DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Russian Doll season finale episode “Matryoshka” has spoilers. Proceed at your peril. 

Welcome, time prisoners! Fun fact: “matryoshka” means “little matron” in Russian, a.k.a. Russian nesting dolls. In Russian Doll‘s Season 2 finale, we see that term in action. “Matryoshka” finds Nadia and Alan mining the depths of their intergenerational trauma, confronting “the sins of the father,” so to speak. Both glean valuable lessons from this experience — Nadia learns she can’t change the past and is stuck with the mother she has. Alan discovers he can’t let life pass him by; he must live. 

Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett churn out transcendent, visceral performances, digging deep into these characters’ pain while facilitating their healing processes. 

Ready to delve into “Matryoshka”? Let’s get to it. 

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We open with Nadia (Lyonne), holding baby Nadia while chatting with Alan (Barnett) in the return point bathroom. Nadia rattles off about “tabula rasa,” viewing her baby self as a chance to start fresh. She can be the best mother to herself, thereby remedying the fractures in her childhood. 

They’re back at the crime scene, where it all started: Nadia’s 36th birthday party in Maxine’s bathroom. Alan is furious with Nadia, noting he spent time in the past without meddling with it while Nadia royally forked up time’s flow. Maxine (Greta Lee) calls out to them about the chicken. 

Rebecca Henderson as Lizzy and Greta Lee as Maxine, standing next to each other in the kitchen on Russian Doll Season 2 Episode 7 "Matryoshka."

RUSSIAN DOLL. Rebecca Henderson as Lizzy and Greta Lee as Maxine in Season 2 Episode 7, “Matryoshka.” Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

So, Nadia, Alan and baby Nadia venture into the fated birthday bash, mingling with its attendees. They chat with Maxine and Lizzy (Rebecca Henderson) for a bit. Alan nervously pleads with Nadia to consider returning her baby self to 1982 before the time changes become irreversible. But Nadia’s determined to fix her past. 

While Nadia and Alan attempt to leave, Alen runs into Mike Kershaw (Jeremy Bobb). Nadia spots Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley) at the bottom of the stairs outside Maxine’s apartment. Nadia assists her godmother with walking up said stairs. Alan urges Nadia to peer over the railing at the plethora of Ruths on the sets of stairs below them. Time is berserk, y’all! 

But before Nadia and Alan depart, Nadia shares a tender moment with Ruth, who reminds her that “nothing in this world is easy except pissing in the shower.” 

Nadia admits to Alan that she forked up, and the two escape with baby Nadia via the fire escape. 

Later, they wait for the train at Astor Place so that they can return baby Nadia to 1982. Nadia spots a Metro worker slithering past, and they follow him through a door. We see it’s Horse (Brendan Sexton III). Nadia asks Horse where the train is, and Horse vows to lead them to it for a price.  

While they’re walking, Horse pleads with Nadia to let him hold baby Nadia. He’s an enigmatic figure, our Horse. After Nadia and Alan pay Horse, they venture onto their train. 

Nadia sees War Dog (Waris Ahluwalia), followed by Maxine and Lizzy. Everyone’s dressed in black. That’s when Nadia’s friends inform her they’re en route to Ruth’s wake. Nadia insists it’s March 30, a.k.a. her birthday, but Maxine reminds her that it’s April 30. Nadia lost an entire month. 

Alan urges Nadia to stay on course. They must reinsert baby Nadia in her respective timeline. Alan carts Nadia off the train, and they walk along the tracks together. Nadia comforts Alan regarding Lenny, even though the latter blames himself for Lenny digging that tunnel under the Berlin Wall. Alan reminds Nadia that Ruth would want her to be happy. 

Suddenly, we hear a train approaching. Nadia grabs baby Nadia while not one but two trains barrel toward them from either side. They strike Nadia and Alan, and we see them falling through space in slow motion. Nadia and Alan land in locations that generally look the same — a flooded, underground room with concrete pillars.

Thankfully, baby Nadia lands in Nadia’s arms after a brief delay. Like much of their time on the series, Alan and Nadia’s next few moments mirror each other. Alan wades through the water, finding a set of stairs leading to a door. Nadia spots the duffel bag floating in the water, and it’s filled with Krugerrands. 

