A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Given everything that's happened since, it's easy to forget just how big a deal Russian Doll was when the first season landed back in 2019.

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Boasting a fresh spin on the time-loop premise and a transformative performance from Orange Is the New Black's Natasha Lyonne, the sharply written comedy-drama went on to score major nominations during that year's awards season. But alas, Netflix churns out content at such an unforgiving pace that this charming oddity has all but slipped off the radar.

There is a real sense that the substantial delay in bringing this follow-up to the screen has sapped Russian Doll of its initial momentum, particularly as there are virtually no unresolved plot threads for these new episodes to pick up.

As such, it takes a few episodes for the show to hit its stride again and re-establish its grunting, quipping and thoroughly unapologetic protagonist Nadia Vulvokov (Lyonne) as someone we should care about.

The important thing is it gets there eventually and Netflix certainly seems confident that lightning will strike twice with audiences, as demonstrated by the long list of plot details that the press are restricted from revealing.

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What we can say is that the second season sees both Nadia and fellow time-loop survivor Alan (Charlie Barnett) delving even deeper into their respective pasts, as the universe picks on them once more for some visceral personal development.

Lyonne effortlessly slips back into the Nadia role, returning with a flurry of smart-arse remarks that admittedly become somewhat tiresome in the early chapters.

But though it initially seems like the character's charm has faded over her three-year absence, it is gradually restored across a seven-episode saga that goes to some truly unexpected places. The show's comic timing might have dulled slightly, but it still packs a hefty emotional punch at its apex.

Once again, it's a story with two distinct prongs as Nadia and Alan each navigate their own existential escapade, but the weighting is noticeably more uneven this time.

Season 2 is shorter than the first at just seven episodes and we don't find out what Alan is up to until roughly halfway through. It leaves his part of the show feeling almost like an afterthought, lightly touching on some interesting ideas before abruptly ending with no obvious outcome.

Joining the Russian Doll cast for this instalment is Schitt's Creek star Annie Murphy, who successfully sheds her celebrated Alexis Rose persona.

While we can't reveal too much about her character, it's a sympathetic and at times dramatic turn that is integral to Nadia's journey this season. Between this and Prime Video's Kevin Can F**k Himself, Murphy is admirably choosing interesting projects on which to spend her post-Emmy win capital.

Annie Murphy in Russian Doll season 2
Annie Murphy in Russian Doll season 2 Netflix

Russian Doll does remain a visually experimental treat in its second season, taking viewers on more than one disorienting trip as it nears the season 2 finale.

While the exact time travel mechanics this show adheres to quickly become rather vague, it's hard to really care. Like the surreal dramas that preceded it, viewers willing to sit back and enjoy the ride will get the best mileage, as fretting over the logic is neither fun nor necessary.

Coming off a lengthy hiatus, Russian Doll had to once again make a case for itself in a fast-paced and ruthlessly competitive television landscape. It succeeds in doing so, which is no small feat given that the neatly-wrapped ending to season 1 wasn't exactly crying out for a sequel.

As it stands, what this second season lacks in narrative polish, it makes up for in strong performances and trippy visuals.

Read more of our Russian Doll coverage:

Russian Doll season 2 is available to stream on Netflix from Wednesday 20th April 2022. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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