Hey, quick question: Who heard that Amy Poehler was making a show with Orange is the New Black comic-relief provider Nicky Nichols and rom-com filmmaker Leslye Headland and accurately predicted, “Ooh, that’ll be fun right up until it turns into the motherfucking Shining?!?!”
Next question: Can I write “WTF” a few hundred times and call it a recap? It would be accurate; I really did scrawl “WTF” in my notes whenever Younger Nadia appeared out of nowhere like one of the goddamned Grady twins. (Even when scare-inducing us and Nadia into a heart attack, Russian Doll sticks by its literary motifs; Younger Nadia’s out here in these loops looking to be made metaphysically whole, like a twin looking for its other.)
Before I delve further into What the Fuck, let’s start with Just the Facts. Adult Nadia has figured out a few things about how time loops function. After spending three-ish hours obsessing over What the Fuck their operating principles are, I am as eager as Alan is to hear Nadia’s take.
The loops started, she believes, after she and Alan neglected to help each other that first night at the bodega, which led to him jumping off a building and her getting hit by a car. While Alan sees this as proof that they’re being “punished” by a morally guided universe, amoral game developer Nadia simply sees it as a coding glitch. “The crashing is just a symptom of a bug in the code. If the deaths are us crashing, then that moment is the bug we need to go and fix,” she explains. When Alan presses that their inaction must be a moral issue, Nadia counters, “What do time and morality have in common? Relativity … We’ve been experiencing time differently in these loops. Somewhere, linear time as we used to understand it still exists.” She illustrates her point by slicing open a rotten orange (again, Russian Doll sticks by its literary motifs) to reveal its still-fresh interior.
They hatch a plan: Go back to the deli and “rewrite” their first interaction. Cool, sounds like a great idea and I’m so chuffed that Nadia basically confirmed my hypotheses about time on this show and —
Yes, that is how much I freaked out at Younger Nadia standing ramrod in the middle of the sidewalk, staring down Adult Nadia with a pitch-perfect spooky-possessed face. And she was so cute in the opening flashback!
A few things about the opening flashback: 1) Playing Nadia’s mother or anybody else, Chloë Sevigny is a goddess who can do no wrong and Natasha Lyonne’s real-life BFF. 2) Note that she tells Young Nadia, “This is the day we get free,” which makes no sense until later. 3) Of course the mom’s compulsions manifest as a watermelon/bodega spree. Motifs! 4) The flashback takes place in 1991, yet it’s scored to When in Rome’s “The Promise” — a late-’80s hit. Because nothing on Russian Doll is unintentional, least of all its soundtrack, let’s take the song’s opening lyrics to heart: “If you need a friend, don’t look to a stranger / You know in the end, I’ll always be there. But when you’re in doubt, and when you’re in danger / Take a look all around, and I’ll be there.”
Adult Nadia keels over at the sight of Young Nadia, and when she resets in the bathroom, she takes a look all around and realizes the friends she needs are not there. Only one of the two women who routinely enter the bathroom do so this time. The party is creepily underattended. “I’m not leaving you here at the mercy of the time gods,” Nadia tells Max and Lizzy. “I cannot be the reason that you stop existing.” They all leave, but then Adult Nadia sees Young Nadia again and dies. They try once more and this time make it to the bodega, where the shelves are half-empty and the two Nadias meet close-up. Blood pours out of Young Nadia’s mouth; Adult Nadia gets a nosebleed; Adult Nadia dies again.
Now Max’s bathroom has no door at all, there are hardly any furnishings (although the plagiarism/number artwork remains; p.s., the numbers might represent code?) and Max dances alone. Nadia says they have to leave. “I can’t,” Max says. I’m gonna throw you for a time-loop here and deliberately not analyze why Max can’t leave. I’m gonna guess that it just seemed like a cool way to get Nadia over to Alan’s alone.
“I think that maybe she’s lost,” Nadia tells Alan in his emptied apartment about Young Nadia. Alan agrees, suggesting she might be “trapped somewhere between the past and the present.” Now Alan’s the man with the plan. He straps on a helmet (because once they undo their time loop, the next death counts, so it’s time to “be careful?”). “I can’t let Beatrice disappear without making things right. And you should do the same,” he says. Nadia, so resistant to making amends, threatens to kill herself if he doesn’t stay. “You are the most selfish person I have ever met,” he states plainly. “Thank you for changing my life. Lives are hard to change.”
He’s right. Nadia has completely changed Alan. He spent a dozen loops trying to bend his breakup with Beatrice to his will, but this time, he goes to her with no grudges and tells her wholeheartedly, “Just be whoever you are.” Bea, equally magnanimous in return, asks if he got help for his issues. “I did let somebody help me,” he says. Cut to Nadia — who heard something similar from Max in episode 2: “You know your friends can’t help you if you don’t let them.” (“If you need a friend …”)
Nadia has followed Alan’s advice, including fashion advice (lol to her chest protector made from duct tape and cutting boards!). She goes to see (of course) Ruth, where she confesses that she believes she “killed” her mother when she chose to live with Ruth instead. Ruth makes a big to-do about locking the door again and Nadia insists she locked it, but it didn’t look like she did and for a hot minute I was worried Ruth was going to shoot Alan dead this time. Instead, she goes to make tea and nobody winds up dead; the gas leak does not exist in this loop. Nadia has changed things for the better – a feat she credits to Emily of New Moon and its “life force.” She takes the book to John’s daughter, Lucy, who’s sitting alone at the restaurant from episode 5. “Emily is the hero,” Nadia informs Lucy, and man, I wish I knew what the hell happens in that book!!!
Nadia starts coughing up blood. A preternaturally calm Lucy says, “She’s still inside you.” Which she — Young Nadia or Nadia’s mom? The latter: Adult Nadia coughs up a mirror shard, and we see Nadia’s mom smashing mirrors in flashback; it’s the story from Nadia’s childhood that Ruth told in episode 6. Lucy turns into Young Nadia, who asks Adult Nadia, “Are you ready to let her die?” Nadia nods. Young Nadia says, “This is the day we get free.” The same thing Nadia’s mom told her in 1991.
I can think of no other way to end this recap than to rewrite the last thing I wrote in my notes: WHAT. THE. FUCK.