Natasha Lyonne has the time travel of her life

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★★★★

Second seasons: What a concept!

The eight-episode Netflix original series Russian doll been an instant classic, perfectly merging a familiar larger-than-life premise with an idiosyncratic star. In Nadia Vulvokov, a self-destructive software designer who kept dying and being resurrected on her 36th birthday, Natacha Lyonne co-created (with Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler) the quirky, hyper-verbal role she was born to play. The first season was equal parts funny, tragic, scary, and just plain weird, especially after Nadia discovered that her temperamental opposite, the repressed Alan (Charlie Barnett), was caught in the same time loop as her. By the time Nadia and Alan pulled themselves out of their shared predicament, the series looked like a triumph.

But was it also much of a triumph? Lyonne told me at the time that she had ideas for future seasons. But it felt like she had invested so much of herself in this character, and she and her collaborators had pulled off a high-flying act so deftly, that everyone involved might have been better off bowing and to move on. What was next: Nadia and Alan start rehearsing another day?

More than three years after its debut, Russian doll is finally back with a seven-episode season. There are sometimes times when Lyonne just plays the hits: Nadia says “cock-a-roach” in her thick New York accent in the first five minutes of the premiere, and Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up” ( who played “I’ve Got You, Babe” in Nadia’s initial groundhog day adventure) eventually finds its way back into the soundtrack. But season two is not a lazy repeat. The tone is similar, although the story and sci-fi gimmick are different. In many ways it is bolder in its scope and themes. And if the end result is a little messier than the 2018 edition, the level of ambition, and the pleasure of being back with Nadia, more than compensate.

The show resumes more or less in real time. Nadia’s 40th birthday is approaching, and while her advanced age doesn’t bother her – “I’ve never been young”, she admits – there’s also the sense that she hasn’t learned as much as she did. should have in his life – rehearsal experience. She and Alan have remained friends, and she’s more attentive to the well-being of her late mother’s best friend, Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley), but she still enjoys too many substances she shouldn’t (she describes her lungs as “two shrunken-up to Nick Caves”) and acting like she’s indestructible long after losing the ability to respawn after being killed.

Charlie Barnett as Alan Zaveri in the second season of ‘Russian Doll’. Photo: Andras D. Hadjú/Netflix

Rather than turning her into the blazing-haired Phil Connors, the new season sends Nadia and Alan on much further journeys in time, starting with her landing in the East Village around 1982 for the heyday of her mother, Nora. (Chloë Sevigny, in an expanded role from her Season 1 cameos). Netflix’s restrictive, Matthew Weiner-esque Do Not Reveal list prohibits me from discussing the mechanism by which our heroes visit the past. But I can say that it fits just as much into a familiar pop culture archetype as the groundhog day the framing did, and it creates some hilarious and twisted metaphysical concerns for our travelers, Nadia in particular.

Lyonne and company make the smart decision to treat Nadia and Alan as veterans of this kind of superhuman experiment. Not only do they not really stop to ask themselves what is happening, or how, but when they have to convince other people, it takes practically no effort. As one of Nadia’s long-deceased relatives told her, “there are things in life that cannot be explained.” And there are things that better not be explained in shows like this, especially when those scenes are almost never interesting. It’s more fun to just appreciate that Nadia continues to be such a comedic force of nature.

Much of the season is about Nadia’s quest for treasure stolen from her Hungarian Jewish ancestors during World War II. Back in the present at some point , Nadia begins to google information about the descendant of one of the Nazi thieves; as is often the case, she is quickly distracted and begins looking at Peter Falk’s Wikipedia page. Like many with Nadia, this is a case where the creator-screenwriter-director-star blurs the line between actor and character. Lyonne is a longtime fan of the likable supernatural Colombo

heroes, and you can see a lot of Falk’s crumpled, tenacious, digressive wit in the way Nadia navigates her way through these strange happenings. At the same time, many aspects of the character are unique to him. it’s hard to imagine Lt. Columbo saying “Purim came early this year!” after a stranger offers some quaaludes and a chance to date him.

In another sequence from 2022, Nadia and her friend Maxine (Greta Lee) travel to Budapest, leading to a philosophical discussion of how flying east to a different time zone is itself a form of going. in the past. The season could use Alan more, as Charlie Barnett’s smooth, edgy energy blends so well with Lyonne’s more aggressive aura. Schitt’s Creek alum Annie Murphy offers a similar sensibility to a character Nadia meets in the 80s, but Barnett misses for long stretches – perhaps because he was too busy starring in NBC since canceled Ordinary Joewith James Wolk? (If applicable: not great, Bob! )But

Russian doll

holds up well despite the absence of other Season 1 cast members. Headland, who helped set the show’s visual and emotional tone as the first season’s chief director, isn’t directing any episodes this time around. Instead, Lyonne is behind the camera for four of them, and Alex Buono for the other three. Things look even cooler and weirder here than they did in 2018, like a scene where Nora walks into a Crazy Eddie electronics store and sees herself projected onto what feels like an endless number of TV screens. Anne Murphy. Picture: Netflix Midway through the season, Nadia and Alan catch up to compare notes on where (and when) they’ve been, and Nadia is dismayed to learn that her pal chose to just enjoy visiting another era without rocking the time boat. . She says to him, “Alan, the only reason to go to the past is to change shit, okay? I mean, have you ever seen a movie? But much of the season – and

Russian doll as a whole so far – explains how, even in a world full of palpable cosmic forces, there is no magic trick to change your life. The things Nadia wants to fix about herself require more than a treasure hunt through the ages, though it’s a treat to watch her try. So, no, it’s not the pristine experience of the first season. But by going further and trying more,

Russian doll Season two finally vindicates the show’s existence as more than just a one-shot. Where it was once difficult to see how a continuation could work, it would no longer be at all surprising if Nadia, for example, were abducted by aliens bewildered by her ability to verify the names of all Kraftwerk members. As Nadia tells a loved one, “Inexplicable things that happen are my whole modus operandi.” Here’s more of the inexplicable that lies ahead, for her and for both of us. The seven episodes of

Russian doll Season 2 begins streaming on Netflix on April 20. I’ve seen the whole season.Since

Rolling Stone USA.

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