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The Regime

The Regime season 1





Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

Overthrowing a regime isn’t an easy task. There are rulers to oust, assassins to dodge, soldiers to direct, elections to rig. And if you’re successful, you still have to figure out how to pay off your country’s debt, feed your people and inspire the leaders of other countries to support you.

Elena Vernham, chancellor of a small (and unnamed) central European nation, thought she could handle that. When her party ousted the previous regime (through, it would seem, “free” elections), she had the love and support of her people. Really, it was just a matter of winning the election.

But nobody could have foreseen what would happen next.


Shortly after taking office, Elena was diagnosed with the same lung disease that killed her father the year prior. She became convinced that her enemies would use it against her. And she developed a deep paranoia of spores.

Now, no one is permitted to so much as breathe in her direction. She undergoes regular oxygen treatments. She’s ordered the palace to be stripped to the studs, disinfected and then rebuilt. And she’s hired a soldier whose sole duty is to sweep the halls for moisture and inform her of any humidity level that may pose a threat to her health.

Herbert Zubak is that unlucky soul. But it’s better than the alternative.

Zubak was part of an incident where soldiers opened fire on cobalt miners during a protest against poor working conditions. And now, he’s known as one of the “Butchers of Site Five.” That notoriety has made it difficult for him to live amongst his fellow citizens. Certainly, many people see him as indeed a “butcher,” and say as much behind his back.

But Elena doesn’t see it that way. As far as she’s concerned, the soldiers acted in self-defense. And truth be told, she wants someone who’s willing to pull the trigger in defense of her and her country.

They’re kindred spirits, in a way. Elena may not have resorted to violence to become chancellor, but she was willing to. Zubak may not have needed to resort to violence to stop the protestors, but he did.

Together, they make a formidable pair, willing and capable of bringing their enemies to their knees.

But then, that’s just the problem. Because neither seems to know the difference between who the enemy is and who their countrymen are.

Middle Europe.

It’s clear from the start that Elena is suffering from some mental illnesses. Obviously, there’s her paranoia regarding mold and assassination attempts. But she also fancies that she shares literal dreams with Zubak, and she has conversations with the body of her dead father, who’s entombed in a glass case.

But the woman also suffers delusions of grandeur. She imagines that she carries the love of her people—even as the country is run into the ground. She even seems to think of herself as a sort of god to them, ending her speeches with, “I bless you all. And I bless our love, always.”

Of course, none of this is helped by the people who play along with her delusions. In fact, two of her staff use her poor mental health against her, convincing Elena that she’s more ill than even she thinks and attempting to stage a coup.

And while this all makes for good television, the show itself doesn’t make for good TV decisions.

The Regime is riddled with foul language. Violence (while kept to a minimum in the first episode) is inevitable. And although nothing sexual or romantic has occurred onscreen yet, it also seems inevitable, given Elena’s and Zubak’s mutual infatuation. (We should note that Elena’s married to someone else, as well.)

So families would probably be better served staying away from this country in middle Europe—both literally and figuratively.

Episode Reviews

Mar. 3, 2024 – S1, E1: “Victory Day”

Elena is awakened one night by a man sitting on the edge of her bed. The man is an assassin, but before he can so much as pull a knife, Zubak enters the room and beats the man to a pulp. Afterwards, Elena suffers a panic attack, fearing that she’s inhaled her would-be killer’s germs.

An article features a picture of someone in a hazmat suit covering a dead body. We hear that during a protest, soldiers panicked and opened fire on protestors without cause. Elena doubts the story’s legitimacy, stating that the protestors acted “like animals” and that the soldiers were correct to shoot them.

Elena smacks Zubak across the face after he embarrasses her in front of foreign diplomats. She tells him he should have killed himself at the Site Five incident. Zubak punches himself in the chest and gut several times. Someone smashes some items in anger.

Before meeting Elena for the first time, Zubak is heavily drugged to “calm him down.” A palace aid, knowing Zubak’s involvement at Site Five, asks if he’s dangerous. And she’s told that if he is, it’s her problem now. (Later, Zubak vomits just offscreen, seemingly as a result of the medication.)

Folks are rude to Zubak, often whispering “butcher” behind his back and making other references to his reported trigger finger. One woman insults Zubak’s name, and she’s rude to several other people, too.

It’s clear that many of Elena’s staff think she’s a hypochondriac—and they’re not wrong, but that doesn’t justify how they act around her. Although they’re never openly disrespectful, they mock her when she’s not around. Some of them seem to fear her. And we later learn that several have been lying to her and plotting against her. (They’re arrested for their treason.)

Because Elena won the election to become Chancellor, she believes that all of her people love her. She ends every speech with, “I bless you all. And I bless our love, always.” But when it comes to making decisions that would benefit the country, she can’t seem to be bothered. She tells her ministers that the daily briefings need to be “briefer.” And when her fear of mold and disease gets the better of her, she refuses to do any work several weeks as she undergoes unnecessary treatments.

Elena is a bit infatuated with Zubak, and he with her. Upon first meeting him, she tells Zubak she feels as though she’s met him before in a dream, like déjà vu. And later, she inquires if he remembers sharing a dream with her the night prior—which he says he does. And although nothing romantic or sexual transpires onscreen, some of Zubak’s actions from that point (and Elena’s responses) incite the jealousy of Elena’s husband.

Two people flirt, and it’s implied that they have had sex. We learn that Elena’s husband abandoned his first wife and child to be with Elena. We see some nude statues in the palace. A woman’s dress shows some cleavage.

Elena converses with the entombed corpse of her dead father. Many of her actions are narcissistic. She’s detached from her family, calling one of her aids her son’s “mother.” Many people put on a façade around Elena and around foreign diplomats. Elena blames her staff for her own poor choices.

We hear 25 uses of the f-word and four uses of the s-word. We also hear one to two uses each of the c-word, “a–hole,” “b–ch,” “c–k,” “p-ss,” “pr–k,” the British expletive “bloody,” and “puss.” God’s name is abused three times, and Christ’s name is abused once. We hear some crass terms for male and female anatomy.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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