Episode 5 of Russian Doll Season 2 begins in Budapest 1944. How Nadia has ended up here is unclear but she’s now in the shoes of her grandmother, Vera. With the gold train receipt in hand, and the markings still wet from the ink, she begins to settle into the time period. However, she’s going by the name of Erzabet now, not Vera.
Rooster noises back home act as a calling to bring Nadia up another apartment, where a young Delia shows her a secret compartment hidden behind a bathroom sink. Together, they sit and discuss the gold. Delia confirms that everything that’s been taken is actually held up in a warehouse right now. It’s not on the gold train yet. Not in this timeline anyway.
Nadia intends to disrupt this operation and find the warehouse, getting her gear back and changing the future. At least, that’s the plan anyway.
Nadia makes it into the warehouse without much in the way of opposition and opens up the crate in question. She finds her family’s gear, including stacks of jewelry and other trinkets. She hurriedly snatches them all up and takes off, with the crate still wide open. This catches us up to the moments at the start of episode 1, as Nadia stashes the gear in an underground tunnel and draws up a makeshift map for where she’s hidden it all.
After this, Nadia finds Laszlo Kiss, the man whose grave she woke up next to in Budapest last episode. Nadia hands over the map and encourages him to mail this over to Vera in New York City. Given she herself is Vera, Laszlo is a little confused but he agrees to her crazy story about the time travel and being at his grave.
Laszlo won’t take the map in the church though (too many preying eyes) and instead sets up a meet for Keleti Station, under the clock at 8pm that very night. The thing is, the station is packed and unfortunately Nadia loses her map in the hustle and bustle. When a random woman picks up the receipt and begins screaming for Vera, Nadia snatches it up, hands over the map to Laszlo and scrambles aboard her train back to the present.
Vera (the older Vera) follows the instructions, uncovers the bag, and gets the gear back. Now, with history presumably changed, Nadia now adopts this older-Vera persona and finds herself in 1962. The gold is theirs and Nadia is excited. Within the bag happens to be a letter (the map to the gear), but before she reads this, Delia catches her off-guard and decides to get the currency in Kruggerands. The same Kruggerands that go all the way through the years to eventually be stolen from Nora on the train.
Nadia’s smile disappears. Her heart ties in knots. Her eyes widen. There is no way out after all; it’s all one big loop. Realizing everything has always happened like this, Nadia stashes the bag of coins under the sofa and proceeds to tell Lenora – the young Lenora – what’s happening with time.
The Episode Review
How did Nadia end up in 1944? Nothing has changed from her route but somehow the universe just knows to send her back to this time period – and then again in 1962. That’s to say nothing of being able to transport from New York across to Budapest too. Can Nadia control the time periods she goes to? Is it just random? And what is Alan’s part to play in all this? Why is he in the 1960’s?
While the time travel train is a neat little concept, the rules around how this all works is… messy. Now, I’m not saying this show should be an intricate web of complicated players like Dark or Twelve Monkeys, but the constant loop is well designed but with poorly defined rules.
Season 1 nailed this, realizing that the simple concept of a time loop every time you die is easy to remember and get invested in. Season 2 however, has way too many loose threads and unexplained rules around this time period. That’s really typified by that final shot of Nadia just wandering through the train carriages and inexplicably ending up in different time periods.
Hopefully we get some clarity around this but for now, Russian Doll is in danger of falling into into a convoluted mess.