Russian Doll season 2 follows Nadia and Alan into the past as they relive their family’s lives in an attempt to make different choices that could alter their own futures.
Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) is just ten days away from her 40th birthday. Memories of her 36th birthday come back to her as she takes the subway and gets transported to the year 1982 into the body of her mother, Nora.
Nadia gets to know about her family’s lost Krugerrand gold coins which her mother had lost. She realises that preventing the gold from missing will alter her own future as she will be receiving the gold coins as an inheritance.
As she tries to find clues to find the gold and alter the events, she realizes a much harsher truth about life and time. Meanwhile, Alan (Charlie Barnett) also travels to the past into the body of her grandmother Agnes who must stop her lover, Lenny, from tunnelling into West Germany.
As Nadia and Alan embark on a journey where they explore their ancestors’ past, they discover more about grief, legacy, and life. Nadia, in the body of her mother, starts relating to her mother’s agony. Alan finds a new purpose living in the body of his grandmother Agnes.
But even a minor change in time may result in unwanted consequences. Nadia and Alan travel through time and places to change past mistakes as they try to set things right.
Natasha Lyonne grabs all headlines as she stars throughout the show with the action directed toward her character. She takes up the majority of the screen time and, much like the previous season, carries out the performance with ease and flawlessness.
Charlie Barnett as Alan Zaveri gets significantly lesser screen time but enough to perform convincingly.
Greta Lee, Chloë Sevigny, Irén Bordán, Annie Murphy, and Elizabeth Ashley all leave a significant impact with their performances.
Season 2 is much more ambitious and complex in its scope as compared to the previous one. There are more diverse locations, characters, and events to explore in this season with a touch of history to top it off.
The writers have taken more liberty to weave a world that’s more absurd and eventful this time around. From World War II to the early ’80s, multiple timelines and settings add a relishing historical flavour to the episodes. The eventful story helps ditch the repetitiveness that marred the first season minutely.
Apart from the central protagonists, other characters also enjoy more focus on their characters. Nadia and her exploration of her mother’s psyche are particularly moving to witness. Similarly, Nadia’s dynamics with her aunt Ruth form the soul of the series.
Season 2 utilises the theme of time travel to explore familial relations, bonds, and baggage that continue to haunt way into the future.
The complexity with which the story is spread out, on more than one occasion, interferes with the impact the series wants to leave.
Even in the first season, the writers did not bother explaining away much of what was happening. But in season 2, it becomes somewhat bothering because of the number of things that are going on at the same time without any explanation left to be sought.
Some favourites from season 1, like Horse and Maxine, do not get enough screen time this time around as other characters take the center stage.
Season 2 also largely ditches the element of mystery that made the first season so compelling to watch. It sacrifices mystery to drive greater themes that form the focus of this season.
Season 2 holds nothing back in terms of what it wants to achieve. But this proves to be the bane and boon of this season as there is so much to pay attention to, that it’s easy to get diverted. The absurdity is baffling and the complexity is confusing.
Yet, by the end, Russian Doll season 2 serves a meaningful platter of human emotions served through a soulful story. For good or bad, season 2 is more experimental than season 1 and it takes the good parts from the previous season to amplify it, with few sacrifices made in the end.