Season 2 of 'Russian Doll' Warps Time in Exciting New Ways

Created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler

Starring Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Annie Murphy, Charlie Barnett, Elizabeth Ashley, Greta Lee

BY Alex HudsonPublished Apr 13, 2022

The first season of Russian Doll managed to wring new life out of a familiar "time loop" concept — an impressive feat, considering how many movies and shows have been made with a near-identical conceit. The second season wisely escapes the time loop concept, instead placing its protagonists in a new time-warping scenario.

The wise-cracking Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) and her neurotic friend Alan (Charlie Barnett) return as the lead duo who get unstuck from the linear flow of time. This season, Nadia hops onto a subway car, which takes her back 40 years to 1982.

It works best when the season explores the trippiness of time travel and its ensuing paradoxes. The first episode or two, in which Nadia navigates her new reality and digs into her family history, are a joy to watch — as are the last couple, when the timeline gets well and truly fucked due to Nadia's interference.

The season drags a touch when it becomes too plot-driven, as Nadia goes on a quest to correct a piece of family history. The plot works nicely when it's just a MacGuffin facilitate the mind-bending time travel; it's less gripping when it becomes the focus. There's a message here — about inherited trauma and coming to terms your ancestors' flawed humanity — but existential confusion remains the best part of Russian Doll.

Lyonne is once again an absolute joy as the wryly cynical Nadia. Whether firing off self-deprecating barbs ("My lungs are essentially two shrivelled up Nick Caves," she says of her smoking) or simply grunting and grumbling in her husky rasp, she's one of those actors who is hilarious doing almost anything. Charlie Barnett and Schitt's Creek's Annie Murphy are capable in their roles, but they're given much less screen time to shine than Lyonne, despite their prominent billing.

Russian Doll's second season isn't quite as consistently gripping as the first — but between Lyonne's performance and many moments of interdimensional claustrophobia, it effectively plays into the strengths of the first season without simply repeating them.

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