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Russian Doll: The Perfect Weekend Binge

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A cynical person is compelled to relive a certain day in repeat, over and over again and stuck in a time loop.

Of course, you have. Because this is the exact same premise for a whole host of movies and TV series episodes. For example, Groundhog Day, Source Code, Edge of tomorrow and even recent Black Mirror event, Bandersnatch to a certain degree.

So can the same plot, that’s been done so many times over be any good or entertaining? In the case of Netflix’s new comedy-drama “Russian Doll” very much so.

Produced and co-written by Amy Poehler of “Parks and Recreations”, Russian Doll, as the show itself describes itself, “a long story involving multiple deaths.”

Minor Spoilers for the 1st and 2nd episode.

It starts off with Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne), a cynical New Yorker who is seen at her 36th birthday party thrown by two of her closest friend at their apartment.

Nadia happens to be a chain-smoking, alcoholic, video game programmer with a self-destructive nature and pretty bleak outlook on life. After an accident involving a local deli cat, Nadia is run over by a speeding taxi and is killed on the spot on the night of her birthday.

Russian Doll a bingeworthy netflix show

But surprising enough she’s transported back to the where the episode started off. At birthday party her friend threw for her, giving her the worst case of Déjà vu. Although writing it off as her imagination and side-effects of the narcotics she took at the party, she realized that the loop she’s in is very real after she ends up dying a few more times. Nadia is left to figure out how to free herself from this never-ending loop or if it’s even possible to free herself at all.

What makes it binge-worthy

Even with the worn out plot, Russian Doll has a lot going for it in term of making it one the most binge-worthy shows out there. For one, with having just eight episodes and a runtime less than 4 hours, it hits the sweet spot in terms of keeping the audience glued to their screens as the show keeps peeling off its different layers.

On the topic of different layers, the show is very smart right down to its characters. Dark humor and how it portrays it and handles heavy subject matter and even the theory of relativity at one point. The title of the show itself is a reference to depression and mental health which gets more prominent as the story progresses.

Russian Doll a bingeworthy netflix show.

The protagonist Nadia Vulvokov is a great reason to watch Russian doll in itself. The deaths were comically hilarious and some hilariously dark but the drama of the show was very genuine and heartfelt. Being funny, brash, cynical, and hedonistic from the beginning to the revelation of her troubled back-story and characters growth, she is the life of the show. Although the show can get a bit confusing and disjointed at times, everything comes together beautifully by the end of the final episode.

Verdict

Overall, Russian Doll is a solid show to watch with enough twists and turns and character development to keep the audience hooked. Although its overused plotline might turn away some initially, you could do much worse than giving it’s a shot and hopefully love it by the end.

A chilling window into the mind of a psychopath: The Ted Bundy Tapes

It doesn’t take long for Ted Bundy to make you feel uneasy. Charming, handsome and intelligent, he speaks with an air of comfort and ease that almost makes you forget he is a serial killer.

Can you truly know how a killer’s mind works?

Diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder, Ted Bundy is an acute narcissist who enjoyed the attention his arrest and subsequent series of trials brought to himself. There’s a disturbing scene in the third episode of the documentary series where he asks one of the policemen to go over a crime scene in excruciating detail.

Conversations with a Killer: the Ted Bundy Tapes is a decent introduction to the infamous serial killer’s story. He operated in an era that was still unfamiliar with serial killers, and the manhunt to catch him would go on to pioneer developments in crime investigation that are still important to this day.

The tapes were recorded by rookie journalist Stephen Michaud and seasoned reporter Hugh Aynesworth in 1980, when Bundy was on death row.

He was initially unresponsive in his conversations with the pair, until Michaud encouraged Bundy to talk about himself in the third person, as though he were an expert witness



Bundy was careful not to reveal anything that would indicate he was making an admission of guilt, and the closest he got to revealing how his mind worked was when he talked about how such an individual is motivated by a need for fulfilment, hoping that the next murder would fulfill that need.

What works (and doesn’t work)

One of the strong points of the series is its use of authentic footage and photos from the seventies and eighties, which stretch from the victims and their parents, the police investigating Bundy’s case to Bundy himself as he goes through trials, several escape attempts and lastly, walks to his death via electrocution.

What is chilling about Bundy is that there is a void inside him that nonetheless lures his victims to a false sense of security. He married one of his closest friends, Carol Ann Boone, after proposing to her during a trial, and sired a daughter, Rosa, with her when he was on death row.

However, the documentary doesn’t spend as much time on his victims as it could have, which is a pity because they remain mostly faceless. Two days before his execution in 1989, Bundy confessed to murdering thirty women, but it’s likely that his actual kill count was much higher.

The director, Joe Berlinger, is intimately familiar with the true crime genre, and has also directed the upcoming film on Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil which features Zac Effron as Ted Bundy.


While what Bundy did to his victims is undoubtedly vile- he often decapitated his victims and had sex with their corpses- the interest in him that continues to endure is partly because of his own catering to his narcissism, and partly because of our perverse interest in evil.

There is also the fact that murderers like Ted Bundy, and the fictional Joe Goldberg from You, are fetishized and even pined after in some cases. Elizabeth Yardley, Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University, talked in an interview with Real Crime how documentaries and other media portray killers as captivating individuals.

“Serial killers get others on side and take charge of a situation with a mix of compliments and common sense,” she explains. “They tend to have a very good grasp of other people’s emotions and are quick to pick up on any vulnerability or weakness in order to convince them into doing things they normally wouldn’t.”

The verdict

As it stands, Conversations with a Killer: the Ted Bundy Tapes feels slightly incomplete, an exploration that is fascinated and intimidated by Bundy but does little to demystify his actions and motivations. The documentary suggests that he is unknowable, in the way most of us are. If you want to know more about him, further reading (and viewing) is in order.

Originally published on Upthrust.