Russian Doll is the latest show to hit Netflix, and it has a great theme crossing the line between Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day…(and the new Happy Death Day 2U), and what’s even better, this is an entire series and not just one episode (or movie) with a repeating groundhog day time loop. And, in the best tradition, the protagonist is not someone we like, as things begin. Nadia, the lead here, is selfish, self-absorbed, and incredibly hedonistic. Just like Phil and Tree are, in Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day.
Russian Doll is very also funny. It’s a darkly comedic show.
Russian Doll Summaries – Episodes 1 – 2
Episode 1 starts out with Nadia at her birthday party. As she goes through the party, we meet some close friends of hers, and learn about her vagabond cat named Oatmeal who hasn’t returned home in a while. She leaves the party with a guy, and she sees a man on the street who she thinks she recognizes. That same night, she sees Oatmeal. As she crosses the street to get him, she gets hit by a taxi and dies. Once she wakes up, she is back at her birthday party and begins again the death and resurrection loop.Content continues below advertisement.
- Episode 2 of Russian dolls starts out with Nadia respawning once again. She starts to investigate what is in the drugs that her friend gives to her. From her perspective, that’s when things started going awry. She begins to tell others around her that she’s re-lived this day before and she keeps dying. She’s very on edge because she has several moments when she dies by simply walking down the stairs of the apartment. Towards the end, she stops leaving the apartment via stairs. The number of times she dies by walking down the stairs seriously had me questioning her ability to stay alive. We know that she’s in this world where she’s destined to continue dying, but how many times can one person die by doing a simple everyday task. She’s honestly lucky that she has several lives to spare because it would be very tragic for her to die via stairs on her birthday.
Russian Doll Summaries – Episodes 3 – 4
- Episode 3 begins with her investigating the building her party was held in. It’s her friend’s apartment, but she also learned that it was a Jewish school at one point and there’s writing above the door. She solicits the help of her ex to visit a synagogue in order to learn more about this. She ends up seeing the homeless man named Horse, who she recognized in the first episode. She learns that he’s sleeping outside because his shoes were stolen at the homeless shelter and he doesn’t feel safe to sleep there anymore. They cuddle together under a blanket that night, and unfortunately, they both freeze to death. When she awakens, she goes on a mission to find Horse and guard his shoes at the homeless shelter, so he doesn’t end up freezing to death by sleeping outside. Upon leaving the shelter, she ends up in an elevator that begins to free-fall. She realizes this is how she dies again and notices there’s someone else in the elevator who isn’t panicked. She learns he also dies all the time.
This was a twist to the story because we learned that Nadia isn’t the only person in this alternate universe. In an earlier episode, something strange happened; though Nadia kept reliving the same day, no one else had any memory that they had previously lived this day. However, at the end of one of the episodes, we see a plant that was once alive is now wilting. I assume it’s because the plant has been continuing in its own dimension and not restarting like everyone else. Maybe everyone is restarting, but Nadia is the only one who remembers.
- Episode 4 starts from Alan’s perspective on the same day he met Nadia. He’s keeping count of his deaths, and seems to relive his day the same way each time. He’s taking the fortune-telling perspective by trying to speed through conversations as if he’s already heard them. He’s found out his girlfriend is breaking up with him on the day they were supposed to take a trip. We get to the point when he dies in the elevator with Nadia. Their day begins again with each of them knowing about the other. This realization throws Alan off his usual path. Nadia sets out to find him and meets him at his apartment. His day is skewed and they agree to meet up at her birthday party when they die again. Out of frustration, he throws his ring into the river and dies of electrocution. When he respawns, both the ring and his pet fish (who he feeds everyday) are gone. This leads me to think that the world around them isn’t staying still, just like the flowers at Nadia’s party.
