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The Entire Kaleidoscope Timeline Explained

Netflix's new series "Kaleidoscope" is a heist thriller with episodes meant to be watched in any order. Instead of episode numbers, they have been given colors, and yes, each has been orchestrated to fit easily within the timeline at any juncture. Whether you like a linear story, one with multiple flashbacks, or one that jumps around in time seemingly without rhyme or reason, you can have the viewing experience you want.

Of course, Netflix understands most people will not consume the show this way; they will watch in whatever order it is presented to them, which is why Netflix ordered the series differently for each paid subscriber account. So if you and your roommate share one account with different profiles, your episodes will be ordered the same in each profile, but if you each have your own account, there's a high probability they'll be different.

The only constant in the order is that "The White Episode" — the one with the heist itself — is shown last, tying up all of the questions as to what exactly happened and how.

The other significant thing to notice is the prevalence of the episode's color, which shows up in the lighting, background, and foreground of various scenes within. It makes a statement of the mood and the message as much as the script does. The key, unlike so many shows fit for background noise these days, is to pay attention. Here's a breakdown of the show's timeline — which, much like its namesake, is part of a complex and constantly changing pattern. 

The Purple Episode – 24 years before the heist

The earliest chronological episode of "Kaleidoscope" belongs to Ray Vernon (Giancarlo Esposito), a small-time safecracker. It's also the episode where we meet Ray's partner, Graham Davies (Rufus Sewell), who usually poses as an investor or high-powered businessman to their mark while Ray grabs the goods. We're also introduced to Ray's fence, Ava Mercer (Paz Vega), an Argentinian immigrant and law student with lots of connections. These three will be key players in the episodes to come, but other major characters in "The Purple Episode" are Ray's wife Lily (Robinne Lee) and young daughter Hannah (Austin Elle Fisher), who provide his motivation for all of his choices, both good and bad.

"Purple" is about the impetus for the heist: the betrayal at the heart of Ray's search for what he might call justice but others would deem revenge. They're two sides of the same pilfered coin, and Ray's pain at the end of the episode is so raw it will take him a quarter century to find peace.

Purple shows up in the episode in shades from lilac to amethyst, notably in Hannah's coat and book, Lily's scarf, Ava's coat, and the Orchid necklace. The color is typically associated with value, femininity, mystery, or wealth.

The Green Episode – 7 years before the heist

The "Green" episode of "Kaleidoscope" joins Ray 17 years into his prison sentence and introduces us to his cellmate Stan (Peter Mark Kendall), a chef in the cafeteria and black market supplier; Stan's girlfriend Judy (Rosaline Elbay), who smuggles in weed lollipops and SIM cards to her guy; and Bob (Jai Courtney), an obnoxious jerkweed with his sights on Judy, who for some reason finds his pungent toxic masculinity sexy. Late in the episode, we also meet FBI agent Nazan Abassi (Niousha Noor) and Ray's now-grown daughter Hannah (Tati Gabrielle). We further discover Graham Davies now goes by Roger Salas and is a (legitimately) wealthy businessman. Some of these characters will assist in the heist. One (or more) will try to thwart it.

Shades of green are everywhere here: in the lighting, the costumes, and the props in hues that run the gamut from seafoam to granny smith to forest, symbolizing sickness, luck, money, inexperience, and jealousy. These themes can be traced directly to Ray's Parkinson's diagnosis, Agent Abassi's painkiller addiction, Stan and Judy's smuggling operation, Stan's puppy-dog affection for her, and Bob's complete inability to see anyone show Judy any kindness or interest.

"Green" finds Ray escaping prison on his own, seeking out Ava for help with a new identity (and cover from the relentless Agent Abassi), and becoming Leo Pap from this point forward.

The Yellow Episode – 6 weeks before the heist

The final member of the crew is introduced in "Yellow," and he is RJ (Jordan Mendoza), a neurodivergent auto mechanic who works for Leo and is a whiz behind the wheel. Unsurprisingly, Bob finds his tics and quirks uncomfortably weird and mocks him relentlessly for them. Bob is the worst.

With the team finally assembled in this episode, planning for the heist can begin in earnest, though in truth Leo has had most of this worked out in his mind for years so "planning" really amounts to informing the other players of their parts. The only problem is the seed money job falls through so they need to pull a new one. Improvising is never a good bet when you've got someone on your team who can't follow directions, and true to form Bob screws up big time. But the plan continues, and Hannah has secured her spot as her dad's inside man at Roger's company, so on they go.

The color yellow shows up mostly in warm lighting and rays of sunshine, but also in the trademark color of taxis, in the blonde of Judy's wig, and in the transparent lemon of the fateful USB drive. It represents feelings of positivity, intelligence, and caution.

