The Mind-Bending Ending Of Netflix’s ‘Russian Doll’ Explained

There's an underlying message to the chaos.
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The latest dose of everyone’s favourite time-bending drama, Russian Doll has really thrown fans for a six. While there was some comfort to be found (eventually) in the first season’s structure of groundhog day, the sophomore season of the Netflix show dove into another dimension entirely. Suffice to say that by the end, we had whiplash, but none so much as what main character Nadia went through to get there. 

Confused? We were too—here, we explain what really happened at the end of Russian Doll, season two. 

(Credit: Netflix)

What happened in the Russian Doll season 2 season finale? 

The season finale starts off with a familiar scene: We’re at Nadia’s birthday party in Maxine’s apartment with Alan when Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up!” is heard—all is as it should be… Well, kind of. 

Nadia’s leaps through time has resulted in her giving birth to herself via her mother’s body, which is how things get really complicated. Maxine’s apartment morphs itself into an old school, meaning Nadia has successfully collapsed time, much to the dismay of Alan, who is also travelling through time with Nadia. 

Things get weirder when she sees Ruth arrive at her party, followed by another Ruth and another Ruth. Nadia quickly realises that she’s broken time and sent her matriarch (who is supposed to be dead) into an eternal time loop. Shaken, Nadia is forced to face the fact that Ruth’s death did happen and she wasn’t by her side. So, she’s left with no other choice but to return the baby and attempt to put time back on track.

She and Alan arrive at the train station wormhole where they hop aboard train 6622. But as they jump off, the pair are hit by another train and end up being thrown through a whole other sequence in time. Eventually, they land in “the void”, which is where they must face their demons in order to be set free. Here, Nadia comforts Alan by making him see that the loss of Lenny, the man he loved during his time jumps, wasn’t his fault. She convinces him that he cannot continue to be so afraid of making the wrong choices, because he won’t make any at all.  

Meanwhile, Nadia tracks down her mum Nora and gives her the baby. Their encounter becomes emotional when Nora asks Nadia if she’d choose her to be her mother again, after everything that’s happened. 

“I didn’t choose you the first time, but I guess that’s just how the story goes, huh, Mum?” Nadia replies. The moment, it appears, seems to do the trick. Nadia gets back to 2022 where she arrives at Ruth’s wake. Everything is back on track once again, and Nadia has finally made peace as she glimpses herself in that bathroom mirror and smiles. 

Russian Doll‘s ending explained 

While the ending was a time warp in and of itself, it presented the one message the series has been trying to tell us along—life, as it happens, is there to be lived. 

“Season one was about breaking through these boundaries of death. And season two is now about actually being able to live that life,” Charlie Barnett, who plays Alan, explained to EW

“There’s something beautiful, too, about just connecting or finding the puzzle pieces that you think you need… but you realise [they] are actually always with you.” 

Natasha Lyonne, who plays Nadia, explained that the season two finale summed up the answer to the question she’d wanted answered since the very first episode. 

“I wanted very badly for Nadia and Alan to sort of ask a question of, ‘How do I stop dying?’ Great. But really, for them, three and a half years later, [it’s about] ‘How do I start living? What does it mean to be present in a life and make the most of the time that we have in the here and now, with our set of circumstances?'” 

The final scene of season two, where Nadia is finally smiling, reflected her hope—as Lyonne put it, she’s essentially “walking free in life and saying ‘it’s okay that this is the way I am, and it’s okay that this is the way you are.'”

Did Ruth actually die in Russian Doll

Ruth’s death is a pivotal part of the end of season two, so when we see her again in the finale while Nadia plays with time—and given we never actually saw her die—there’s a small hope she might have actually survived. But Lyonne has confirmed that the character has indeed died.

“Nadia is so hard-headed—or wants so badly to be able to affect some kind of change, or fix things [like Ruth’s death]—and in trying to rearrange the past, there is a karmic consequence wherein she misses that present moment,” she said. 

Will there be a season 3 of Russian Doll

There has been no specific confirmation, nor a hint that a third season of Russian Doll is on the cards. The second season had a well-rounded ending which suggests that the writers always planned to put the pens down at that point. 

That said, the reception from the first season was enough to lock in its second—so perhaps the same will go for the third. Watch this space. 

You can watch Russian Doll season one and two on Netflix by logging in or signing up here.

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