Russian Doll: Full Season Two
April 20, 2022 8:22 AM - Season 2 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Hmm. I really liked season 1, and didn't see a need for it to continue. I guess I'll give an episode a try though...
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:03 AM on April 20, 2022

They take a different direction in season 2, I really enjoyed it.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:25 AM on April 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

"I did six months as a puppeteer in hospice!"

On the second episode. Maxine still gets all the best lines. Love the core concept of the time travel/Quantum Leap-ing, very neat. Lots of trauma to uncover.
posted by fight or flight at 12:35 PM on April 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

“Trauma is a topographical map written on the child, and it takes a lifetime to read.”

This show is like supplemental material for my therapy and I love it.
posted by wabbittwax at 1:03 PM on April 20, 2022 [14 favorites]

Chloë Sevigny is amazing.

Nadia slowly learning her mother's psyche from the inside out is so good and heartbreaking. I love that it goes from assuming Lyonne is just doing her usual gonzo weirdness to gradually realising that she's starting to phase into her mother's mental illness. Suddenly the series' title makes more sense. She's a woman inside a baby inside a woman inside another woman.
posted by fight or flight at 1:23 PM on April 20, 2022 [9 favorites]

Oh my god, Alan's storyline! Oh my god!
posted by fight or flight at 1:32 PM on April 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Okay, finished the season. Wow, that hit hard. Those final scenes. Time is a train, grief is a train, trauma is a train. Or maybe they're all the tunnel and life is the thing that moves through it. Either way, all you can do is ride and get off at your own stop when you're there.

I really liked the little touches. The soundtrack to Nadia's acceptance of her life and being her mother's child was Pink Floyd. Her mom had Pink Floyd posters. Alan's grandmother working for the MTA after building tunnels in Berlin (and working on the tunnel through time/space). So many themes. The spaces under cities, in tunnels, inside bags, inside people. The call-backs to the first season ("that song!").

Weird to see so many negative reviews from people who loved season one. I thought it was a great addition/complementary story.
posted by fight or flight at 3:36 PM on April 20, 2022 [17 favorites]

I enjoyed the hell out of this, even if it doesn't feel as wildly new/different as the first season, it really digs further into Nadia's character and it still did things I've never seen before. I mean, I loved Quantum Leap, but Sam never had to give birth to himself! Yes, the last episode is called Matryoshka, so they are literalising the Russian Doll concept - the woman inside the woman inside the woman. An incredible way to depict generational trauma.

I'm glad the show didn't feel the need to try to be the "same" as season one. It held off most references until the last couple of episodes. I'm surprised they held off on saying "what a concept" until late in the season, too.

I haven't read any reviews yet. I saw one review header referring to the "sophomore slump" but just because this season was more linear, doesn't mean it wasn't full of the same amount of depth and care as the first year.

I think, at the time of season one, the creators talked about having an idea for three seasons. I hope we don't have to wait too long for season three. That said, both seasons had really satisfying conclusions, which is always nice, just in case Netflix is mean and cancels it.
posted by crossoverman at 4:17 PM on April 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I finished the season a few hours ago and I’m still processing it. Overall I think the two seasons together are a masterpiece, and if there’s gonna be a third season I’m really looking forward to it. There’s so much here. A lot to unpack. My brain is reeling.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:05 PM on April 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

How Alan Zaveri’s Humanity Became His Superpower in Russian Doll [Vulture / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 12:27 AM on April 21, 2022

After season 1, I couldn't imagine what they could do with another season that wouldn't be a letdown or retread that would somehow diminish the brilliance of S1. I'm so thrilled to have been proven wrong. (And now I can't imagine what new trick they have in mind for S3 if they get the green light, as once again the story feels complete.)
posted by oh yeah! at 3:34 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wait, there are negative reviews of season 2 ? Why ? This is the perfect continuation of season 1 !
posted by Pendragon at 11:27 AM on April 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Wait, there are negative reviews of season 2 ? Why ? This is the perfect continuation of season 1 !

