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Hot Takes, Curated: The internet's wild explanations for Netflix's Russian Doll
Welcome to Hot Takes, Curated, a SYFY WIRE franchise that aims to let you know what people are saying about the big entertainment story of the day. Anybody can have a hot take — you don't need to be a professional journalist or reviewer, though we've certainly including some of those spicy opinions in this round-up.
Interpretations for what, exactly, caused Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) and Alan (Charlie Barnett) to end up in a time loop in Netflix's Russian Doll abound. In the first season, the pair die, over and over again, on Nadia's birthday, then come back to life at the same pivotal moment, no more than 24 hours before their deaths, to do it all again. And again. And again.
Comparisons to Groundhog Day (1993) are inevitable. But this dark, often comedic, always cutting series co-created by Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland has captured the internet's attention because it's so very 2019, with a protagonist who declares war on the universe — "The universe is trying to f*** with me, and I refuse to engage!"
A show like Russian Doll is bound to attract sweeping, philosophical reviews that mull over the uncertainty of life and what happens to a person when death is no longer final. Russian Doll is funny, but it is, at its core, especially poignant.
"What the series is is perceptive about how we can only help others after we've taken care of ourselves — but also how the two are so inextricably intertwined that one becomes the other," Todd VanDerWerff writes for Vox. "The deeper Nadia drifts into her own past, the more she confronts her horrible childhood, and the more she realizes that she's forever marked by traumas she's never forgiven herself for, even though she was a child, the more the series starts to zero in on its real villain: the human brain."
For The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum writes "The show is interested in love, but it's much more interested, in both jaunty and melancholic ways, in death itself — in the terror of dying, but also in its temptation."
And because searching the internet can feel like living in an infinite, hellish time loop, we have assembled all the true hot takes. In the case of Russian Doll, these are the theories binge-watchers splutter about while in the middle of a season or type up in a post-finale haze.
**Obviously, there are spoilers for Russian Doll below.**
One Redditor swears Russian Doll mirrors parts of Federico Fellini's 1957 romantic drama Nights of Cabiria. Which is probably a stretch but still fun to think about. Another thought that, rather than having saved themselves by saving each other, both Nadia and Alan were actually dead at the end. Dark.
Questions about the pattern in which everything starts to disappear abounded online. The most interesting interpretation linked the different stages with Nadia's job as a game developer: "I think it's related to how infinite loops in a computer program can eat up memory. Every loop took more memory and so less of the world would load, eventually leading to a situation where nothing loaded — i.e Oblivion."
Then there's the idea on r/RussianDoll that cats have nine lives in the appropriately titled thread "The cat!!!!!" And Nadia has a cat named Oatmeal. Dude.
That's not the only focus on numbers, though. One Redditor pointed out the significance of the number 36 (Nadia's age) in the Torah: "The Torah commands 36 times to love, respect and protect the stranger. Furthermore, in every generation there are 36 righteous people (the 'Lamed Vav Tzadikim') in whose merit the world continues to exist."
There's also another one (my favorite of the bunch) on r/RussianDoll that posits this is all due to multiverse theory, aka the idea that there are multiple universes that overlap and can potentially interact. Pick up a DC or Marvel comic book or anything written by Stephen King to see the multiverse theory in fictional action. More importantly, what really makes this a truly scorching take is the idea that Horse is a "Time Jumping, dimension splitting being" [sic]. The original poster isn't married to this description, but the point stands: Horse knows all.
Undoubtedly, though, the longest and deepest and most historically significant Russian Doll takes is this one from Jason Zinoman, whose 26-part Twitter thread posits the entire series is "an against the grain meditation on the cultural guilt about the Tompkins Square Park Riots."
It's an interesting read. He might have convinced me even if Headland hadn't confirmed the riots were on her mind while writing the series. Please, check it out for yourself for a hot take come to fruition:
What's your hottest Russian Doll take? Let us know.