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Why Netflix’s Russian Doll is already being hailed as the greatest show of 2019

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Kayleigh Dray
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Natasha Lyonne in Netflix's Russian Doll

Natasha Lyonne’s character dies and dies and dies again in Netflix’s Russian Doll. However, if you think this is nothing more than a dark twist on the classic Groundhog Day format, think again: there’s a far deeper meaning to this new comedy…

Natasha Lyonne shot to fame as part of Orange is the New Black’s ensemble cast. Now, she’s taking centre-stage in Russian Doll, a new Netflix series she has co-created with Leslye Headland (Heathers) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), and it’s safe to say and the comedy drama – which will be available for streaming on 1 February – is already being heralded by critics as the must-watch TV show of 2019.

High praise indeed. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about Russian Doll.

When is Russian Doll released on Netflix?

The entire series will be available on Netflix from Friday 1 February 2019.

Who does Natasha Lyonne play in Russian Doll?

Lyonne plays a game developer called Nadia, who keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party. “She’s trapped in a surreal time loop – and staring down the barrel of her own mortality,” reads the official Netflix synopsis.

What’s the story?

On the surface, Russian Doll sounds a lot like Groundhog Day. A dark and twisted Groundhog Day, yet Groundhog Day all the same. However, as Lyonne recently explained during an interview with the NY Times, there’s far more to the semi-autobiographical (yes, really) than her character’s unfortunate habit of dying over and over again.

“There’s probably a bit of a misconception around how key the deaths are,” she told the publication. “It’s more an emotional story of bottoming out.”

Expanding on this idea, Lyonne added: “There are metaphorical deaths big and small throughout the day. There are the bigger ones where you just feel like your whole world is collapsing, [because of] health or a relationship falling apart. Then there’s the smaller deaths of the text message that didn’t get responded to that you’re obsessing on, and it feels like you’re suddenly a hollow man inside.”

Is there a trailer?

Of course! Check it out below:

Who makes up the cast of Russian Doll?

Lyonne is, undoubtedly, the star of Russian Doll, but this is far from a one woman show. The likes of Greta Lee (KTown), Yul Vazquez (Captain Phillips), Elizabeth Ashley (Ocean’s 8), Charlie Barnett (Chicago Fire), Brendan Sexton III (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Rebecca Henderson (Orange is the New Black) all appear alongside her, as does OITNB’s Dascha Polanco. And indie film star Chloë Sevigny takes on a “very personal role”, too, in the form of Nadia’s mother.

“Chloë is my closest person in life, and there was really only one person that felt like it was safe to entrust that role to,” Lyonne told NY Times. “Probably the most incredible moment for me was walking home with my little director’s binder in the East Village and watching the sun begin to rise. And I’m like, this is a very different kind of sunrise than what I’ve experienced historically at this hour. This was the good guy’s version of that, and it was deep stuff. Chloë and I had walked those streets so many times, and now it was this world that we had built. There was a lot of gratitude. I just couldn’t believe how things have turned out.”

What does the title ‘Russian Doll’ refer to?

The Russian doll, known in its homeland as the matryoshk, is a traditional toy which features a series of round, rosy-cheeked wooden women nested inside one another

According to TIME.com, these dolls are ride with metaphors as “each smiling doll looks complete until you twist it open to reveal the hollowness inside; only the peanut of a baby girl at its core turns out to be solid.”

Referencing the show specifically, TIME suggests that those layers may equally “represent generations of mothers birthing daughters in their own image” or “the armour a woman deploys as she stumbles through her adult life feeling no more mature than she was as a kid.” 

Others, though, believe that the title refers to the peeling back Nadia must do in attempt to reprogram the loop and reset her life story. And there are those who think that Nadia will realise she is living in a prison of her own making, trapped by the many false faces she puts on to face the world.

As Leslye Headland, co-creator, director and writer, describes Russian Doll, puts it: “If you use the analogy of the Russian Doll, I have to go back to that tiny doll that’s inside of me and fix the code there. I have to say, ‘I’m sorry that you were not loved the way you should have been loved, I’m sorry that I did not provide for you and I shut you away in my life. I’m sorry that I haven’t been serving your instincts and your needs and that I’ve been following these other things that I thought were going to make me happy and that I thought were going to ensure success.”

How many episodes are there?

Netflix has confirmed there will be eight episodes in total, with all but one written by Heyland and Lyonne.

Will there be a second series?

Only time will tell. It hasn’t even aired its full run yet, although early reviews are spectacularly good. We’ll have to just wait and see, we guess…

Image: Netflix

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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