Russian Doll Season 1 Timeline Explained

Russian Doll Season 2 premieres on Netflix April 20.

It has been more than three years since Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) and Alan Zaveri’s (Charlie Barnett) lives — and deaths — first became connected in Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning hit Russian Doll. Across eight episodes, Nadia is run over by a New York City cab, drowns, falls down a barrel hatch (twice), is shot, chokes on chicken wings, and freezes to death. This isn’t even half of the ways she dies before time resets and she finds herself back in her best friend Maxine’s (Greta Lee) bathroom.

Comedy classic Groundhog Day is still seen as the defining time loop story, but recent offerings from Russian Doll, Happy Death Day, and Palm Springs all showcase why this subgenre is so appealing. By the end of Russian Doll, video game engineer Nadia has figured out how to break the cycle and the second season (that is set four years later) lands on April 20 with another time-bending existential adventure.

IGN is on hand to unpack the events that led to Nadia and Alan’s first meeting, the many challenges along the way, Nadia’s past, and how they eventually broke free of repeating the same Sunday and Monday. Here is the time loop timeline and everything you need to remember before Russian Doll returns.

The First Time Loop

“Gotta get up, gotta get out, gotta get home before the mornin’ comes,” are Harry Nilsson lyrics Nadia is more than with as it is the first familiar thing she hears along with a knock on the bathroom door when time resets. “Sweet birthday baby,” coos Maxine before offering her a joint laced with cocaine. The artist is throwing a party to celebrate her bestie’s 36th birthday and nothing seems awry the first time Nadia is offered drugs. At this point, Nadia’s biggest concern is her missing cat, Oatmeal.

“Let’s make some choices,” she announces before going home with a guy named Mike (Jeremy Bob) who she has never met before. On the way back to her apartment they stop at Nadia’s local bodega to pick up some provisions. A drunk guy (who we later find out is Alan) is occupying owner Farran’s (Ritesh Rajan) attention, but Nadia chooses to mess with some other jerks instead of helping out. After calling Mike an Uber, Nadia realizes she is out of cigarettes and heads out to grab some. On the way, she spots Oatmeal on the other side of the crosswalk but doesn’t look to see if there is any traffic. Nadia is hit and killed by a cab and yet she finds herself back in the bathroom at the party.

Nadia is suitably confused by reliving events and this time she avoids smoking the laced joint and going home with Mike. In this second iteration of this party, we meet her godmother Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley) who remarks “This was always going to be a tough birthday as it is the age Nadia’s mother didn’t make it to. Nadia eventually leaves the party with her ex John (Yul Vazquez), but they get into a fight and go their separate ways. Nadia finds Oatmeal again and sits on a railing by the river as she holds the cat. She slips and falls backward hitting her head, which causes her to drown. She wakes up in the bathroom again.

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Investigating Why: Drugs or a Haunted Building?

Nadia survives long enough to head to work on Monday on more than one occasion. She also squeezes in a trip to the bar where Maxine acquired the drugs to find out if this is the source of her wild trip. Here she falls down a barrel hatch and dies, not once but twice.

Drugs are ruled out as the cause after Nadia becomes convinced she is imagining these events. She turns to Ruth and asks her to use her professional capacity as a psychologist in a bid to solve this crisis. Nadia willingly goes in an ambulance to Bellevue Hospital but becomes agitated on the way and dies in a crash. In the next loop, she blames the building in which Maxine lives, and this speaks to Nadia’s Orthodox Jewish roots. The apartment used to be a yeshiva (a traditional Jewish school) and Nadia thinks this renovation from a sacred place to a living space might explain what is happening to her. After a consultation with a rabbi she concludes, “Buildings aren’t haunted. People are.”That night she gets high in the park with an unhoused guy called Horse (Brendan Sexton III). She freezes to death when she sleeps outside, and the death/life cycle continues. No answers as to why this is happening have been forthcoming… yet.

