The Very Confusing, Time-Jumping Ending to Russian Doll Season 2, Explained

The Very Confusing, Time-Jumping Ending to Russian Doll Season 2, Explained

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Russian Doll season 2 picks up the story four years after its time-looping first season. Nadia, who became a time prisoner after being hit by a taxi on the night of her 36th birthday (Season 1), is now on the edge of 40. Her party is some weeks away, at the end of March, when she gets on a 6 train, leaving Lenox Hill hospital where her adoptive guardian and surrogate mother, Ruth, has been receiving treatment following a car accident—and what we assume to be degenerative illness of some sort.

Nadia boards the train at 77th street on the Upper East Side, taking it downtown to Astor Place, about nine stops south. (This might seem unnecessarily specific, but New York City subway geography becomes important for the sci-fi concept of Season 2.)

She steps off the train at Astor, having been transported to 1982—and transubstantiated into the body of her pregnant mother.

Understanding the ending of the second season requires that we understand Nadia’s relationship with both her biological mother, Nora, and her surrogate mother, Ruth. It’s a season all about motherhood, not unlike season 1.

Much of season 1 involves Nadia’s acceptance of her mother’s absence and the inherited trauma of her mental illness and death. Season 2 takes this acceptance further, asking Nadia to forgive her mother—and even chose her mother over any cosmic alternative. (Nadia will often say during the season how she wishes she could have been raised differently, that if only she had a different upbringing perhaps her current unhappiness would be remedied.)

russian doll l to r natasha lyonne as nadia vulvokov, greta lee as maxine in episode 204 of russian doll cr courtesy of netflix © 2022


In one of the final scenes, when she meets her mother on the train, her mother no longer pregnant, Nadia instead holding the baby, herself, her mother asks if Nadia would still choose the same life, if Nadia would still chose her as her mother—and Nadia says “yes,” giving her mother the baby, herself. The scene seems to represent a final acceptance of Nadia’s past; she no longer wants to change events, nor does she believe changing events will change her current state. It also comes at a moment when Nadia must return to the present (literally and emotionally), where her surrogate mother, Ruth, is about to die.

Nadia has spent so much of the second season in search for her mother’s lost gold coins—believing that finding these (and, in so doing, fixing the past) is how she can fix the future, both for herself and for Ruth. When she chooses to leave the gold coins in the flooded time void, she’s choosing to leave the past in the past. Only then is she able to return to the present—physically and psychologically—and face the inevitability of Ruth’s death, an event she now knows she can no longer affect.

russian doll charlie barnett as alan zaveri in episode 201 of russian doll cr courtesy of netflix © 2022


Of course, when she gets back, Ruth is already dead, an outcome that seems to make Nadia’s journey something of a failure. By spending so much time in the past, she was unable to see Ruth at the very end, proving her preoccupancy with the gold coins had substantial consequences, ones that time travel could not reverse. But then when Nadia and Alan show up at the wake, she appears happy. So perhaps she did make it back in time and we are only seeing the wake? Who knows.

Anyway, those are some thematic explanations for the ending. Here are some questions we still have.

Where Did the Gold Actually Go?

russian doll season 2 ending explained


When Nadia decides to bring herself (as a newborn) back into the future, she breaks time. She and Alan slowly enter a collapsing temporal realm where nothing seems to matter, where doppelgängers upon doppelgängers roam the streets and litter the morgues. They are eventually separated and dropped into a flooded train station, which seems to represent a time void—some area totally outside time. Here, Nadia finds the gold coins that her mother (or rather, Nadia, inhabiting her mother) lost on the train in 1982.

So are the gold coins literally lost in some time void after being left on the 6 train? Maybe that’s just a joke—like the MTA having a lost and found.

So, Like, How Does the Time Travel Work in Russian Doll?

russian doll season 2 ending, explained


We know Nadia is able take the train several stops to 1982, but it’s unclear how only she is able to do this—and why the other passengers on the train don’t also experience this time jump. It’s also unclear how she gets to 1968 using the same passageway—does she stay on the train for longer, even though she still arrives at Astor Place, the same stop as 1982? Or how she gets to 1944 and an entirely different location. Does she just stay on for … even longer?

One simple answer is that none of this is actually happening; Nadia is experiencing these phenomena mentally and not physically. In the first season, Nadia takes ketamine right before her first “death.” In season 2, she and Maxine once again do drugs, this time DMT.

It’s also possible that these experiences are the result of some type of mental disorder; we know Nadia’s mother suffered from schizophrenia, and perhaps Nadia, too, is experiencing these time distortions due to her own illness.

The best answer to the time travel, however, is simply: don’t think about it.

What’s the Deal with Horse?

russian doll season 2 ending explained


Horse seems to have initiated the time jump by yelling across the platform the first time Nadia boards the time-traveling 6 train. He also appears in the time collapse to guide Nadia and Alan to the time void, reprising his role as a kind of Virgil-esque guide in the first season.

We could speculate the Horse is somehow the key to understanding both seasons of Russian Doll—that he is something of a timekeeper and orchestrator of Nadia’s experiences.

We may just have to wait for a future season to confirm.

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