Netflix's funny and frightening new mystery series, Russian Doll, has an ending that may leave some viewers mystified. Co-created by and starring Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll follows a woman called Nadia who is suddenly killed on her 36th birthday, only to find herself back at her birthday party hours before her death. As she tries to figure out what's going on, Nadia realizes two things: she is always doomed to die within 24 hours of the party, and she will always rewind to the same moment in her friend's bathroom.
As Russian Doll progresses, Nadia arrives at a new revelation - that she is not alone. Alan (Charlie Barnett), an upright and anal retentive man who is her opposite in just about every way, is being forced to relive the worst night of his life. Unlike Nadia, however, he welcomes the opportunity to get as many possible chances at "fixing" the past as possible, desperately trying to find a way to prevent his girlfriend, Beatrice (Dascha Polanco), from breaking up with him.
As Nadia and Alan meet and try to find the patterns in their endless time loops, and how they might be connected, it becomes clear that their time is not as infinite as it seems. With people, animals, and objects starting to vanish with each new loop, the race is on to figure out how to stop the cycle of deaths. Here's our breakdown of Russian Doll's ending, and what it all means.
- This Page: What Happens At The End Of Russian Doll
- Page 2: Russian Doll's Time Loop and Ending Explained
- Page 3: Emily of New Moon and The Real Meaning of Russian Doll
What Happens At The End Of Russian Doll
At the end of Russian Doll's penultimate episode, "The Way Out," Nadia goes to meet her former boyfriend, John's (Yul Vazquez) daughter, to give her a copy of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Emily of New Moon. Lucy (Tatiana E. Rivera) thanks Nadia for the book, and all finally seems to be going well... until Nadia suddenly coughs up blood all over the table and Lucy's face. A calm Lucy tells Nadia, "She's still inside you," and Nadia reaches into her own throat and pulls out a shard of broken glass. She recalls a memory of her mother (Chloë Sevigny) going through their apartment and breaking all the mirrors, and then looks up to find that Lucy has transformed into Nadia's younger self (Brooke Timber). Young Nadia asks if older Nadia is ready to let her mother die, and Nadia nods in assent. Young Nadia tells her, "This is the day we get free."
In Russian Doll's season finale, "Ariadne," Nadia and Alan's nights reset one last time. This time, everything has been restored: all the missing people and objects are back, the fish are back in their fish tanks, and the fruit is no longer rotten. However, when Nadia and Alan catch up to one another, they realize that something else has changed: they are no longer in the same timeline. Both of them, with the full knowledge of all the different time loops, has been restored to the original night and been given a second chance to save the other person. Nadia has a chance to save a drunken and depressed Alan from throwing himself off the roof, and Alan has a chance to stop Nadia from sleeping with Mike (Jeremy Bobb) - who, in his own words, is not a choice but "the hole where a choice should be" - and subsequently getting hit by a car.
The problem is that Alan and Nadia didn't know each other before the time loops began, and both have a hard time convincing the other that they're in danger. In Alan's timeline, he catches up with Mike and Nadia at the deli and tries to persuade Nadia to leave Mike, but she simply mocks him and leaves. Alan follows the two of them down the street, telling Nadia that she is going to die, but she still refuses to take him seriously. When Nadia and Mike get to Nadia's apartment, Alan takes a photo of the two of them kissing and sends it to Beatrice, whom Mike has been dating, and texts her with instructions to call Mike. She does so, but Mike rejects the call, and heads inside with Nadia.
Heading back to the deli, Alan tells their mutual friend Ferran (Ritesh Rajan) to call Nadia, and writes down a number. Ferran obliges, and Nadia gets the call as she is getting ready to sleep with Mike. Ferran passes on the message that Nadia owes Alan $152,780.86 - the exact amount of Nadia's college fund that her mother frittered away. This finally convinces Nadia to leave Mike and go back to the deli. Alan tries to explain that he believes the two of them are meant to save each other's lives, and continues to reveal things that he knows about her - like the fact that her mother died on her 36th birthday. They encounter Mike, who has received a slew of angry messages from Beatrice, and who tells Nadia that Alan is crazy and she should get away from him. She starts to cross the street to Mike when a car almost hits her, and Alan saves her life. Freaked out, Nadia continues across the street and rejoins Mike.
Nadia similarly finds Alan at the deli in her timeline, drunken and miserable, but as she tries to snap him out of it the same drunken idiots from the first episode interrupt and cause a scene. Ferran kicks everyone except for Alan out of the deli, and Nadia is forced to follow Alan and Ferran discreetly to a restaurant. While Ferran takes a phone call from his girlfriend, Alan leaves the restaurant and Nadia continues to follow him. She catches up to Alan as he is giving all of his possessions away to Horse (Brendan Sexton III) and the other homeless people, and helps Alan back to his apartment. Lying in bed with him, she tells him a fairy story about their respective stories and the time loops, and eventually they both fall asleep. When Nadia wakes up, Alan is gone.
At first it seems as though both of them have failed. In her timeline, Nadia runs up to the roof of Alan's building, hearing ominous sirens as she does so. As she stands on the roof in despair, Alan walks up behind her, alive and well. He asks if she can promise that he'll be happy if he doesn't jump, and she tells him that she can only promise that he won't be alone. For Alan, that is enough. Meanwhile, in Alan's timeline, Nadia is walking away from Alan as Mike opines about how crazy he is. Then she hesitates, however, and abruptly walks back to Alan (looking both ways as she crosses the street this time).
The two timelines finally convene as both versions of Alan and Nadia find Horse and the other homeless people in a bizarre parade with the papier-mâché creations that they were shown making earlier. The two timelines merge and the versions of Alan and Nadia who lived through all the timelines are reunited.