On Screen: “Baby Reindeer”

Baby Reindeer

Without question, “Baby Reindeer” is one of the more bizarre series ever to capture worldwide attention. Allegedly based on true events, its seven episodes chronicle the creepy relationship of a Scottish comedian and his stalker.

According to Netflix, in the four weeks since it debuted, it’s been viewed more than 56 million times, spawning endless discussion and a cadre of amateur sleuths trying to discover the real identities of various characters.

“Baby Reindeer” begins in a London police station as Donny Dunn (creator Richard Gadd, playing a version of himself) awkwardly attempts to report a female stalker named Martha (Jessica Gunning), who wandered into the Camden pub where he works as a bartender and has been tormenting him ever since.

Adapted from his 2019 one-man, award-winning show that played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and London’s West End, Gadd’s series shows how he spent years trying to find some semblance of success as Donny Dunn, a tartan-clad standup comedian with sad eyes and a hangdog face.

Twentysomething Donny lives in a boarding house owned by the mother of his ex-girlfriend Keely (Shalom Brune-Franklin) and is dating Teri (Nava Mau), a transgender woman, while working out some shameful self-loathing about his own sexuality.

If viewing Donny’s cringeworthy attempts at comedy isn’t excruciating enough, watching him bumble ineptly through his personal life is even worse, particularly when he’s seduced by Darrien O’Connor (Tom Goodman-Hill), an older, successful TV producer who drugs, assaults and rapes him.

In contrast, as a serial stalker, menacing, middle-aged Martha is cleverly delineated and steadfastly confident, always thinking two steps ahead of damaged, dimwitted Donny. She’s so lonely and obsessed that she’s lost touch with reality, idealizing and projecting her primal desires onto him, calling him her ‘baby reindeer.’

Like many victims of stalkers, Donny — at first — feels pity for Martha and tries to deal with her compassionately. When that doesn’t deter her, he seems to get some kind of ego boost from her devotion, yet his complicity in engaging with her — while not setting boundaries — is the worst thing he can do.

During the epilogue, there are generational confrontations which eventually lead to the emotionally ambivalent conclusion.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Baby Reindeer” is a sordid 7 — with all episodes now streaming on Netflix.


Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.

As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.

During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books. Her website is www.susangranger.com.

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