I held off watching Season 1 because the reviews for Season 2 were so bad. Is it worth watching? Everyone is hating on Netflix right now and I got the feeling this was just sort of a cliffhanger show. But it has a cast that I love and a premise that sounds smart, I don't want to get invested in it just to be left in the dark, but if it stands on its own that's great.
posted by geoff. at 7:58 PM on April 21, 2022

both s1 and s2 are some of the most innovative atorytelling I've seen. the cast is great. each season is self contained... no cliffhangers.
posted by kokaku at 1:53 AM on April 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

Great interview in Entertainment Weekly with Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett:

A third season is not officially in the works yet, but Barnett and Lyonne have ideas — the former suggesting he'd like a trip into purgatory or a Dante's Inferno-type hell, and the latter joking that she openly desires to become a cyborg. "I would love nothing more than to have a half-silver face with a red eye, and in season 3 just be walking around with my robot neck and stuff," says Lyonne.
posted by ellieBOA at 3:12 AM on April 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

I loved it. I'm confused. I loved it.
posted by Marticus at 6:37 AM on April 22, 2022 [6 favorites]

Still processing this season, but I get the sense that it's wrong to try to micro-analyze each plot development and try to extract some sort of internally consistent rule set about this time travel framework.

But if not for the fact that it affects Alan as well, I'd easily believe that the whole thing was a fugue that Nadia went into to help process Ruth's impending/recent death. The wisdom of trying to rescue yourself from the past notwithstanding, things didn't start getting weird weird until she got to the hospital and was told that Ruth wasn't long for this world. And her/Alan’s “breakthrough” (about letting go of the if-onlys and playing the hand you’re dealt) seems to trigger the flurry of events that brings her to Ruth’s wake, which she can now face without the guilt of not having been there with her for the end.

I think about the contrast between Nadia and Alan early on. Nadia’s impulses so quickly turn to “what can I fix?” — but Alan's free of any krugerrand-style inter-generational drama, and is initially happy to just bask in the life that his grandmother was living in 1962. He embraces it as a way of connecting with a departed loved one and understanding his own origin story better. Even when he learns about the escape plan, his motivation to change the past isn't necessarily to improve his own life, but to save another human being, and perhaps make his grandmother happier as well.

If a “time viewer” existed in real life — a watch-only, immutable record of the past from any perspective — I think it would initially seem like a good idea to the chunk of the population without any serious long-term regrets, but eventually even they would uncover something haunting from the past. (My parents weren't as happy living with one another as they seemed. I was abused as a child and locked it away in a dark corner of my brain. The uncle I never knew died not of natural causes, but as the result of an accident that my dad — as a child — was partially responsible for.) There'd be a schism in the psychotherapy community over whether or not the technology was a net good for mental health.

The therapists that embrace it would take on an activist role in these time-travel excursions, like a sober friend babysitting someone on an acid trip. Don't let this new information disillusion you, they'd say. Your dad is still who you think he was; he was just other people, too. People are more complex than how they represent themselves to others, and even imperfect people are capable of making the world better.

But I'd probably throw in with the anti-time-viewer crowd. Pandora's Box doesn't suddenly become OK to open if you convince yourself that you have the cognitive tools to process everything it unleashes. Seeing people you love hurt one another in the past would be no less traumatic than if you witnessed it in the present, because the part of your mind that knows it isn't endangering you is not in charge of the part that processes trauma.

And, above all, regret is human, and it's hard enough not to regret the mistakes you've made without carrying the weight of all your ancestors' mistakes. I think of Slaughterhouse-Five:
And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:48 AM on April 22, 2022 [9 favorites]

God, I really missed Natasha Lyonne's swagger. The way she stomps around in her great coat and with her big hair - bracing, that's what it is. And how great is that development for Alan! They must have really planned this from the get-go, it's such a joy when a narrative pulls a reveal like that and it's just no twist at all, it's "sure, that makes sense".

