Content Note: This article contains a brief mention of child trauma.

Russian Doll was created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler for Netflix. In just eight episodes, these three women have managed to create better television than Game of Thrones could cobble together in eight lumbering seasons. It’s dark. It’s hilarious. It will leave you staring into a glass of wine at 3am asking whether you are just a hallucination in the mind of a power-crazed deity. It’s the only series I’ve seen in full this year, and I regret nothing.

The show centres on Nadia Vulvokov, played by Natasha Lyonne, the ultimate New York woman and the “snow globe of horror” that is her 36th birthday party. After all, what could be more party-appropriate than dying multiple times and being thrown back into a door covered in a modern art piece which looks like a mash-up between a diagram of the inevitable heat death of the universe and a vulva?

More important than their mere presence, is that these women are not just mere tick-box presences

Yes, the rebirth metaphors are pulling no punches in this series about childhood trauma and not being a dick. You know what else pulls no punches in this series? The show’s creators are all women, as are its writers. The named cast is majority female. Beyond those explicitly named, the show has the same three guys playing everything from Nadia’s coworkers to paramedics, to drunk arseholes. While, given the truly meta nature of the show, I am nearly certain that this will be revealed to have some deeper meaning in the much awaited season two, what it proves in the here and now is that this show is beautifully, wonderfully female. And you don’t even notice it.

Or maybe you do. Nadia is a strong female character. A city slick New York woman who drinks like the fish which disappear around her, and has done every drug under the sun - at one point she becomes convinced that her groundhog life is the result of a new reaction to ketamine, only to be informed by her close friend Max (Greta Lee) that “We have done ketamine. Most recently at Louis’ christening.”

Unsurprisingly, she is also fond of sex. Surprisingly? Despite multiple sex scenes, I still don’t know what Natasha Lyonne looks like with her shirt off. Yes, it turns out that all it took to make genuinely sexually liberating, non-exploitative sex scenes was to actually listen to the women involved in them. Shocking.

Another shocking thing? I’ve already mentioned one of them. Nadia has close female friends. Maxine, who throws her party and created the vaginal door, and Lizzy, haver of too-young girlfriends and desirer of mastiff puppies, played by Rebecca Henderson, (real-life wife of show creator Leslye Headland!) She also has Ruth Brenner (Elizabeth Ashley) a therapist and an older, hoarser and thankfully better-adjusted Nadia.


Mountain View

The Farewell says goodbye to authenticity

And more important than their mere presence, is that they are not just mere presences. As Henderson acknowledges in an interview with Autostraddle, while in Groundhog Day side characters exist purely to teach this straight white man how to be a better person, almost like “video game NPCs”, these characters get to change and grow even as Nadia stumbles through the world. Incidentally (or not at all incidentally) it is her male sidekick, Alan (Charlie Barnett) who spends the most time on screen sans-shirt, if you really can’t watch a show without a little nudity.

I have only really watched one show in full this year. But between it and everything else? I don’t think I made a bad choice. It is created by women and about women. Yet it is so well done, I would challenge all but the most incel of men to watch it without enjoying it at least a little. It isn’t a matter of political correctness or identity politics or whatever the latest dog whistles are. It is just, simply, genuinely good