The Orange Episode – 3 weeks before the heist

Orange is the color of energy, but too much can mean hubris or arrogance, and "The Orange Episode" of "Kaleidoscope" is saturated in it.

Many scenes here are in Ava's home, where warm browns and ambers combine with the lighting to create a cozy, autumnal orange to fill the frame. There are also orange accents throughout scenes involving the FBI, particularly in the conference table of the room where Ava is questioned and in the curtains behind Nazam at her Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The color is fitting because both Ava and Nazam overplay their hands here, to their detriment.

Nazam was obsessed with the Ray Vernon prison escape seven years prior and hounded his attorney Ava about it until a body identified as Ray was found burned inside the car he stole and the case was closed. Nazam's harassment of Ava, however, coupled with her drug use that Ava brought to the agency's attention, led to Nazam's suspension.

Now on the path to getting her life back and reuniting with her son, however, Nazam is once again pulled into Ava's orbit with news of a shell casing from the seed money jewelry heist having Ava's fingerprint on it. Ava is called in for questioning but, naturally, she has an alibi and a substantiated account of how and why her fingerprint might be found at the scene. The two stare at each other knowing the gauntlet has been thrown.

The orange revolution

As "Orange" progresses, Ava and Agent Abassi trade challenges back and forth, each upping the ante and trying to gain the upper hand over the other. Nazam surveils Ava's house and discovers a connection to Bob, because the idiot doesn't know how to follow directions and keep a low profile. Her distraction leads to a late arrival at a custody hearing that puts her reunion with her son in jeopardy.

Ava discovers the tail and sets a trap, supposedly arranging to meet Leo in the city, and leads Nazam to a seedy, drug-filled club where Ava gives her the slip and Nazam is caught with drugs planted on her. This destroys Nazam's custody chances, but she's still unable to let it go, even after being called off by her superiors.

Nazam discovers that Ava harbors an older woman in her home — a caretaker from Ava's past whom she loves like family — and realizes this is the sharp-tongued lawyer's weak spot. She calls ICE on the woman, Teresa (Irene DeBari), and will have her deported unless Ava acts as a mole for the FBI and reveals Leo's plan.

As the episode ends, both women have gone too far and perhaps compromised far too much, but at least one of them is still not done playing the game.

The Blue Episode – 5 days before the heist

Blue is the color of loyalty, security, and authority, but it is also the color of sadness and storms. As "The Blue Episode" commences, a storm is brewing in the Atlantic as well as among the team.

Someone on Roger's staff finds the backdoor in his security system that was going to assist Leo's team in getting past the temperature sensors and shuts it down. This derails the whole plan because they can't get into the vaults. Feeling despondent, Leo nearly strangles Roger in cold blood but pulls back at the last second when he realizes that the upcoming hurricane will provide the exact cover they require.

Working with Judy's chemical expertise, a new way in is hatched, but Bob's disdain for everyone else in the crew leads him to confide in Judy that he thinks they should take the entire haul for themselves — loyalty be damned — leaving everyone else in the cold. Judy feels guilty about this, but still can't seem to break the hold he has on her. Still, she gives RJ a gun for his protection and doesn't seem interested in screwing everybody else over like Bob does.

Salas and the FBI are both, separately, aware of threats lurking in the shadows, but for now, their attention is turned in the wrong direction. As the heist looms, will anything go as planned?

The White Episode – The Heist

The plan is thus: Disguise a truck to look like an armored one from SLS (Roger's company) and dress as SLS guards. Drop Judy off at a subway tunnel that will flood as a result of the raging storm. Enter the SLS underground garage by way of a secretly obtained code. Unload the equipment at the loading dock and stun the guard as he goes to open the door and any other guards along the way. Ensure that the security feed is being fed a pre-recorded tape from another location in the building and activate the gait analyzer walkway to the vault. Fill the walkway with bees to obscure the sensors and anyone walking among them. Use a hand-carved totem identical to Roger's as his entrance key. 

While wearing the silicone mask of Roger's face scan, taken by a fake eye doctor mere days ago, gain biometric identity approval. This will open the main door to the vault, revealing the individual double-spin combination locks on all the interior vault doors. Using listening equipment and safecracking skills, simultaneously crack both locks on the three vaults holding the bearer bonds they want to steal. Send the bonds up and out of the vault and up the elevator to Judy and RJ, who will load them on the truck. Close up the vaults and leave as they came, only seven billion dollars richer.

Sounds simple enough, right? What could possibly go wrong?

The White Episode — what went wrong

White is the color of ritual, new beginnings, and balance. White is also the coalescing of all colors, just as the heist episode of Netflix's "Kaleidoscope" is the fulcrum of all the other episodes. The whites are blinding throughout, with industrial fluorescent lighting, rain reflected in the night, and strategically placed orchids.

