Baby Reindeer Review: Netflix’s Most Thought-Provoking Drama

From Comedy to Kaleidoscope of Complexity: Baby Reindeer's Surprising Journey

British comedian Richard Gadd puts his whole heart and soul into Baby Reindeer, a darkly humorous Netflix series based closely on his true experience of being stalked. Starring as Donny Dunn, a character mirroring key details of his own life, Gadd welcomes viewers into intimate and unsettling territory. Yet throughout this unflinching exploration of mental illness, abuse and the impacts of trauma, glimmers of compassion and hard-won wisdom still shine through.

Gadd crafts Donny not as a victim but as a full human – flawed, self-doubting and making questionable choices even in his most vulnerable moments. In the same vein, Jessica Gunning infuses Martha the stalker with nuanced layers of humanity beneath her severely disturbed behaviour. Neither villain nor hero, both characters live in shades of grey. Through their intertwined fates we learn how adversity can damage or make us wiser, how even the “villain” deserves understanding.

Across seven episodes, Baby Reindeer unpacks heavy subjects with grit, levity and heart. Anchored by raw, compassionate performances, it leaves us not with answers but questions – about the mind’s fragile edges, and our shared capacity for both harm and healing. Gadd challenges us to walk in another’s shoes, see life through eyes not our own. Ultimately he reminds us that beneath surface horrors, our shared humanity always endures.

Finding Humanity in Harrowing Trauma

Donny Dunn works as a bartender in London, struggling to break through as a comedian with his surreal prop act. One night, a disheveled woman named Martha enters in tears. Moved by her plight, Donny offers her a free cup of tea. Martha takes a keen interest in Donny, laughing heartily at his jokes. Yet her attention escalates into obsessive stalking.

Martha tracks down Donny’s email, bombarding him with dozens of bizarre, often explicit messages daily. She insinuates herself further by attending his shows. While Donny feels pity for Martha’s loneliness, her unstable behavior intensifies—erupting in rage during a coffee meeting. Donny realizes her affections mask dark instability.

As the stalking persists, Martha invades ever aspect of Donny’s life. She discovers where he lives and follows him online. Attempts to let her down gently fail, met with more unhinged messages. Donny learns Martha has a criminal record for stalking offenses, yet still allows contact. Their toxic co-dependency spirals into increasingly troubling encounters that chip away at Donny’s sense of security.

Richard Gadd’s nuanced performances bring humane layers to both characters. Across seven soul-baring episodes, Baby Reindeer unpacks the psychologically complex interplay between stalker and victim with raw honesty. Flashbacks reveal childhood trauma influencing Donny’s poor choices. A pivotal episode also exposes sexual abuse suffered in the comedy circuit.

Eventually reporting Martha to police after three harrowing years, Donny emerges wiser yet still processing trauma. Through this intimate exploration of mental illness and humanity’s dark places, Gadd challenges views of villainy while reminding us that even in our depths, shared hopes for healing and redemption endure.

Peeling Back the Layers: Baby Reindeer’s Resonant Thematic Exploration

Richard Gadd’s harrowing drama Baby Reindeer tackles difficult themes with nuance and insight. At its core, the show examines what happens when trauma and obsession collide in the shadows of our own making.

Baby Reindeer Review

Donny’s chance act of kindness sets in motion a chain of consequences he’s ill-equipped to face. Yet beneath the surface of Martha’s threatening actions lurk traces of humanity – a lonely woman wounded long before she meets Donny. Jessica Gunning imbues Martha with vulnerability even in her darkest moments.

Criminal justice response to stalking likewise receives thoughtful treatment. Police skepticism reflects real failures to protect victims. And while Martha faces consequences, her actions stem more from sickness than pure malice. There are no easy answers, only hard truths about the spaces where mental illness and danger intersect.

Comedy too holds bittersweet notes. Donny seeks validation through his craft, but material borne of real suffering gains little applause. His knack for dark humor develops as a shield, yet performing trauma risks further damage. Through it all, Donny fights to reclaim himself – to emerge from the shadows of abuse and shame haunting his past.

Ultimately this is a story of flawed, fragile people trapped within wider societal flaws. With sharp yet empathetic writing, Gadd ensures none escape understanding – neither stalker nor victim, neither friend nor foe. Some redeem themselves while others stay shrouded in darkness. But in granting complex interiority to all, Baby Reindeer finds our shared humanity even in places we’d rather not look. It is a powerful must-watch, holding up a mirror to darkness and light within us all.

Revelations and Self-Discovery

From the moment Donny Dunn offers Martha a cup of tea in a moment of pity, Baby Reindeer is as much about his journey of realization as it is about the horrors of stalking. Played with raw vulnerability by writer Richard Gadd, Donny becomes hugely compelling as his blindness to Martha’s true nature gradually lifts.

Gadd ensures we see Donny not as villian or victim, but as a complex, damaged man awakening to harsh truths about himself. Through narration that shifts from flippant to confronting, he translates Donny’s bewilderment, shame and growing courage with remarkable candor. And Jessica Gunning is nothing short of stellar opposite him.

As Martha, Gunning traverses from charming to chilling, her smiles masking darker instincts. But glimmers of humanity remain that make her all the more unsettling. Few actirs could lend such nuance to an immensely challenging role.

During lighter moments, Donny remains willfully blind to Martha’s instability. But as emails and encounters escalate, so does the strain on his wit and good nature. Gadd plays this unraveling masterfully, letting us see Donny’s panic, then disassociation as denial fades.

Teri too proves pivotal, helping Donny acknowledge past traumas and see he’s worthy of real love. Through their caring dynamic, Gadd highlights how toxic relationships thrive on self-loathing as much as attraction.

