repetitive 24-hour time loop and set their lives back onto a forward trajectory.

Originally released in 2019, Russian Doll was yet another iteration of Groundhog Day that had, quite frankly, been done to death. Still, something about this particular story grabbed audiences. Whether it was Lyonne’s swaggery, chain-smoking heroine, or Barnett’s Type A, order-obsessed leading man, people were drawn to the unlikely duo.

Fast forward to 2020, and people had a too-close-for-comfort connection to the “Groundhog Day” scenario, with the pandemic keeping everyone at home in a virtual time loop of their own. For many, this brought another level of appreciation for the fictional pair’s plight and perhaps raised expectations for season 2.

How does it compare to season 1?

In many ways, season 2 of Russian Doll feels like a different show. Part of what made the first season so watchable was its simplicity. The show’s repetitive nature made it an easy watch for avid Netflix bingers and casual viewers alike. Season 2 abandons this format completely — forgoing one, the simple-to-follow story arc for a handful of time-travel-themed subplots. At times, it feels like too much to take on in a relatively short, 7- episode season.

Because of its grandiose nature, the charming back-and-forth between Nadia and Alan is all but lost. This season focuses very much on their journeys, separate from one another. While this isn’t inherently bad, it is a complete 180 from what made the original so endearing. Certain new storylines — such as Nadia coming to terms with the memory of her deceased mother (played by the fabulous Chloe Sevigny) — never quite manage to find their footing, because we are thrust into another crazy time-travel scenario before the story has time to reach its full emotional capacity. The core themes that are explored have the potential to be quite moving, I just wish they were given more time to flesh out.

The addition of Annie Murphy to the cast ups the bar considerably, and I wish she had far more screen time than she was given. It’s also nice to see some more minor but memorable characters, such as Maxine (“Sweet birthday baaaaabyyyyy!”) and even Oatmeal the cat, make a return.

So, should you watch season 2?

In short… yes. I’m being a bit tough because of my strong love for its predecessor, but season 2 still has plenty of bright spots that make it worth watching. Nadia’s wit and fabulous hair remain firmly intact, and it is satisfying to see the lovable, imperfect protagonist on the small screen again. With just 7 episodes that run around 30 minutes each, I do not feel this season was given enough “real estate” to fully expand on the number of points it was trying to make. However, die-hard Russian Doll fans will have a good time, even if it fails to live up to the magic of the first season.

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