I'm just a bit sad their narratives weren't intertwined a bit more this time; I mean it works perfectly fine thematically, this time it's more about compare and contrast. But I miss seeing a bit more of their interaction. But we get to see more interaction with Maxine, and that's also a lot of fun!

I haven't been tempted to bing-watch in while, but I binged this yesterday, and now I need some time to process. I don't quite know how to feel about the ending. I mean, of course I'm relieved when linear time is restored, I hate most time-travel narratives because messing with the space-time continuum upsets me on the most metaphysical level. I'm also perfectly pre-disposed to buy into the "let go of the what-ifs"-message, I'm normally easily sold on a healthy dose of fatalism and "don't dwell on missed opportunities" is one of the tenets I personally live by.

But I was so thrilled when she decided to just steal her baby-self and become her own mother, some part of me just wanted her to get away with it.
posted by sohalt at 12:30 AM on April 23, 2022 [6 favorites]

The baby-taking to me felt like the essence of the damaged child reaching the point as a (mostly?) functioning adult and saying, "fuck it, no one helped or protected me, so I am going to protect my own damn self" in the most literal way possible; but then she realizes, I have no plan, no resources, only the instinct; and much like Nora must have felt herself, wanting to be the good mother/protector, but just not being able to do it herself; and how that cycle creates so many damaged adults... so much to process. The waters of the tunnel were amniotic and led to a sort of re-birth for both Alan and Nadia. And then, right back to where it all started.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:41 AM on April 23, 2022 [12 favorites]

I won't pretend to understand it any more than I did the first season (mostly because of the very ending with the parade, which I didn't quite grasp but was okay about not grasping, because I adore time loops and they did such a bangup job on their loop story), but I loved it anyway. That scene where Nadia chooses to let go of the bag of gold and keep holding her baby-self because she can't do both--man, that was really emotional. Watching the gold sink away as she confusedly tries to find her way out... Anyway, I love them all, Nadia and Alan (how much do I love his sense of wonder at everything!) and especially Ruthie, I will miss Ruth so much if they do a third season.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:26 PM on April 23, 2022

I’ve just finished watching it a second time and I’m still reeling from it. I love how bold this story is, in the conception and in the telling of it. I also love that it feels very personal to Natasha Lyonne and she’s so compelling as a personality.

One thing I’m wondering: I’ve been to New York a few times and as such I have a rough understand of the geography but that’s where I’m confused… Why are all these characters who live on the lower east side going all the way to Lenox Hill Hospital on 77th street? Is there something special about that hospital? Any New Yorkers wanna weigh in?
posted by wabbittwax at 1:19 PM on April 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

“This fucking re-parenting thing is gonna gimme an aneurysm.”

Another brilliant meta-quote that relates to therapy (mine and lots of other folks) and the effort to re-parent ourselves through the traumatic moments where we felt abandoned. Fascinating too, that Ruth is a therapist who uses EMDR with her patients (in the first season)
posted by wabbittwax at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

My spouse, whose first language is Hungarian was very pleased with the fact that most of the Hungarian speakers are clearly Hungarians. Natasha Lyonne's magyarul is bad enough she had to read the subtitles to know what she was trying to say. But since she still sounds entirely like herself and because they joke about it not being great, she didn't mind so much.

Hungarian is a language that Hollywood is often happy to give a half-hearted phonetic pass to, with non-Hungarian speakers often using a generic Eastern European accent or worse yet, a Russian one. (See Greta.) It meant something to her that Lyonne and her team did the work to do it right.

Her primary nitpick was that they were inconsistent with proper name order. It should always be Family Name then First Name in Hungarian. Halász Márton, never Márton Halász.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

I liked this season better than the first one. Lyonne is fun to watch, and I'm not sure if it's the show or me, but I found Nadia to be less annoying this time around. I don't think the gold coins quite worked as a macguffin because the whole relationship with money was not really up for examination and is kind of a dark recess of the show, a part of the navel that is not up for gazing upon.

