Netflix’s magnetic Russian Doll landed a second-season renewal that arrived as welcome news for folks who couldn’t look away from the first batch of tightly-woven episodes. Honestly, the first season was perfectly satisfying and set a high bar for the Natasha Lyonne-starring comedy-drama, so the second season might fall short of expectations. Yet we’re gonna see more, so no complaints there, and the series will undoubtedly surface in the Emmy nominations coming in July. That’s likely why co-creator and director Leslye Headland is now dropping revelations about the production, including one extremely frustrating development that actually allowed the series to nail the ending.
Headland revealed to IndieWire that the season’s uplifting (albeit ambiguous) ending — which saw multiple timelines for Lyonne’s Nadia and Charlie Barnett’s Alan intersecting as they join a trippy parade — wasn’t the original take. The first chosen ending actually came too close to another Netflix (limited) series, Cary Fukanaga’s Maniac, which led to a very bad day at the office for Headland and her writers (including Lyonne), but ultimately, Russian Doll benefited after Netflix gave the heads up:
“There were a bunch of different versions of the ending, one in particular that we pitched to Netflix and they actually — it was the one big note they ever gave us — is they asked us to change it because it was too similar to Maniac,” said Headland, who hasn’t had a chance yet to see the Netflix series starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill as two troubled souls seeking treatment. “I guess the thing we had pitched was similar to a twist in Maniac. And they were like, ‘We are very sad to tell you this, obviously no one knows this except the people that are working on Maniac, which happens to be us, this feels like it’s a little too close to that.’ That was a hard day.”
Maniac‘s ending saw Emma Stone’s character, Annie, helping Jonah Hill’s Owen escape a mental institution and gleefully drive away in a surrealist take on one of Owen’s daydreams. Headland hasn’t explained the similarities between the two endings (which is to be expected, since she admits to not having watched Maniac yet, and that’s understandable because there’s too much TV these days). However, it can certainly be argued that of the two shows — both about a mismatched set of friends tackling existential angst — Russian Doll was much better served by the change of plans. No matter how one feels about Maniac, that was always meant to be a limited series, and now, Russian Doll lives on. And hopefully next season, we’ll see even more of Oatmeal.