Dark tragicomedy Baby Reindeer has shot to the top of Netflix’s most-watched list, is garnering rave reviews and has social media abuzz. But with each streaming hit becoming its own viral moment, are audiences ready for something as real and haunting as the hit new miniseries?

Adapted from his one-man stage show of the same name, and based on his real experiences, Richard Gadd stars as Donny Dunn, a fictionalised version of himself working as a struggling comedian when he becomes the point of obsession for serial stalker Martha Scott, played by Jessica Gunning.

What follows is a hauntingly real and brutally honest story of abuse, trauma, and obsession, as Martha systematically disrupts and destroys every aspect of Donny’s life.

If you’re a fan of Netflix’s other stalker-based drama You and are thinking that Baby Reindeer may be a suitable substitute while you wait for Season 5, then think again. This isn’t your typical designed-to-be-binged Netflix original that’s stacked to the brim with shocking plot twists and grand set pieces.

No amount of method acting and character study can compare to what is at work.

Baby Reindeer is a slow-burn drama, at times darkly comedic, that is more interested in bringing the audience along as Gadd explores the deepest crevices of his mind via the character of Donny. Whilst this does mean the pacing can occasionally stumble and halt, it doesn’t lessen the overall intensity.

Early on in the series Martha eerily asks Donny “Did you ever want to, like, unzip people and climb inside them? I wish humans had a chin zip, and it would go all the way to their bellies… I’d just unzip them and tuck myself away.” This disturbing desire of Martha’s is so much more than a throwaway line establishing her as an unsettling adversary, it is a summary of Martha’s role in Donny’s story.

Martha isn’t some menacing cartoon villain like Joe Goldberg from You (although she is quietly menacing) but is more a tool of introspection, forcing Donny to confront his own trauma.

For every confrontation between Martha and Donny, the audience is also given one between Donny and himself as Martha forces him to unzip himself for her, and for the audience, leading to an extraordinarily unprecedented display of openness. It is rare to see a display of vulnerability and masculinity as significant and as sincere as that which is displayed by Gadd here.


Gadd’s story is deeply personal, and this shines through in every aspect of his performance. There is a rawness to his performance that is rare, and perhaps that’s because it’s not so much a performance as a re-enactment.

These are events that for the most part happened to Gadd. These are traumas that continue to plague him, embarrassments that he did experience, fears he fought through, and empathies he still feels. No amount of method acting and character study can compare to what is at work here and the powerfulness of it is apparent in every line and every glance.

His nuanced narration ensures the audience not only empathises with Donny but also with Martha, as Donny once did. By spilling his secrets, the good, the bad, and the ugly, Gadd provides an insight into the events unfolding and draws a level of sympathy from the audience that not even the best true crime documentaries could dream of producing.

Gadd’s performance wouldn’t be nearly as profound without the standout performance of Gunning who plays Martha. With Gadd portraying himself, it’s easy to assume that Gunning is doing the same as she disappears into the mystery that is Martha Scott. While many may have chosen to portray Martha as an evil, terrifying force of nature, Gunning brings a softness and sense of humour to her, making it easy to see how she was able to insert herself into Donny’s life.

Despite its cringe-inducing comedic moments… this is a story dealing with trauma, abuse, and sexual violence.

She isn’t the true villain of this story but is a mentally ill woman, and this fact is treated with care.

Baby Reindeer stands out in the bloated crowd of Netflix releases as something truly real and sincere, unfortunately its seriousness and nuance may be overlooked.

Despite its cringe-inducing comedic moments and often twisted sense of humour, this is a story dealing with trauma, abuse, and sexual violence.

With Tiktoks already flooding many (FYP) For You Page’s depicting re-enactments of certain scenes with the caption “POV: that one scene in Baby Reindeer” and internet sleuths crafting intricate theories regarding a potential season 2 of a man’s life, the truth and purpose behind this show may become lost in the inherent virality of any popular Netflix release. Are audiences prepared to view Gadd’s story with the seriousness it requires?

Some of these initial reactions undermine the depth of the story being told, cheapening the immense bravery and vulnerability at work here. If October comes with an onslaught of Martha inspired Halloween costumes, then it will become clear the point has been missed.

4.5/5 Stars

Main image still from Baby Reindeer.