I guess I liked the theme better, being about more conscious and applied attempts at self betterment. I don't know if I'm going to read any article by someone who thought S1 was perfect, but there does need to be more said about how, after you escape the crisis, it is still a long and grueling road ahead. Which, sadly, people in crisis also know, and it's brutally hard to take those first few thousand steps, then they don't get much easier really, and... It's funny that "trauma" is slung so much around in this kind of TV, lemme tell ya, I've had it about up to here with the processing of grief and trauma as the main course of an entertainment/art appreciation feast, and I think it's an amusing contrast with the complementary word "cope" that has crawled forth from the frogcel sewers.

Anyway, probably not enough Alan, and not enough of the who/why is Ruth, though it sadly fits that she would not really quite be appreciated before she dies -- another trait of moms.
posted by fleacircus at 6:23 PM on April 24, 2022

A sidenote: Nadia's shrugging acceptance of the breakdown of linear time as a small price to pay for happiness made me think of the Red Forest in the TV version of 12 Monkeys - they explicitly wanted to break linear time so they could be with their loved ones forever, and they were absolutely the villains of the show.
posted by Mogur at 5:45 AM on April 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Mogur, not asking you to spoil (or even discuss with any detail) a totally different show in this thread, but did 12 Monkeys manage to end before it left the air? Did they get to wrap it up?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:16 AM on April 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

It took me so long to recognize that 80s Ruth was Alexis Rose from Schitt's Creek.
That was a fun one.
I think I can safely say that my approach to being in a different time/body would be almost the opposite of Nadia's. Her decisions were so...
I don't even know. Just walk up to a nazi and ask him what's up? Continue to smoke/drink/do drugs while pregnant with yourself? Just 'steal' gold from a nazi warehouse?

I was holding my breath when the baby got on the subway. What would happen?
posted by Acari at 12:02 PM on April 25, 2022 [6 favorites]

I'm not Mogur, but I can say that yes, they ended 12 Monkeys with an excellent wrap-up, maybe one of the best series finales I've ever seen.

And I hadn't even made that connection to the red forest, but wow, yeah, that's a cool connection.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:37 PM on April 25, 2022

I'm not sure why, but somehow I've gotten into my mind that this season is a time-traveling story. It's only towards the second-half of the season that I realize this is actually a quantum-leap story.

Overall, my impression is that season 1 has a more straight-forward story-line. Season 2 is more ambitious, but the plot seems to meander more, and not as tight.
posted by applesurf at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2022

the whole relationship with money was not really up for examination

seriously? all the focus and orbit around the gold the gold the gold, and nadia finally let it slip what a pitiful amount of money it was actually worth, by yesterday's and today's prices both. enough for a car and a few furs. a little manic spree. not much more than what nadia must make now in a year or three with her fancy professional job. and then you see what irreplaceable family treasures were sold off for it & not regretted. all that, all that, for just that.

and the woman to whom it was worth everything and represented everything, to whom it represented ultimate safety in a world full of people who, when they really want to kill you, can't be bought off anyway, for whom its loss was worth writing off her sick & dishonest daughter forever, this woman had the means all the while to pay not only her own but that adult daughter's nyc rent until she cut it off, without ever touching the gold-money.

that's all there. all right there. they examine plenty. they just don't dwell.

examination is about depth, not repetition, and the beauty of the 30-minute episode is you can say things exactly once. like the baby-or-the-gold scene, just like Alan's first delighted smile, was maybe 20 seconds long. and they, too, would have gained nothing and lost much from being beaten laboriously to death.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:19 PM on April 25, 2022 [18 favorites]

Oh, when I said money I did not mean the gold, I meant more like cash and like, paychecks. It's not that I want to watch Nadia pay bills or want to see Ruth's taxes, I just think that if you're making your main character chase around after something that implies cash value so strongly, questions about cash in general are going to arise and stick more than if it was something else. In my mind, at least.

Obviously I wasn't saying that the gold wasn't important. It is interesting how the gold sheds its importance bit by bit, and they do explore a kind of tragic foolishness of it, you're right.

like the baby-or-the-gold scene

Oh yeah that was a nice moment, maybe my favorite of the season.
posted by fleacircus at 12:14 AM on April 26, 2022

Mogur, not asking you to spoil (or even discuss with any detail) a totally different show in this thread, but did 12 Monkeys manage to end before it left the air? Did they get to wrap it up?

