‘Baby Reindeer’ series review: A raw, riveting take on obsession and abuse 

Scene from ‘Baby Reindeer’

Hot on the heels of the engrossing series Fallout, arrives Richard Gadd’s compelling series Baby Reindeer which traverses a significantly different kind of devastation. Unlike the literal doomsday scenario in the former, filled with undying monsters and megafauna, Baby Reindeer delves into the deep-seated impact of one seemingly minor benevolent gesture.

In the bustling city of London, struggling comedian Donny, played by Richard Gadd, has a fateful encounter at the pub with Martha, portrayed by Jessica Gunning. A curious glance from Martha pulls the compassionate Donny, leading him to offer her a free cup of tea. Martha’s regular presence in the bar kicks off a series of interactions where Donny’s good intentions are manipulated into something far more delusional in Martha’s mind.

Martha, undeterred by Donny’s efforts to set boundaries, insists on their non-existent relationship through bizarre and misspelt messages. These messages, apparently sent from an iPhone, seem incongruent with Martha’s actual resources.

Donny’s internet search reveals Martha’s alarming history as a relentless stalker with a criminal record and a banished legal career. The delayed police response to Donny’s stalking reports prompts a series of introspective questions: What led Donny to initially accept Martha’s online friendship? What prevented him from blocking her emails? To what extent is Martha’s hold over him subordinate his own instincts?

Baby Reindeer

Creator: Richard Gadd

Cast: Richard Gadd, Jessica Gunning, Nava Mau

Episodes: 7

Run-time: 27 to 45 minutes

Storyline: A rising comedian’s world turns upside down because of a simple act of compassion

The story crescendos in the excruciatingly powerful fourth episode, where viewers encounter the defining moments of Donny’s life. We witness his aspirations and heartbreaks: his hopeful beginnings at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, his bittersweet affair with Keeley (Shalom Brune-Franklin), and his unhealthy entanglement with a seasoned comedian (Tom Goodman-Hill). Martha’s persistence escalates to chilling lengths when she stations herself close to his residence for over 15 hours at a stretch.

As Donny finds love with Teri (Nava Mau), a transgender woman, he once again encounters Martha’s intrusive presence. Martha extends her harassment to include Donny’s family and friends, culminating in a reluctant confrontation with law enforcement. Yet, Martha’s legal acumen and her stalking finesse present a formidable and crippling challenge.

Rooted in the harrowing actualities of Gadd’s own stage play, Baby Reindeer refuses to offer a polished conclusion or a feel-good resolution. Its unfiltered narrative is a cauldron of success, joy, profound sorrow, shame, and solitude that intersects Donny’s existence. The show’s examination of fame as a judgment, the realization that achieving all desires is ultimately unrewarding, and the destructive nature of abuse resonates with the audience powerfully. The series’ exceptional writing and performances evoke an emotional response for its authenticity. Far from whimsical, Baby Reindeer stands as a pivotal, gripping work of television.

Baby Reindeer is presently available for streaming on Netflix.

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