The team is at SLS to execute Leo's plan, but it goes awry. Nerves make some too jumpy and others too cautious. As they carry on, the Feds are tipped off but misdirected, Leo wants to open an extra vault that takes too long, and water floods the whole floor. Meanwhile, Bob (who's still the worst) ditches everyone in the vault, takes the specialized key out of its cradle to lock the gate, and runs up to Judy to steal the whole take.

There are a couple of showdowns as the episode reaches its crisis point, resulting in a handful of shootings, a strangling, and at least one death. Only one of them discovers that the bonds were intercepted on the way up in the elevator to the truck and are no longer in their possession.

The one piece of good news? Leo braves the deep waters of the vault room to put the long-lost Orchid necklace in Roger's safe. Oh, and Ava just happens to point Agent Abassi in the direction of his past. Now for a new beginning.

The Red Episode – the day after the heist

In the immediate aftermath of the heist, "The Red Episode" plunges the team into chaos as they confront a plan gone wrong. Red is the color of anger, aggression, and danger, all of which are at play here. 

Leo is the first to arrive at their base of operations, and he retrieves money and fake passports from the safe so they can go into hiding. Judy arrives next, alone, and thinks Leo is fleeing with the bonds. It's clear that they don't trust each other's answers and that they are both withholding information.

Stan arrives next, in a Lyft of all things, and alliances shift around the threesome as they all try to assess who is fleecing whom. The only thing they can all agree on is that the bonds should've been in the truck, but the truck wasn't at the loading dock, so now both are missing, along with Ava, RJ, and Bob. Leo insists on leaving to hide in their safe house, but no one will go without the bonds, so they wait.

Elsewhere, Roger and Hannah (in a red coat and a sweater with one red sleeve) are discovering the vault and assessing the damage. The Feds are snooping around Salas, and Agent Abassi and her partner decide to track the truck over traffic cams to lead them to the team. Roger's hitman Carlos (Hemky Madera) is also on their trail.

When Ava arrives, hours late, she's been shot (bleeding red) and the boxes of bonds are full of filler paper. Carlos threatens to torture and kill Stan (also shot and bleeding) if he doesn't get the bonds back, but Judy and Leo get the drop on him and the foursome escape in a boat named The Hickory Wood. 

Red everywhere

Red is a powerhouse color, so its uses in the "Kaleidoscope" episode "Red" are more sparing in quantity but just as striking in quality, as they reflect off every surface in the form of traffic signals and alarm lights. The road signs pop. Every instance of blood, too, is a shock of red against skin.

As Leo, Judy, and Stan wait in the auto shop for the truck, reds that had been invisible before are suddenly bold against the background. The couch is red leather. The door panels are red. Some wall panels are too. Vertical beams stand red in the middle of the floors. At least one room divider is a striking scarlet. And outside, the light of the fire casts a red glow on their faces as their paranoia intensifies.

At SLS, Hannah wears a red coat and a sweater with one rich red sleeve. At Sam's butcher shop, his shelves are stocked with red-labeled merchandise and his forsaken family members wear red attire, be it in their leggings, their cardigan, or on their plain white tee as they meet a violent end.

Stan gets shot in a melee, his ear gushing red. Ava also has a gunshot wound in her shoulder when she returns with the truck and eventually wraps up in a ruby-red blanket.

Even their escape boat is The Hickory Wood. Hickory is a type of wood often found in shades of reddish brown, and the hull and cabin of the vessel are painted red. 

The Pink Episode – six months after the heist

Pink represents dualities: nostalgia and childhood versus passion and urgency. These clashing feelings battle it out as "Kaleidoscope" enters its "Pink" episode, with the team scattered, Roger in prison, the FBI up to speed, and Bob unfortunately still alive, sporting an angry pink scar and an inability to talk.

Stan and Judy are running small cons, desperate to flee the country, while Leo, Ava, and Teresa are holed up further north.

Bob is on a mission to kill Stan and (as far as he knows) take Judy and the bonds. He gets Ava's address by brutalizing someone, then brings two goons along to capture her. Leo makes a call to "Porky" from Ava's address book — Stan was a butcher — to meet him at a pink-painted building nearby for some cash. The first betrayal is that it's Bob, not Leo, and the second is that it's Abassi, not Stan.

Many lives are lost, and one person stands at a crossroads. Despite events, though, Abassi still refuses to quit trying to find the bonds. She collapses in the street after a frustrating encounter. Pink is the color of the stuffed fox on her desk being packed away.

Finally, Leo FaceTimes Hannah and her new baby Lily, knowing this is the last time he'll see her. We all find out what happened to the bonds and Leo says his piece to Roger. Then a mysterious stranger wearing a shirt we've seen before follows Leo into Central Park and pulls a trigger. Fade to pink.