Yes - this is one of the few shows I've seen that a) nailed the world-building in the first act of episode 1 and b) successfully stuck the final landing after *4* seasons of progressively complex lore (I'm looking at you, Lost).

Drags a tiny bit in season 3, but is otherwise well worth it.
posted by Mogur at 5:55 AM on April 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just finished this season of Russian Doll - and it was top-notch like the last season - I have no idea why anyone would be hating on it, outside of their inability to try something different and just repeat the same concepts over and over. (So.. they are stuck in a Season 1-like loop)
posted by rozcakj at 6:59 AM on April 26, 2022

My spouse, Comrade Doll on the baby-or-the-gold scene:
I get the symbolism, but she could have like, grabbed a fistful of kruggerands, right? Like a few?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:41 AM on April 26, 2022 [5 favorites]

That was totally my thought, fill your pockets!
posted by ellieBOA at 9:49 AM on April 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Because it's not about the cash value. Nadia was still mired in her Coney Island fantasy that the kreuggerands would change everything. We, the outside viewer, see how unreasonable that is based on how little the kreuggerands are actually valued in various scenes. But it takes a lot to shake Nadia free of that particular fantasy. But she's also chasing the krueggerands as a way to avoid her guilt over not being there for Ruth when she was dying. Nora tried to use getting the krueggerands back to "fix" her relationship with her mother, which was unfixable. Nadia tried to get the krueggerands back to "fix" her relationship with Ruth, which was equally unfixable. Nadia finally had to let go of the thing neither her grandmother nor her mother could. She had to reject the idea that everything would be ok if she just got these coins and face her loss.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:29 PM on April 26, 2022 [5 favorites]

She did say, "I get the symbolism." I mean: it's a joke. My spouse is funny.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:35 PM on April 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

I get the symbolism, but she could have like, grabbed a fistful of kruggerands, right? Like a few?

One of the first things Nadia sees when she appears in the 1980s is a Sophie's Choice poster, fitting for a couple of reasons: it's a holocaust film AND Nadia has to make this choice in the end. One or the other, no compromise.
posted by crossoverman at 4:12 PM on April 26, 2022 [6 favorites]

Dirty Old Town my comment was in response to fleacircus. Sorry that I wasn't clear.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:39 PM on April 26, 2022

Hey I am also someone who also gets the symbolism, and also my spouse thinks I'm funny.

I guess I'm bad at this. I was trying to stab at something like: the show brought up the topic of cash moolah as a thing; regardless of what else it did after that, it invited a peek behind the curtain of the kind of genre convention: that we can see our characters struggling through their human drama in nice apartments in an expensive city with not-really-jobs, without us or them caring about their material affairs very much, a nice respite from the real world, and a chance to explore the essence of our more noble passions and the beautiful dreams we want to think we are living between the lines. It's dangerous to open that curtain though, because you can't always contain the resulting thoughts, which might undercut your drama a little and take your audience out of it. And, at least in this particular instance, for me, they weren't fully contained, and it left a half-conscious strange taste in my mouth and that's what I thought it was.

Hopefully I've clawed my way up to people merely disagreeing with me lol. Also, anyone, feel free to kick me a Krugerrand, which is like 1/150th of nothing compared to things that truly matter.
posted by fleacircus at 12:48 AM on April 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh ok that makes a lot of sense. I'm sorry I totally misunderstood what you were saying earlier. Yeah I totally see that.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:19 AM on April 28, 2022

One of the first things Nadia sees when she appears in the 1980s is a Sophie's Choice poster, fitting for a couple of reasons: it's a holocaust film AND Nadia has to make this choice in the end. One or the other, no compromise.

Oh wow, thanks for calling this out- went right by me. Every detail matters here!! So good.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:17 PM on April 28, 2022

I loved this season, perfect complement to the first.