Russian Doll Summaries – Episodes 5 – 6
Episode 5 – Alan respawns, and instead of going about his day in his usual routine, he goes to Nadia’s birthday party. When he arrives, he sees Mike, the man his girlfriend is cheating with. Alan suspects they are in this situation because they are being punished for being bad people. Nadia disagrees, and asks everyone at the party how she wronged them. No one responds, and she moves on to have a conversation with John about her never meeting his daughter, Lucy. Nadia leaves with John to meet Lucy the next morning at breakfast. When Nadia makes a stop at Ruth’s to get a book for Lucy, she stops to play with some Russian Dolls and also notices Ruth’s fruit are rotting.
(Just like the flowers in a previous episode). While making tea, Ruth’s apartment explodes, due to a gas leak, and Nadia is killed again. Nadia awakens at her party again, where Alan has also headed. She cuts to the chase with John and makes plans to meet Lucy. A couple respawns later — courtesy of Alan getting hit by a car and Nadia being shot by Ruth because she believes Nadia is a burglar — Nadia and Alan both respawn. We see Alan in his apartment, and as he goes to feed his fish, he notices the fish is gone.
When Nadia respawns, she has this idea that Ruth mourned her 15 times, and maybe this situation they’re in is affecting more than just her and Alan. Towards the end, Alan and Nadia realize they both died the same amount of times, and that they always die at the same time. Shortly after, they both get crushed by a falling generator in front of Alan’s apartment.This is an interesting episode, because we see many other instances where it seems like the world around them is changing. The weird part is, does no one else notice the rotting fruit or the flowers dying? Is the fruit only rotting to Alan and Nadia because so much time has passed for them? Does it look normal to everyone else?
This is also the episode where we see actual Russian Dolls. Which is a doll inside a doll, inside a doll and so on. It’s as though with each reset, Alan and Nadia are getting closer to the root of the issue.
Episode 6 – Alan and Nadia respawn and spend the day at his apartment seeing what they have in common. Alan can’t remember how he first died. They try to investigate by asking Ruth to trigger Alan’s memory. Alan hears the story about Nadia’s mother, and how she shattered all the mirrors in the home. She believed mirrors were a reflection, a proof of existence, and another pair of eyes.
They die via bees in the subway, and when they respawn, Nadia decides to go through Alan’s first day with him to see how he died.
They arrive at Beatrice’s house and hear her speaking to Mike. We notice Beatrice also has rotting fruit on the table. As Beatrice is breaking up with Alan, Nadia intervenes and tells her off. Alan and Nadia leave and they both feel really great that they are helping each other. They head to a bar and Nadia tells Alan about her gold necklace, which is the last piece of what used to be her college fund before her mother spent it.
Nadia tells Alan about the night she first died, and about how she slept with Mike. Alan is furious, and they decide to sleep together back at Nadia’s apartment to prove he is better than Mike. While Alan is sleeping, Nadia steals Alan’s shoes and gives them to Horse. Nadia also gives Horse her gold necklace. She goes to the deli with Horse and notices all the fruit are also rotting there. When Horse drops something in an aisle, it reminds her of the first night she died, and she remembers that the man she saw also dropping things was a drunk Alan.
When she returns to her apartment, Alan has cleaned it and has put up pictures of her mom that she was hiding. Nadia is angry and kicks Alan out. Alan goes home and we see him walking out on his rooftop. With Nadia she is venting to Ruth about what Alan did and her mom. Ruth asked Nadia to forgive and move on because she is always forgiving Nadia. When Ruth leaves, Nadia chokes on the chicken she is eating.
When she respawns in the bathroom, the mirror is gone. Her friend who is usually very happy to see her doesn’t sound as happy in this loop. She goes directly to Alan’s house and tells him that all of the mirrors in this loop are gone. Alan confessed to her that he committed suicide the first time he died.
