Peeling back the layers of trauma: Netflix’s ‘Russian Doll’  


Spoiler Alerts Ahead  

On April 20, Netflix released the second season of “Russian Doll,” which follows Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne), a software developer in New York City. At her 30th birthday party, Nadia is met with disturbing news: She keeps dying and reliving the same day over and over. The first season follows Nadia as she tries to find answers to this phenomenon. Along the way she meets Alan (Charlie Barnett), a man experiencing the same type of time loop. The first season floored viewers with its dark plotline and trippy visual effects, and the second installment is no different.  

Picking up where the final episode left off, all is well as Alan and Nadia have seemingly closed the time loop and continued with their normal lives. But just days before her 40th birthday, Nadia is met with another discovery. She boards a New York subway and is transported to her family’s past. She realizes that she is living in the body of her dead mother, Nora. Nadia eventually discovers that the longer she stays on the train, the further back into the past she is taken. She cycles between being in the body of her mother and grandmother as well as herself. 

Alan has also stumbled upon this shift in the timeline, reconnecting with his heritage and meeting family members that he never got to know. For Alan, this new discovery is a gift. For Nadia, however, it is a painful reminder. Trying to fix the timeline of her broken family, Nadia sets out to change the past actions of her abusive mother. As with any time travel media, however, drastic consequences occur when Nadia tries to change the past.  

Natasha Lyonne shines bright in this series. She is well known for her roles as Nicky in “Orange Is The New Black,” as well as the cult classic movie “But I’m A Cheerleader.” Her thick New York accent lends a dry and cynical dialogue to the show, which was fun to watch and added a dark sense of humor. Personally, I loved the first season of the show and was very excited to watch the second installment. Upon watching, I found the second season of “Russian Doll” to be even more emotionally complex than the first.  

The entirety of “Russian Doll” is a comment on childhood trauma and abuse. The first season heavily focused on the neglect Nadia endured at the hands of her mother. The second season explores this topic further by diving into the trauma Nora went through from her mother and so on. Nadia resents her mother for treating her so horribly and tries to heal by re-parenting herself through time travel. 

She does all this with her longtime family friend Ruthie, who ironically is a therapist specializing in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (a type of therapy used to treat significant trauma). By the end of the second season, Nadia understands her family and their neurosis through the concept of generational trauma.  

Overall, “Russian Doll” is a treat for any comedy or sci-fi fan. In each episode, viewers are met with mind-boggling visual effects and strange reality shifts. Paired with the humor of Lyonne, it makes for a wonderful show. Additionally, the series is emotionally rich and even painful at times. It allows the viewer to take a deeper look into the trauma we all hide beneath the surface. 

Rating: 5/5  

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