All the returning actors are great, but I did not know Annie Murphy was going to be younger Ruth in this, and I squealed when she turned up. My delight was rewarded, I thought she was fantastic in the role.

There are always so many great lines in this show, and I never quite remember them word for word, but I loved Alan telling Nadia that he didn't collapse time because he's a good commuter.
posted by the primroses were over at 2:31 PM on April 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

I am also on team "Didn't think it needed a season 2 but season 2 was great"
posted by rmd1023 at 3:48 PM on April 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

So, count me as someone who did not love this season. Though I think it was pretty great until the ending, which, for me, completely fell flat. It went from delightful timey-wimey weirdness to... a psychedelic therapy session. The "moral of the story" at the end felt so pat. "You can't change anything! You just have to accept what happened. You need to move on and grieve, etc." Which... eh. Is that it? If I wanted trite truisms I could just read a self-help book.

Also, I really didn't like how Nadia was being told that she didn't do anything wrong when she kidnapped herself-- but she did do something wrong, right? She caused time to collapse, and she missed Ruth's death. Which, is a pretty bad screw-up. It all felt very rushed at the end, and it didn't seem to me that she even accepted that she had made a huge error. Of course this is very YMMV territory, but that was how it seemed to me. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

One of my least favorite tropes in time travel fiction is the "body swap time travel story"-- which was enormously popular in the 1980s and '90s, probably due to Quantum Leap-- and this just reinforces my dislike of it. I've read so many novels where someone leaps into the past and tries to change things, only to discover that they're caught in a fatalistic loop-- and I absolutely hate it. (Which is funny, because in Quantum Leap Sam actually did change things.)

TL;DR: I preferred the first season. By a whole bunch.. The review of this season in the Atlantic (criticizing the "trauma plot") seemed pretty fair to me.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 5:57 PM on April 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

If I wanted trite truisms I could just read a self-help book.

Yeah, it seemed a very weak resolution for all the running around that happened. Lyonne is fun to watch, but the Alan subplot didn't pay off, either, except in the same therapeutic sense. (Don't be afraid to live.)

Compared to season one, which felt planned out, this season felt like it was being made up on the fly and no one was sure where it was going.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:23 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

I kinda dislike trying to tie Nadia's choice to Sophie's choice. Sophie has an impossible dilemma-I mean how do you choose which child? Nadia has a choice between money and a child. Her choice is far more obvious, even with all the emotional weight, it doesn't outweigh a child.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:27 AM on April 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

I kinda dislike trying to tie Nadia's choice to Sophie's choice.

It's a clue. It's foreshadowing. It's not supposed to be an actual equivalent.

Honestly, though, the term "sophie's choice" is thrown around so much these days, it's lost most of its original meaning. I thought the little reference at the start of the season was fitting.
posted by crossoverman at 10:59 PM on May 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Finally finished it! Not enough superlatives. I agree with most people here that even though this season lacked the raw jaw-dropping surprise of the first season, it was just *perfect* and taken together these two seasons are a masterpiece.

Here's a thing I don't see anyone talking about: I feel like Alan's journey this season involved discovering he's gay (or maybe trans?). There's all that stuff in the first episode about him not connecting with any of the women his mom sets him up with, there's all of the first season where he hasn't been present in his relationship with his longtime girlfriend and almost-fiancee, there's that killer line, dead-eyed and delivered flat, "What if this is all there is to life?" (forgive the inaccurate paraphrase) which is contrasted against Alan's absolutely giddy to be in his grandmother's body - not to mention he's more than a little obsessed with Lenny.

Did anyone else think this too or is it just me?
posted by MiraK at 1:07 PM on May 3, 2022 [9 favorites]

My wife and I just watched this whole season this evening. We loved it just as much as season one, if not more. Loved seeing Annie Murphy as young Ruthie. I’m hopeful for a season three! 🤞
posted by schyler523 at 7:53 PM on May 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Here's a thing I don't see anyone talking about: I feel like Alan's journey this season involved discovering he's gay (or maybe trans?).