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Meeting Alan

At the end of the third episode, Nadia arrives for her 11.30 team meeting and steps on an elevator that will soon be plummeting to the ground. Everyone around her freaks out except one guy who tells her, “It doesn’t matter. I die all the time.” This discovery that Nadia is not alone in this time loop changes everything. Instead of a birthday party, Alan is repeatedly dumped by his girlfriend on the night he was going to propose. Things shift the moment he meets Nadia as Alan finds out that Beatrice (Dascha Polanco) has been cheating with a guy called Mike. Yes, the same Mike that Nadia went home with her original birthday party. But is this the only connection?

Nadia tracks down Alan thanks to the logo on the engagement ring box and he directs his anger at her for changing his loop. Nadia invites him to her party “yesterday night” the next time he dies and tells him they are “in this together.” Here, Alan confronts Mike and yet he still dies. When he wakes up the following morning the ring is missing and other objects (and even people) are disappearing. Plants are also dying and fruit is going bad, but what is the meaning of this?

Welcome to Yesterday

Alan heads to Nadia’s party and shares his theory that they are caught in this death loop because of something bad they did. Nadia is vehemently opposed to this moralistic line of thought. However, we find out more about why Nadia and John’s relationship ended — including that she never met his daughter Lucy in the entire year they were together. A gas explosion later kills Nadia (and Ruth) and the next time she exits Maxine’s bathroom there are noticeably fewer guests. Then, when Nadia goes to grab a book from Ruth’s place, her godmother shoots her after mistaking her for an intruder. It is at this moment that Nadia wonders whether their deaths are leaving an emotional mark on those who love them.

Nadia and Alan have both been killed 15 times at this point. Earlier, the question of whether they are dying at the same time is broached and is confirmed at the end of Episode 5 when they are hit by a falling air conditioning unit.

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A Bug In the Code

While Nadia remembers the cab that killed her the first time, Alan has no memory of his initial death. The key to solving this time loop conundrum could be determined by finding out how Alan died the first time. Hypnosis doesn’t work in unlocking this secret and in the next loop, they choose to get drunk in a bar and sleep together. However, when Nadia goes out to get more cigarettes, Alan makes the mistake of tidying up Nadia’s apartment and displaying the family photographs hidden under the bed. They have a huge fight about this invasion of privacy and Alan heads to the roof of his building where he remembers that he died by suicide on that initial night.

The trip to the bodega is beneficial because Nadia realizes she saw an inebriated Alan on that original night and she also takes note of the rotten fruit that is stacking up. The pair reconcile and Nadia shares a solid theory using her video game design knowledge: “It’s like if a program keeps crashing: the crashing is just a symptom of a bug in the code. If the deaths are us crashing, then that bug is the moment that we need to go and fix.” Nadia hypothesizes that “linear time as we used to understand it still exists. So the moment in the deli when we first interacted still exists.” To get out of the perpetual loop they need to get back to that original night and rewrite their first interaction. If they can save each other’s lives it might fix the flaws in the code.

A Ghost from the Past

One slight detour is taken before they can shut the loops in the penultimate episode, in which flashbacks to 1991 reveal Nadia’s buried guilt regarding what happened with her mother Nora (Chloë Sevigny). Nadia blames herself but she told the social worker she wanted to stay with her mom — who was going through a mental crisis and couldn’t look after her daughter. Nadia has to accept she isn’t to blame for what happened and her reluctance to meet John’s daughter is tied to her past. How will Nadia’s past come back to haunt her in Season 2?

Everyone and everything (including the bathroom mirrors) are physically disappearing from this timeline and Alan wants to make it right. He goes to see Beatrice and takes accountability for his inability to see what was wrong in their relationship.

Back to the Original Night

The night begins as it always does but everyone is back from wherever they disappeared to. It quickly becomes clear that the looping Alan and Nadia are on separate timelines and both have to go rescue their original versions, which seems not as easy as it.

The original Nadia thinks Alan is some sort of stalker and she goes home with Mike again, whereas original Alan is so drunk that Nadia struggles to keep track of him. Alan eventually convinces Nadia that he isn’t some weird guy looking to get in her pants and he saves her from getting hit by a cab. Meanwhile, Nadia tells Alan a bedtime story about the “broken man and the lady with a death wish who got stuck in a loop.” He heads up to the roof when she is asleep but doesn’t jump this time. Both pairs head to the park and the timelines merge to reveal their plan has worked and the time loop has been closed… for now.

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