Russian Doll is a subtle show. What starts as a Netflix comedy about the world’s worst birthday party eventually reveals itself to be a meditation on the “fragility of life” and our collective need to emotionally lean the hell in. That same slow burn applies to one of the most alarming details of Russian Doll: all of the rotting fruit. At first, in episodes like “Superiority Complex,” eagle-eyed viewers might notice a few suspicious-looking apples in Ruth's (Elizabeth Ashley) apartment. It’s weird, but not that concerning. Sometimes, fruit goes bad.
But then sixth episode “Reflection” rolls around, and you realize someone didn’t simply forget to refrigerate their groceries. As leading lady Nadia (Orange Is The New Black’s Natasha Lyonne) strides through her East Village deli, she realizes all of the produce is rotten. The apples, the bananas, the pears, and even the flowers are all browned goners. This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a highly concerning symptom of Alan (new Netflix boyfriend Charlie Barnett) and Nadia’s limbo circumstance. It's a development that likely leads viewers everywhere to ask, “What is going on with the fruit?”
Thankfully, there’s an easy-to-understand explanation here. The rotten fruit is a “consequence” of “the world sort of melting in on itself,” as creator-star Natasha Lyonne tells Refinery29, and also an ultimately promising development.
While Lyonne says the metaphysical events of her series aren’t “black and white,” she confirms “each time there’s a restart, there is still a consequence. Much like in a life.” Often those consequences reveal themselves in the decay of living things around Nadia and Alan. However, as the duo's resurrections multiply, partygoers disappear, cool door art evaporates, fish named after cult-favorite Star Wars characters vanish, and engagement rings aren't safe. By the terrifyingly barren final loops of “Way Out,” Nadia’s entire birthday party ceases to exist save for a lonely, dancing Maxine (Greta Lee, queen of azure).
Although the mounting loss of Russian Doll’s penultimate half-hour seems to hint the end is nigh for Nadia and Alan, it also proves salvation is possible. In “The Way Out,” Nadia confronts the rotting fruit issue head on, stressing how time is “relative.” This earthly detail still continues on in Nadia and Alan's heightened version of life, where time is both endless and constantly restarting. Yet, because the pair exists in the three-dimensional world, they cannot see the way time, a fourth dimension, is truly playing out around them them. So, at face value, something like an orange has decayed in their version of time. However when Nadia cuts the fruit open — splitting apart a 3D sphere and creating a fourth dimension for it — “it’s still ripe,” an astonished Alan exclaims.
“Time is relative to your experience. We’ve been experiencing time differently in these loops,” Nadia reiterates. “But, this, this tells us somewhere time, linear time as we understand it, still exists.”
It's a very sensible explanation for a very trippy mystery. Now, Nadia and Alan simply have to find their way back to the regular old timeline.