Oh, absolutely, I think Alan's trans. That's why I wrote I love this development for her. I think it's set up really beautifully in retrospect. She's got such a lovely, gentle way to her and always seemed so vaguely ill at ease about being perceived, wanting so badly and trying so hard to conform, and having such a bad time of it - it all screams "forcing yourself to be something you aren't". Being trans would explain so much.

I think the second season makes it pretty obvious - the clear delight in her image in the mirror, how thrilled she is even about the police officers' cat calling at first, feeling affirmed in her gender - that seems to suggest trans more than gay to me.
posted by sohalt at 2:12 AM on May 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Being trans would explain so much.

As a trans person, please don't do this unless it's been explicitly stated in the text. Trans people don't all feel uncomfortable in their bodies and someone having a "gentle way" is very nice, but it just enforces the kinds of gender norms that are ultimately harmful to IRL trans folks (i.e. trans women thinking they need to be "soft" and femme in order to be valid).

I think there may be a valid reading of this as Alan being trans but it's way more likely that he's gay or bisexual and is just happy to be somewhere that he doesn't have to worry about being himself (gender aside). Nadia doesn't seem surprised at all that he's with a man when he tells her about it, so maybe in the intervening time between seasons one and two he's done some personal exploration and dated guys as well.

As far as the show is concerned, it's more or less confirmed that he's got feelings for a man. Not that he's experiencing dysphoria or having doubts about his gender presentation. I have faith that if that was the storyline, Lyonne would show it explicitly.
posted by fight or flight at 4:10 AM on May 6, 2022 [9 favorites]

I liked season 2, although not as much as season 1. The early episodes were amazing, but the last two seemed confusing, disjointed, and rushed. Especially Alan's story, which I don't think got time enough to breathe. I wish his conversation with his grandmother had been longer. I know Nadia is the main character, but they went through the trouble of sending Alan to Berlin, they should have done more with it.

For me, the most moving scene was Nadia letting the bag of gold sink. Amazing.
posted by ceejaytee at 2:08 PM on May 6, 2022

My interpretation was the alien consciousness takes on the inhabitants consciousness. So you have Nadia takes on her mother's insanity and Alan takes on his grandmother's infatuation.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:59 PM on May 6, 2022

As a trans person, please don't do this unless it's been explicitly stated in the text. Trans people don't all feel uncomfortable in their bodies and someone having a "gentle way" is very nice, but it just enforces the kinds of gender norms that are ultimately harmful to IRL trans folks (i.e. trans women thinking they need to be "soft" and femme in order to be valid).

Sorry, that was thoughtless. Will do better!

I think there may be a valid reading of this as Alan being trans but it's way more likely that he's gay or bisexual and is just happy to be somewhere that he doesn't have to worry about being himself (gender aside). Nadia doesn't seem surprised at all that he's with a man when he tells her about it, so maybe in the intervening time between seasons one and two he's done some personal exploration and dated guys as well.

That's why I think the trans explanation is more likely - whatever revelation he has in his grandmother's body is presented as a breakthrough and a big deal, and the conversation with Nadia suggests that being gay would not be that big a deal to Alan.
posted by sohalt at 11:09 PM on May 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

As I write this, a Krugerrand is worth about $2k.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:55 PM on May 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just finished these. I loved the first season so much, and can't say I loved the second one. It felt like a mess to me - where the first season seemed to loop in ways that felt connected and satisfying, by the end of S2 it felt like there was a writers' room full of people throwing time travel tropes against a wall and then letting everything stick - and then simultaneously giving a "be happy with what you have" lesson with denying her the chance to say goodbye to Ruth. It just felt very forced to me, plot-wise. Also I know it's petty, but I hated Alan's mustache. Hated it.

