TRIP THROUGH HER WIRES
‘RUSSIAN DOLL’ Season One — in which Natasha Lyonne’s loquacious Nadia kept dying and repeating the events of her 36th-birthday party over and over — was such a perfect high-concept mash-up of metaphysics, arthouse comedy, and character study that it felt hard to imagine the show working on an ongoing basis. Would Nadia and her uptight friend Alan (Charlie Barnett) just start repeating different days each time out?
Instead, the long-delayed new season casts the Groundhog Day format aside in favor of sending our heroes traveling through both time and space. A good chunk of the action takes place in the East Village in 1982, as Nadia learns what her mentally ill mother, Nora (Chloë Sevigny), was like before she had a daughter, and there are trips in various eras to Nadia’s ancestral homeland of Budapest to help solve a mystery about a stolen family fortune.
It’s a more sprawling story than the first one, and a bit more scattered in spots as a result. But Lyonne — returning as a writer and director, in addition to an onscreen force of nature — and her collaborators smartly dive right into the new premise without having Nadia or Alan stop to question the cause or nature of any of it. As Nadia tells a loved one, “Inexplicable things happening is my entire modus operandi.”
The time-hopping brings in Annie Murphy in a very different mode from Alexis on Schitt’s Creek, and once again uses science fiction as a device to examine who we are, how we got that way, and whether it’s possible to transcend your own history. (Unsurprisingly, Nadia and Alan disagree strongly on this last point.) It’s a clever enough reinvention to suggest there’s plenty of more life in this series. Maybe there will be aliens next time?