THE REGIME. This series is garbage pretending to be a masterpiece

And how do you like “The Regime,” the new HBO series?

Jakub Piwoński

17 March 2024

the regime

I don’t know how much money was pumped into the promotional campaign of this “work” (I intentionally used quotation marks), but I’m sure no expense was spared. When I learned about the new series starring Kate Winslet thanks to an advertisement placed on one of the competing film portals, I felt like it could be something great. The executive producer of Succession? A respected actress in the lead role? Satirical theme with an alternate history? I must admit, I was eagerly anticipating the premiere of The Regime.

About halfway through the first episode, I started scratching my head, not really understanding what was being presented before my eyes. However, I managed to make it to the end of the pilot of the new HBO series and told myself that if this feeling persisted after watching the second episode, I would share it with you. I didn’t immediately throw tomatoes at it, even though I could have. I waited, and… the second episode only reinforced the prevailing sense of embarrassment from the beginning.

I don’t want this column to be treated as a review because unfortunately, I probably won’t make it to the end of this series and won’t be able to offer an objective judgment on it. I have been effectively discouraged from doing so. One thing I see for sure is that The Regime gives the impression of a creation that contradicts its underlying characteristics. Instead of being humorous, it bewilders and irritates; instead of prompting reflection, it resorts to primitive and empty stereotypes that do not invite discussion; instead of captivating with sharp dialogue and brilliant performances, it turns out to be decidedly unbalanced, even exaggerated, in this crucial aspect.

the regime

But what’s the deal? The concept of The Regime, I must say, sounds intriguing “on paper.” We have a charismatic leader of a fictional nation, leading a fictional state located somewhere in the middle of Europe. The problem is that the chancellor loses her mind, and her rule is marked by paranoia. However, she finds support in the “arms” of a clearly unstable and mysterious soldier. Her husband conspires to eliminate a rival, but the ruler seems oblivious to the negative influence her new ally has on her. There couldn’t be a shortage of rather crude humor, as the whole thing is tinged with bizarre sexual tension.

In short, that’s the idea behind The Regime, a production widely promoted and available on Max. It’s a shame that it failed to capture the energy of what is, after all, an original and intriguing premise in any way. The balloon was inflated to considerable, even absurd, proportions, and then it was punctured because there’s no slow release of air here. From the very beginning, this series hits us with how much the creators don’t understand the jokes they wrote and placed in the actors’ mouths. What is portrayed as a masterpiece is nothing but a farce.

The paradox of this situation is that the ego displayed by the creators of The Regime mirrors the ego of the Russian ruler they’re ostensibly mocking. This metaphor, however, is so, forgive the term, BLINDINGLY obvious that it achieves the opposite effect of what was intended. Instead of stimulating critical thinking, it insults the viewer’s intelligence. Take, for example, the scene where the chancellor meets with a representative of the USA. Even before the ladies shook hands, I was certain they would soon sit at a very long table, so that the viewer would once again understand who the creators are covertly laughing at. Thirty seconds later, exactly what I expected happened – a long table was shown with two figures sitting at either end, literally referencing the paranoid personality and inflated ego of the current ruler of Russia.

The paradox of this situation is that the same ego is also manifested by the creators of The Regime, making Russia a convenient and soft punching bag, serving as a safe condensation of negative emotions associated with current political concerns. However, it’s evident that the writers simplify the message using media-forged stereotypes, expressing a bit of ignorance and a bit of how negatively they perceive not only Russia but the entire Central and Eastern Europe, which to them is a big conglomerate of undemocratic, post-Soviet, authoritarian entities. In short – a backwater.

the regime

This isn’t funny. At least not for us, a society that lived for decades under the Russian boot and which is still mentally (sentimentally?) stuck in communism. But that’s how the West perceives us, the society we’re so blindly infatuated with. That’s not funny either when you consider what Eastern politics has led to and who its victims are now. When the same West laughs at itself – as seen in Space Force – it comes across much more convincingly, although even there, jokes often miss the mark. A satirical series based on a regime whose hypocrisy has led to an ongoing war, further based on simplifications, is nothing but shooting oneself in the foot.

If it were the case that someone made a series with genuinely biting humor, but handled it delicately only for our cultural palate, then it could be said not to belong to the group of its recipients. However, apparently, this satire is not funny even to the rest of the world, as Kate Winslet’s creation mainly gathers very restrained, if not openly negative, reviews. After the first episode, The Regime could boast a rotten tomato on Rotten Tomatoes; now its situation is slightly better, but I find it hard to believe that it will be able to completely turn the tables by the end of its run.

I think, setting aside the blatantness of the contained metaphors and the message under the sign of “let’s laugh at Russia because it’s trendy,” this series is primarily problematic because it is incredibly pompous and false, and that arrogance is embodied precisely by the main character. I don’t believe in the good intentions of the creators and their desire to convey a positive message because I also don’t see anyone winking at me here. I’m more inclined to believe that they perceive themselves as… better. Someone even dared to say (in the title of one of the news articles) that this could be another Emmy for Winslet. Seriously? For those mannered lip twitches? I see more of a setup for an internet meme here.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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