However, she cannot carry the bag and the baby, so she leaves the gold behind. It sinks below the water’s surface. 

Alan encounters his grandmother, Agnes (Carolyn Michelle Smith), dressed as an MTA worker. Alan asks about Lenny and whether it was his job to stop him. He’s remorseful, wishing his prescience regarding the Berlin Wall was enough to deter Lenny. Agnes comforts her grandson, telling Alan he’s just like her.

Charlie Barnett as Alan, standing on a subway platform with a bewildered expression on his face on Russian Doll Season 2 Episode 7 "Matryoshka."

RUSSIAN DOLL. Charlie Barnett as Alan Zaveri in Season 2 Episode 7, “Matryoshka.” Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Then, Agnes reminds Alan not to be afraid to live life. He’s so fearful of making a choice that could go awry that he makes zero choices. This scene is beautifully poignant. 

Agnes reveals they’re in “The Void,” an “empty pocket of space left over from a job that was never completed.” We hear people approaching, so Agnes urges Alan to follow the blue light to the exit, taking him to the surface. 

Meanwhile, Nadia finds her door, leading her to a subway train. She sees her mother, Nora (Chloë Sevigny), sitting alone. Like Alan, Nadia asks Nora if she’s dead. 

“If you could choose your mother all over, would you choose me again?” Nora asks her daughter. We see Nadia peer over at older Ruth and younger Ruth (Annie Murphy), older Vera (Irén Bordán) and younger Vera. Nadia even spots her more youthful self sitting in the corner. All of the people in her life filling that maternal role, including herself. 

“Yeah, I didn’t choose you the first time, but I guess that’s just how the story goes, huh, Mom?” Nadia replies. Nadia hands baby Nadia over to Nora. 

Then, the lights flicker, and we see Nadia standing on the 1982 subway train while Vera, Ruth, Nora and baby Nadia walk past her. Nadia locks eyes with Vera, who seems to recognize her faintly. Nora doesn’t, on the other hand. Nadia grabs Ruth’s arm, asking if she loved her without obligation. Next, she bids Ruthie farewell. 

Blue light bathes the car until Nadia re-emerges in the present. She looks at her watch, once broken, to find that it’s still April 30. Nadia walks to Maxine’s apartment for Ruth’s wake, encountering Horse. 

Natasha Lyonne as Nadia, standing in the doorway of a subway train while wearing all black on Russian Doll Season 2 Episode 7 "Matryoshka."

RUSSIAN DOLL. Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov in Season 2 Episode 7, “Matryoshka.” Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Lizzy and Maxine embrace Nadia, and she observes while a projector showcases photos of Ruth. War Dog offers her a cigarette. Nadia spots Alan standing off to the side, and she squeezes his arm lovingly before heading to the bathroom. Yes, that bathroom.

We see the bright, luminous blue marking on the bathroom door, but Nadia doesn’t notice, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She smiles. 

RELATED: Catch up on all the time-traveling madness with our Russian Doll Season 2 recaps!

“Matryoshka” is darkly humorous, heartfelt and deeply profound, leaning heavily into the sci-fi elements to convey a truthful tale about overcoming familial grief. Perhaps this episode’s most significant takeaway is this: While we can’t rewrite history, we can write our future. We can remedy familial transgressions and heal intergenerational trauma by looking toward the future and refraining from repeating those mistakes. 

Overall, Russian Doll‘s sophomore outing fully embraces its science fiction roots, taking us on a mind-bending, time-bending, whirlwind adventure while remaining grounded in honesty. It makes us fall deeper in love with Nadia and Alan. I wish we had more scenes with the two of them, but perhaps we’ll get more Nadia/Alan time in Season 3. Natasha Lyonne did mention she has a three-season plan

We also discover the connection between Nadia and Alan via her mother and his grandmother. Agnes was the one who woke up Nora in episode three and escorted her off the train. Additionally, Agnes was present when Nora gave birth to Nadia on the subway platform. This brilliantly-conveyed tether explains why they’re experiencing these time-warping events in tandem. 

Russian Doll‘s acerbic wit, sharp writing and exploration of complex themes make it endlessly rewatchable in my book. 

Here’s hoping we get more to this story—Season 3, what a concept. 

Russian Doll Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix. 

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