Russian Doll might just be Netflix's masterpiece
"Didn't you get the news? We're about to die."
Please don't read this if you have yet to watch the entire first season of Russian Doll.
Once you dive into Netflix's existential (Netflexistenial?) comedy drama, then you'll initially learn that it involves Nadia (Natasha Lyonne - American Pie, Orange Is The New Black) enjoying her 36th birthday party.
Halfway through the first episode, she is hit by a car and dies.
She suddenly finds herself snapped back into the birthday party, as if the death never happened.
She ventures back out, but before long, she is killed again, and again, and again in a number of different ways.
Each time she is brought back to the party, retaining the memories of the deaths but with no reasoning given as to why this is happening to her.
So it is a little bit Groundhog Day, a little bit Happy Death Day, a little bit The Good Place, and a little bit Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Now go and watch it all (eight episodes, less than 30 minutes per episode, so it won't take too long), and then come back and continue reading so we can gush freely about how incredible this show is...
Still here? Okay.
How amazing was that?
Russian Doll might just be the most perfect thing that Netflix has ever created, intelligently tackling some very heavy subjects with a balanced mix of comedy and pathos, so you'll likely find yourself going from tears of laughter to tears of very relatable heartbreak in each and every episode.
Lyonne perfectly nails the character of Nadia, someone with such a painful personal history that she is constantly attempting to drown her present in booze, drugs, and meaningless sex.
The fact that Lyonne co-created the show with Amy Poehler (best known for her roles in Parks & Recreation and Sisters) and Leslye Headland (writer of Bachelorette and Sleeping With Other People), as well as directing its finale, only serves to heighten her personal investment in the story.
It isn't until Nadia crosses paths with Alan (Charlie Barnett - Chicago Fire) in a plummeting elevator and learns that he, too, has been living and dying over and over, that the true intention of the show becomes clear.
Whereas Nadia has spent a lifetime keeping people at a distance, Alan has had trouble keeping people close, so it might seem immediately obvious that all they need to do is learn a few life lessons from each other and things should be hunky dory.
But life, unlike death, isn't that easy. Identifying the ways in which life isn't perfect can be done by anyone, but making the decision to actually devise a plan of change and follow through on those plans is only accomplished by those strong enough to endure the change in the first place.
We can all wallow in the monotony of our everyday life, it is easy to complain about what is wrong, or better yet, remain oblivious to it completely, thanks to the personal shields of our own creation, be they living with total abandon (like Nadia), or attempting to micro-managing your own daily universe (like Alan).
Russian Doll doesn't judge anyone for making these decisions - escapism can be the perfect band-aid, but it is unlikely to be a cure. If you want it, you, everything, anything to get better and to stay that way, then you need to do something about it, and you need to realise that you can't do it alone.
Even as Nadia and Alan find their worlds beginning to get stripped of ripe fruit, pet fish, all mirrors, and entire people, they're basically being told they need to stop focusing on everything and everyone else, and focus entirely on themselves, to work on their issues from the inside out.
Only when they've got a handle on that should they begin to work on anything else.
As each episode peels away another layer from Nadia, it keeps adding more and more totally understandable reasons as to why her self-defence mechanisms are in place, making the eventual attempts to overcome her own demons all the more impressive.
You could just try to sit back and enjoy the zippy one-liners and the painfully hip soundtrack and the incredible performances and reference-heavy ("This is The Game! I'm in The Game!") but totally unique set-up, yet Russian Doll won't allow it.
By the end, you will actually want to improve your own life. And how many shows can you genuinely say that about?
Season one of Russian Doll is available to watch on Netflix right now.
All clips via Netflix