But it was still such a fun, amazing trip, with a lot to love about it along the way. I can't say I didn't enjoy watching it. There are moments throughout that will stay with me - seeing the subway train pulling into the station in 1944 Budapest alone was just a joy, the reveal of Alan in Germany walking through the metro station with that big grin on his/her face was a high point of both seasons, and I loved the whole episode in Budapest itself. If they make a season 3 I'll definitely watch to see where they take it next. But if this season had never happened, I would have been fine - I still think S1 was a fantastic complete journey all on its own.
posted by Mchelly at 6:57 PM on May 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

The cool Hungarian art dude who is secretly a Nazi is an homage to Vincent Gallo, right? Because that was a sweet takedown that was integrated perfectly into the plot of the show.
posted by snofoam at 6:31 PM on May 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Well I enjoyed the ride [sic] even though I didn’t quite understand the collapsing time stuff at the end. I liked the subway car time portal; it reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode “Willoughby” and Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”. I did think she was going to make it back in time to get a doctor to check Ruth’s lungs while she was in the ER after the traffic accident…if you can’t change the past, she could still change the present. She said goodbye to Ruth in the last scene on the 1982 train but Ruth, not recognizing her—the grandmother felt something—just shrugged her off.

One part of the story that did not work for me was how and why young Ruth was so involved with the grandmother and Chloe Sevigny’s Nora in the first place. I originally thought they were related but no. I just didn’t see the appeal in Sevigny’s deadpan demeanor, bad life decisions, and execrable choice of boyfriends. Ruth and Nadia sure, they were natural friends. (Loved that she was named after the car salesperson).

Alan’s story, brief as it was, was powerful too.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:08 PM on May 17, 2022

I forgot to add it was nice to see Sharlto Copley again. I kinda hoped he would have a larger role as he seems like the right kind of actor for this project. I hope he gets more work because I really enjoy watching him.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:58 AM on May 20, 2022

In the season 1 discussion I accurately predicted that although I didn't want a second season of this, I would watch it and love it. And so I did. I cried on and off through the final episode. "You can't change the past" might seem obvious and trite to some, but realising that in an embodied, genuine way is part of the healing from trauma. It's not that you have to be happy with where you are now, but that no amount of anger, depression, compassion, persuasion, revenge, or anything will erase the harm done to you. It must be borne. And it's hard to admit that to yourself. There's always the hope that maybe just one more conversation, one more achievement, one more demonstration, will give the closure you want. But if you face the fact that the past will never have been any different, you can put your energy towards coping with the present instead. Or even planning for the future.

I think this was a great direction to take the second season. The first was about how trauma can't be resolved by tough independence. This season feels like it's about where that trauma comes from. Generational, in Nadia's case. And when we saw Alan's initial delight at being in an objectively crappy, repressive world, compared to Nadia's increasing symptoms of her mother's illness just from being in her body, I right away thought oh Alan is trans. I was disappointed that the story didn't seem to follow that up. Or maybe it wasn't intended, maybe I read it in there. But all I really want is for Alan to find joy. The series does treat Alan the way that most stories treat women, as a secondary character never fully fleshed out. It's just as irritating when the genders are reversed.
posted by harriet vane at 9:22 PM on June 24, 2022 [5 favorites]

Bailed after episode 2. The endless smarmy one-liners, the bland acceptance of time travel, and the fact she absurdly, conveniently leaves her purse on the subway bench… nah. I’m happy with one season thanks.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 3:27 PM on July 13, 2022

I thoroughly enjoyed this confusing and mind bendy ride. I was also unsure of a second season, but really did find it delightful. This is the only show I have ever been comfortable being completely confused by - chalk that up to charisma of the entire cast I guess.
posted by Julnyes at 11:24 AM on September 29, 2022

Just watched this. Excellent, mixed, weird, but worth it. The cinematography alone, a love letter to NYC almost as strong as the first. And for all the pat moments, there were some breathtaking profound arcs.

i) I want to be invited to art-shmuck party.
ii) Young RUTHIE! god what a friend and mother! when she hocked her ring to get the krugerands back after nadia changed her fucking mind, and then sat in the bar and just wanted to be seen and heard. My heart almost burst!
posted by lalochezia at 8:07 PM on November 26, 2022

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