Mark Watches ‘Russian Doll’: S01E03 – A Warm Body

In the third episode of the first season of Russian Doll, Nadia tries something different. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Russian Doll. 

Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of death

These episodes are not that long, and I want to state that because in just three episodes—what basically amounts to about 75 minutes total—we are ALREADY SEEING CHARACTER GROWTH. I think that this might also be the key to longevity in these loops. Why is it that on some loops, Nadia is able to survive the night? What’s the logic behind that?

Initially, I thought it really might be attached to the building itself. Unlike the laced joint, it seemed like such a plausible reason. Except… in one of the longer loops, she left the building for quite some time. So it’s not about her leaving a place she’s supposed to be, is it? Still, “A Warm Body” takes us through a new journey for Nadia: she tracks down the synagogue that owned the Yeshiva school that now houses Maxine’s loft. I feel as if I have a pretty firm grasp on who Nadia is as a character, and this episode fleshes out a lot of those characteristics. She’s hilarious, first of all, and while I adore her sense of humor, I can also see how she uses it as a defense mechanism. As soon as she’s backed in a corner, that humor becomes a weapon. Which isn’t always a bad thing; I think her humor is also endearing, and I believe that it’s one of the reasons Shifra finally lets her guard down and talks with Nadia. 

But within this is another theme, and it’s fascinating to me that John is the one who is directly told it, even though it’s Nadia who needs to hear it the most. Nadia has approached this mystery with intellectualism and logic. She is narrowing down all the possible influences: the joint. The Ketamine. The people at her birthday party. The building itself. The history of the building. Ghosts. And yet, there’s one thing at the center of all of this that Nadia is avoiding: herself. At the same time, I understand why she attacks this as she does. It’s methodical… well, as methodical as Nadia’s chaotic self can be. It’s also understandable that Nadia would want to avoid the possibility that she is the reason this is all happening. It’s deeply uncomfortable! It’s existentially terrifying! And we see just how much this sort of message hurts her when it’s conveyed (rather poorly) by John. 

The rabbi’s advice is basically what I’m leading to: what if Nadia lets go trying to explain this? What happens when she accepts that there might not be a physical reason for these loops but something more mystical, more weird, more personal? I don’t think she’s the abyss, as John claims she is, though I understand that he is immense pain because his whole life fell apart due to his affair with Nadia. Yet those words to her stick in a way she doesn’t expect, and in the most fascinating loop thus far, Nadia makes some interesting choices because of it. Granted, a lot of them are drunken decisions, but I feel like that’s the point! She wasn’t intellectualizing her decision to go to Tompkins Square Park (I FEEL VERY VALIDATED THAT I GOT THE PARK AND NEIGHBORHOOD RIGHT); she wanted to find Oatmeal. She was lost, hurt by John’s words, and probably feeling a combination of guilt, anger, and resentment. Guilty over being a part of bad decision; anger at John lashing out; resentment for SO MANY THINGS, not the least of which is this horrifying loop that Nadia can’t escape from.

So she lets go. She gets drunk. And her instinct guides her to Horse, the homeless man that Nadia thought she knew all the way back in the first episode. Was that her instinct telling her that Horse was important? Who knows! But y’all, she doesn’t think too hard about what she’s doing, and she opens herself up to the experience. Horse gives her a haircut. It was messy and uneven, but it was such a pure gesture! The act was genuine, and in this decision, Nadia finds a friend. She also survives longer than she ever has! I mean… she also freezes to death alongside Horse, so there’s that. 

Yet if we look at that and then what she does the following loop, it’s possible to see Nadia breaking toxic cycles. She doesn’t take the bait from John, and she doesn’t spend time with him. In fact, she’s very, very clear that she does not want him and that he needs to move on. There’s no confusion in that. Instead, she goes to the shelter Horse stayed at, where his shoes were stolen by someone else, and SHE STAYS UP TO PROTECT HIM. 

Is that the key? Is she here to break her own cycles? To choose instinct? To choose kindness?

That might have been my theory, but the final scene of “A Warm Body” completely destroys any working hypothesis I had. This had always been a solo journey for Nadia, and I was ready to write out this whole thing about how this loop has to happen to someone like Nadia, since it appeared to be about her breaking her own destructive cycles. 

Then she gets in that elevator.

And the elevator starts plummeting. 

And one other person reacts just as she does: with a vague disinterest.

And he—THE MAN FROM FERRAN’S DELI IN THE FIRST EPISODE—tells Nadia this is no big deal because he dies all the time.

HOLY SHIT. WHAT THE FUCK!!! THERE’S ANOTHER PERSON STUCK IN THESE LOOPS? Do their loops end at different times than Nadia’s? Is this the first time their loops every synced up? WHAT DOES THIS MAN’S LIFE LOOK LIKE? Is it his thirty-sixth birthday, too? HELP ME THIS REVEAL HAS MADE THIS SHOW A MILLION TIMES MORE INTERESTING AND I WAS ALREADY SUPER INTO IT.


The video for “A Warm Body” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

You can now pre-order my second YA novel, Each of Us a Desert, which will be released on September 15, 2020 from Tor Teen!
– Not only that, but my very first pre-order campaign is now live for North American readers! If you submit proof of pre-order, you can get a limited edition print that comes with the book.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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