This episode shows how selfish Nadia really is, and makes me believe this situation is more about Nadia’s problems than about Alan’s. She doesn’t forgive easily, and she’s a hypocrite. She got mad at Alan for cleaning her apartment and unintentionally taking out photos that he didn’t know would upset her. However, she had just stolen his shoes to give to Horse. Then she dismisses Ruth when Ruth does’t support how upset she is with Alan. Only to choke while eating and have no one to save her.
The mirrors vanishing is another layer of my Russian Doll theory — trying to get to the root of the issue. However, the mirror is a superficial layer.
Russian Doll Summaries – Episodes 7 – 8 (Season 1 Finale)
Episode 7 – The episode begins in a flashback to a young Nadia with her mom, picking up many watermelons.
In the present, Nadia tells Alan she saw him in the deli, but didn’t help him because she wanted to do something else instead. Alan also realizes he saw her when she got hit by the car, and didn’t save her because he was too drunk. They believe their connection is related to them not helping each other on the first night.
Nadia explains to Alan that somewhere in the universe, the original version of their lives still exist. They make a plan to respawn, and relive their first night to change the decisions they made to not help each other. When they leave to go to the deli, Nadia sees the child version of herself again…and begins to die of an internal organ attack.
When she respawns in the bathroom, someone different enters, and there are less people at the party. She goes to the deli, but once again sees her younger self and dies internally. After she respawns, there are even less people at the party, and this time no one knocks the bathroom door. She makes it to the deli, where things are also missing on the shelves. She sees her younger self and they both start bleeding — and Nadia dies, again. When she respawns, there is no bathroom door. The apartment is empty of items and furniture, and the only person at the party is her friend Max.
Nadia goes to Alan’s house and they decide they must right their past wrongs. For Alan, that is speaking to Beatrice, and for Nadia that is visiting Ruth. When Alan is making amends, Mike comes over. Mike and Beatrice seem nicer. After Nadia leaves Ruth, she goes to meet Lucy and gives her the Emily of New Moon book. She begins to cough up blood and dies.
Ruth’s analysis is Nadia is chasing down death at every moment. She isn’t fighting to be a part of this world as badly. This is apparent in all the drugs she takes, and even that her friends call her a cockroach. Nothing can kill her. Which is ironic is that she’s in this loop of constant death. Alan and Nadia realize they saw each other on the night of their first deaths. It was Nadia’s selfishness that got her in this situation. She was too self-involved to assist Alan.
Just like the Russian dolls that get smaller to get to the center, their world is getting smaller with things, and with people disappearing. I think the things and people around are distractions from the issue at hand…similar to the mirror that was a superficial layer of reality.
Episode 8 — The episode begins with Nadia and Alan in their respective bathrooms, looking into the mirrors that once again exist. Nadia’s bathroom door, the original woman knocking on the door, Alan’s engagement ring, and his fish…are all back!
They start their day and each get new pieces of clothing. Alan gets a scarf for good karma, and Nadia is wearing a new shirt due to Maxine getting the original one wet with a drink. They both attempt to go to the other’s apartment to find the other and eventually go to the deli. Nadia and Alan meet who they believe to be the other person, but they both realize they are meeting versions of the other person from the first loop.
They try to convince the other of their connection, and when that doesn’t work, current Alan and Nadia follow the originals around to make sure they don’t repeat that night by dying. Present Alan convinces original Nadia they are connected by telling her the exact cost of her college fund. He later saves her from getting hit by a car. Present Nadia takes original Alan to his apartment to watch him, and stops him from committing suicide.
In each universe, original and present Nadia and Alan join together and walk down the same street where their paths cross. The series then ends.
What is Russian Doll About?
To me, the conclusion for Alan and Nadia is their journey to care about the other person. In this alternate universe they are in, they try by any means to make sure the other person stays alive.
Watching movies in theaters is an indescribable experience for me. This, doing laundry, and visiting the Container Store bring me true joy. When I’m not watching movies or getting Peetimes, I like keeping up with the latest technology, learning to code, and building things. Career wise, my passion lies with improving access and equity within the health, tech, and social sectors.