A star rating of 5 out of 5.

"I really wanted to show the layers of stalking with a human quality I hadn't seen on television before," comedian Richard Gadd said about his autobiographical Netflix original Baby Reindeer. Based on the one-man show that took the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by storm in 2019, the dark comedy (emphasis on the dark) could never be described as a formulaic bunny boiler. In fact, it's quite possibly the most singular project the streaming giant has put its name to.


The seven-part series stars Gadd as Donny Dunn, a fictionalised version of himself struggling to get established on the stand-up circuit, his prop-heavy brand of anti-comedy not exactly at the Michael McIntyre end of the crowd-pleasing spectrum.

While bartending to make ends meet, he gets chatting to Martha (Jessica Gunning), another fictionalised character who, despite her dishevelled appearance and inability to afford a cup of tea, claims to be a hotshot legal advisor to multiple political leaders.

"I instantly felt sorry for her," Donny reveals in narrator mode, a storytelling device which continually offers a remarkably candid insight into his state of mind.

Although Donny doesn't buy her story, he initially finds Martha strangely endearing, partly due to her poetic turn of phrase, but more for the fact that she gives him the laughs and attention he craves.

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However, her constant presence eventually becomes a nuisance – even more so when she discovers his email address and, as shown in interstitial text cards that become increasingly unhinged, bombards him daily with dozens of misspelled, often heavily sexualised messages (a colossal 41,000 in total).

When she suddenly explodes with rage without much provocation over coffee, Donny realises he's bitten off more than he can chew.

Admirably, Gadd isn't afraid to show how he exacerbated the situation, whether it's following her back to her unkempt council flat or accepting her Facebook friend request, the latter just moments after a Google search brings up her disturbing criminal past.

Then there's the canal side confrontation in which, much to his later disgust, he allows her to get handsy. Although interestingly, Donny undoubtedly thrives off the drama, and also recognises Martha can sometimes be a force for good after she singlehandedly rescues a disastrous stand-up set.

The two remarkable lead performances further help blur the boundaries between the stalker and the stalked. Gunning can play Martha sympathetically – the explanation for nicknaming Donny 'Baby Reindeer' is truly heartbreaking stuff, and it's clear she's slipped through the mental health cracks.

She can also cut a terrifying figure, though, subjecting not only the object of her affections to countless verbal and physical threats, but his nearest and dearest, too.

Martha standing in a pub by the door
Jessica Gunning plays Martha in Baby Reindeer. Netflix

Meanwhile, Gadd delivers a haunting, soul-baring turn as a man besieged by inner demons and whose handling of the whole predicament inspires pity and despair in equal measure. Baby Reindeer is his own true story, and as with his day job he's determined to tell it with unbridled honesty, no matter how uncomfortable or harrowing things become.

Nowhere is that more apparent than the deeply disturbing, yet incredibly brave, fourth episode, which abandons the main story entirely to explore the darkness Martha senses lurking within Donny.

With echoes of Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You, Requiem for a Dream and Grindr killer drama Four Lives, Gadd paints a horrifying picture of drug dependency, abuse of power and sexual assault, all instigated by a softly spoken, mild-mannered industry figure who exploits Donny's naivety and crippling self-loathing for his own perverted gains.

Even those who saw Gadd's award-winning 2016 show Monkey See Monkey Do, which addressed his similar real-life experiences in similarly unflinching fashion, are unlikely to be prepared for the nightmare that unfolds. It's one of the most powerful pieces of television you'll see this year.

Donny sat down, leaning slightly forward, dressed in a suit
Richard Gadd as Donny in Baby Reindeer. Netflix

Baby Reindeer continues to explore the aftermath in its second half, including a devastating conversation with his parents that won't leave a dry eye in the house, as well as how it impacts his relationship with Teri (Nava Mau), a compassionate trans woman who makes Donny see he's capable of love.

Mau stated her character is the first she's read for who feels like they've been written by someone with a similar real-life connection. And indeed, like everything else in the show, their relationship is imbued with both a sense of authenticity and various shades of grey.

At such a difficult time for the trans community, it's a welcome nuanced depiction, albeit one which shows Donny isn't always as progressive as he thinks.

Close-up of Teri, sat in a pub
Nava Mau plays Teri in Baby Reindeer. Netflix

One of the show's greatest strengths is how it's able to balance such challenging subject matter with inspired flashes of humour. Gadd has great fun dissecting the trials and tribulations of the comic profession, particularly the Edinburgh scene he eventually triumphed in.

And the climactic on-stage breakdown, which ironically kickstarts Donny's career, is punctuated brilliantly by some unashamedly nonsensical tongue twisters ("Pop a proper Whopper chopper copper popadom condom on"). You'll also never be able to hear Kylie and Jason's Especially for You in quite the same way again.

But Crashing, I'm Dying Up Here or any other recent dramedy rooted in the stand-up world this is not. Although they feature, Gadd is far more interested in tackling weightier themes than hecklers, running orders and bombing on stage (be prepared for much second-hand embarrassment). And he does so with a distinctive, intelligent voice which acknowledges there aren't always definitive answers. This is an early contender for show of 2024.

All seven episodes of Baby Reindeer are now available to stream on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.


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