‘Baby Reindeer’ is one of the most dark and unsettling shows of a real-life stalking experience

Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn with Jessica Gunning as Martha Scott in a scene from ‘Baby Reindeer’.

Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn with Jessica Gunning as Martha Scott in a scene from ‘Baby Reindeer’.

Published Apr 26, 2024


Aside from the fact that “Baby Reindeer” was leading the Top 10 shows on Netflix, streamers couldn’t stop talking about the show on social media.

Off-putting title aside, but, contextually, it makes perfect sense, I started watching the seven-part series.

The black comedy is adapted from Richard Gadd’s autobiographical one-hander of the same name. The series is created by and stars Gadd, who plays a fictionalised version of himself.

Be warned, the subject matter is dark and disturbing. The story centres on Donny Dunn, a rough-around-the-edges bartender, stalked by Martha Scott (Jessica Gunning), a socially awkward 40-something woman.

The series opens with Donny taking pity on Martha and offering her a cup of tea as she can’t afford anything.

His act of kindness feeds her interest in him. And it isn’t long before she finds his email address and starts writing to him. She frequents the pub more and becomes bolder and more forceful with each encounter.

Donny doesn’t read much into it, even though he is often teased about having his “girlfriend”. He looks past all the red flags and even agrees to meet her.

But she reads more into it than he does. And despite him telling her that he likes her as a friend, she makes her feelings about him clear.

Martha wiles away her time in front of the television, tucking into ready-to-eat meals. She envisions a future with Donny, especially after a casual conversation about her looking for “someone to hang up her curtains” becomes awkward when the subject of marriage comes up.

She befriends Donny on Facebook and starts liking all his pictures while trolling his ex or any female he engages with.

She also starts attending the comedy club where Donny, a struggling comedian, regularly performs.

Richard Gadd as Donny with Nava Mau as Teri in ‘Baby Reindeer’. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

He can’t shake her off. Even when he learns that she has a troubling history, which resulted in her making headlines for similar behaviour, he doesn’t appear as fazed or threatened as one would be.

Donny keeps entertaining her, playing into her demands and rants, which is often, and diffuses her unwanted advances with humour.

Viewers watching the first few episodes of the series will grow increasingly frustrated watching the interaction between the two, where the lines between who is more effed up, blur.

It also looks at his relationship with Teri (Nava Mau), a transgender therapist he meets on a dating app, where he pretends to be someone else.

But as much as she ticks all his boxes, the situation with Martha, coupled with his past, where a film-maker sexually abused him, leaves him spiralling out of control.

It leaves him questioning his sexuality in the most unhealthy ways.

When the story returns to the present day, the situation has spiralled out of control.

Martha is a menace. Aside from being foul-mouthed and making Donny’s life a living hell, she becomes physically abusive when she bumps into Teri.

Realising that he has to intervene, he approaches the police but he isn’t taken seriously as there is no solid evidence against Martha.

His desperation leads him to try to entrap her. But his effort boomerangs on him as Martha, being au fait with the law, took measures to protect herself from any push-back.

With his frustration building over several months, Donny ends up having a meltdown on stage. It is recorded by an audience member and goes viral.

To Donny, it was the most cathartic experience. Ironically enough, it also frees him from the emotional shackles of his past and he becomes more proactive in dealing with Martha.

“Baby Reindeer” is one of the most unsettling TV series I’ve watched.

The gut-wrenching honesty of Donny and his poetic journey of self-love, healing and acceptance is pure genius. It’s a slice of life that we don’t often see unpacked with such revered rawness.

∎ “Baby Reindeer” is streaming on Netflix.