By the finale, Gadd has granted us not just a compelling story, but a very human one of self-realization. Donny has faced parts of his character that long lay dormant, and comes out the other side empowered through humiliation. Thanks to Gadd’s deeply affecting performances, it’s a journey we feel invested in until the very end.

Captivating from Start to Finish

Baby Reindeer pulls you in with its unsettling tone from the very start. Yet what’s truly remarkable is Richard Gadd’s skill at varying the tone so naturally throughout. It begins with dark comedy as Donny’s odd encounters with Martha are almost farcical. But the comedy gives way to escalating thriller vibes as her behavior turns sinister.

Where some might shy from confronting trauma head-on, Gadd meets it unflinchingly. Later episodes truly grip as dramatic drama, as difficult topics come to the fore. You feel Donny’s anguish yet also gain insights few shows provide. All the while, Gadd maintains impeccable nuance – Martha’s humanity remains visible even as she threatens it.

Cinematography is key to the tone’s success. Unsettling close-ups and tilted angles generate an air of disquiet from the get-go. Sound and music also do tremendous work setting mood. Silence falls at just the right moments, while an eerie score underlies even lighter scenes. Clever editing ties it all together tidily yet leaves lasting impacts.

Through it all Gadd shows total command of his craft, varying pace and tone to keep viewers constantly on their toes. No moment feels gratuitous or exploitational either. Baby Reindeer continually reminds us that true lives contain infinite shades of grey. It’s a masterclass in storytelling that grips to the very end. Gadd has gifted us a rare gem deserving of the highest praise.

The Dark Depths of the Human Condition

Baby Reindeer pulls no punches in its unflinching examination of the human experience. From the unsettling premiere, Richard Gadd makes clear his intent isn’t light drama but a dissection of trauma’s toll.

We first see Donny struggling in his craft, finding solace only in Martha’s attention. Yet her behaviors soon escalate into a nightmare, invading every privacy through tens of thousands of messages. Gunning imbues Martha with pathos yet madness, rooting her obsession in palpable loneliness.

Still, nothing prepares viewers for the series’ artistic and emotional pivots in later episodes. “Esprit de l’Escalier” grippingly strips back layers, revealing Donny’s own demons haunting from industry mistreatment. Gadd pulls back the curtain in brazen surrealism, juxtaposing dark comedy’s cheerful facade with a sinister sinister. We understand Donny and Martha’s co-dependency runs deeper – both harbor private hells.

Most staggering is Episode 4’s unflinching account of trauma. Gadd spares no mercy, crafting an unsettling descent into a depraved world where trust wields toxic power over the vulnerable. Viewers emerge shaken yet grateful for such conviction, for stories facilitating communal healing by granting private pains light. Art moves us to empathy, and in baring private scars, Gadd heals his own.

Later plot points examine how pasts ricochet into presents, and question whether closure exists for souls so damaged. The finale asks if any escape broken cycles, or if humanity is doomed to repeat suffering endlessly. Gadd offers no easy answers – only hope that by facing darkness together unflinchingly, shadows loosen their grip on both tellers and listeners of tales. In bearing witness to rawest emotions, we find solace.

Gadd’s creative daring leaves us humbled and thinking long after. His compassion, in giving space for private agonies to breathe public air, reminds that though darkness exists, through shared experience light yet comes. Some tales transport beyond entertainment into realms of understanding – of ourselves, each other, and life in all its complexity.

Facing Darkness with Empathy and Insight

Richard Gadd’s Baby Reindeer takes viewers on an unflinching journey into the complexities of the human condition. What begins as Donny’s casual kindness towards a stranger in need gradually transforms into a relentless nightmare that dismantles his life.

Yet Gadd does not portray the stalker Martha or victim Donny in superficial terms. Instead, he strips back layers to reveal vulnerable souls warped by past traumas. His searingly honest writing and the brilliant performances imbue even the most distressing moments with nuance and compassion.

Through it all, Gadd maintains a creative dare to probe society’s deepest shadows without glancing away. He confronts criminal failings and taboos surrounding mental illness, abuse, and sexuality with critical insight. Above all, Donny’s harrowing story highlights how the wounds of the past can ricochet into the present, and questions whether any escape such vicious cycles.

It is a tribute to Gadd’s courage that he faced his demons to craft something so unflinchingly real yet profoundly healing. By granting private agonies public light, he facilitates our collective understanding of shared humanity in all its complexity. While undoubtedly difficult to watch at times, Baby Reindeer ultimately leaves viewers humbled and thinking through its glimpse of life’s darkest places.

Gadd proves that even the most disturbing truths, when approached with empathy, may carry hope of redemption. His courage to transform trauma into art ensures Baby Reindeer will continue impacting all who open their minds to its insights for years to come.

The Review

Baby Reindeer

9 Score

Richard Gadd's deeply personal thriller Baby Reindeer breaks new ground by tackling its challenging themes with unflinching honesty, nuance and compassion. Though undeniably difficult to watch at times, the show triumphs through its rich humanity and perceptive exploration of how past wounds can undermine lives in the present. Anchored by incredible central performances, Baby Reindeer proves a testament to the power of brave storytelling to foster understanding. It leaves an indelible impact, ensuring Gadd's unforgettable television debut will resonate long after the final frame.


  • Based on creator's harrowing real-life experience
  • Powerful, nuanced performances by Gadd and Gunning
  • Unsparingly honest examination of complex issues like mental health, abuse, and trauma
  • Thought-provoking exploration of morality and culpability
  • Strong directorial vision and unsettling visual style
  • Facilitates understanding of how past wounds can undermine lives


  • Heavily disturbing and stressful subject matter at times
  • Potentially retraumatizing for those with similar lived experiences
  • Complex, multi-layered storyline may frustrate some viewers

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 9
Exit mobile version