Let's talk about Russian Doll / by Jerald Pierce

First off, Russian Doll stans, it’s a good show. Not great, not genre redefining or anything. But it’s also not something I ever have the desire to see repeated or expounded upon. It was a nice attempt at something. So kudos to them for the attempt.

And let’s be honest, I spend a lot of time diving into the awful depths of weird scifi/time travel/multiverse/groundhog day stuff on the internet (mostly Amazon Prime, it’s dark there). If I had a choice, I’d much rather watch Happy Death Day’s take on this groundhog day genre (yes, it’s a genre now). Or even Coherence’s examination of multiverses.

Coherence is actually a great example of what this show reminds me of. I love Coherence. Like LOVE Coherence. It’s up there with Primer as one of my favorite scifi movies of all time. But its script is atrocious. I feel like I read somewhere that they improvised a lot of the early dialogue and it shows. It’s an incredibly poorly written movie with an astonishing premise.

In that movie, I feel like I’m able to look past the flaws of the script because I’m so enthralled in the concept of the plot. That’s where Russian Doll fell short for me. I just wasn’t taken enough by what was going on to look past the issues they had in their script. That said, I totally understand people who are. Because, let’s be honest, it’s a concept that has some pretty good innovation to it (especially if you’re not constantly oversaturated with the genre like I am).

But that’s not why you’re here. If you’re reading this (for whatever reason) it’s because you know I have complaints. Before I get into them, let me just say that, yes, I know a lot of these are nitpicky. But they’re also things that should never fall through the cracks, they’re questions that should have answers or have been addressed. Not addressing them, in my opinion, is just lazy. So let’s get into it:

  • Prevention: I’ll start with my biggest complaint that the writers needed to address. So many of the deaths were preventable. And sure, I get that the writers were essentially trying to say that “no matter what they do, the universe (or whatever) will kill them and they’ll start over.” But damn, at least show them try. Show me one loop where they bunker down, stock up and see how long they’ll live. I honestly thought that’s what they were going to give us when Nadia was in the ambulance on her way to the psych ward. This isn’t Groundhog Day where there’s a time limit. This isn’t Happy Death Day where there’s a murderer. This isn’t even When We First Met where the characters can choose to restart. There’s no way that in throughs all of this neither Nadia nor Alan said “fuck this, I’m finding the most secure place I can and seeing if I can survive.”

  • Common sense: Speaking of things that a normal person should think of, how did they never take the time to memorize each other’s phone numbers? You’re stuck in an endless loop and only one other person knows what you’re going through and you’re not going to commit that person’s phone number to memory? Yeah, going to his apartment and buzzing endlessly is a much better plan.

  • The stairs: Ok, now we’re really getting nitpicky. Her aversion to the stairs is complete nonsense. She went down the steps successfully multiple times in the first episode. But after falling down a few times, her realization wasn’t “damn, I’m clumsy as hell” (which she is, watch all of her early, easily preventable deaths)…her response is, whelp, stairs are cursed, better go out the fire escape. Even the time she tried to use the stairs “cautiously,” she randomly decided to cut across someone and tripped and fell. Like, damn, look where you’re going and slow down. Now, sure, this may all be moot if Alan was simultaneously doing something stupid and dying, but hey, writers, don’t be lazy, be interesting. Let Nadia try literally everything she can to stay alive and then let her still die. That’s way more interesting than watching this clumsy, unobservant fool fall over and over.

  • The elevator: This really has no bigger picture impact, but it bothered me. Where was Alan going when he got on the elevator. If Nadia was coming up from the basement and getting off on the first flood. And Alan presumably went up to visit his mom, how does he end up on Nadia’s elevator going up? Did it switch directions at some point? Who knows. Just one of many times things were put into the plot for the sake of being a plot point rather than following any kind of logic.

  • Just a plot point: That brings me to Horse, our favorite homeless guy. Whether or not Nadia gave a shit about him dying was all over the place. Sure, she has bigger fish to fry sometimes, but does she care if he dies or not? Cause taking Alan’s shoes and giving them to Horse won’t keep Horse from dying of exposure. He’s still going to sleep outside and presumably die. (My favorite quote is when Nadia gets her cat from Horse and tells him “We’ve finally got time” as if this shoeless man probably won’t die from exposure that night.) So he’s just there when it’s convenient to Nadia’s plot. Other than that, the writers don’t give a shit and don’t bring him up. Same with John’s daughter. Same with that damn cat. Same with the revelation Nadia has that maybe everyone lives on in their own universe after she and Alan die. Just things that only come up when convenient, but don’t exist if Nadia doesn’t give a shit. And yes, you can say that oh that’s because we’re seeing the story from her perspective and if she’s preoccupied, so are we. And yes, I agree. But that makes Nadia into a very one-track-mind kind of a person, which I don’t think is what the show otherwise tries to say about her.

There are other things, but honestly, I’m tired.

I’ll end by saying this: Lazy, faulty writing doesn’t make me dislike a show. It really only fires me up if the show was good because that’s when you see how much better it could have been. (Lookin’ at you, Doctor Who and Steven Moffat.)

This show could have been much better if they had the constraints of a movie. Cut characters and beats you don’t need. Focus on the heart of the story. Don’t let your characters meander as they figure out what’s going on. Put pressure on the situation, force them into action and make them make hard choices. There’s just so much air in this show and side plots that, sure, maybe add a tiny bit of character development, but really just delay the inevitable.

These are brief thoughts. The end.