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The Regime: Episode 5 Review

Kate Winslet sits behind her desk in season 1 episode 5 of The Regime

Heading towards its season finale, The Regime heightens its stakes more than ever in episode 5. But does it really work?

After a successful episode last week, I was hoping this week’s episode, and the entire second half of the show, would follow suit and surprise ma once again. Instead, episode 5 of The Regime seems to have forgotten what it does best, heavily focusing once again on life at the palace rather than everything that is happening in the country the Chancellor is meant to look after, which now feels repetitive and seen way too many times before.

Episode 5 of The Regime shows us what Christmas looks like at the palace, full of celebrations, expensive dinners, and political at every turn. Elsewhere, this episode portrays a moment of crisis as the rebellion against Chancellor Elena Vernham (Kate Winslet, of Mare of Easttown) is getting closer and closer to the palace. Herbert Zuback (Matthias Schoenaerts, of A Bigger Splash) is back in the Chancellor’s graces and attempts to protect her from the political unrest that is coming. Amongst the chaos, Elena’s right-hand woman, Agnes (Andrea Riseborough, of To Leslie) faces a difficult choice as she is offer the chance to betray the Chancellor and seek a new life for herself and her son outside of the country.

Episode 5 should have been the most interesting one so far, with a rebellion that is about to reach the palace at any given minute and Elena’s life is now in danger more than ever. And yet, it does not seem like it: The Regime once again fails in delivering its stakes. The importance of the rebellion approaching is only convey to us by characters telling us about it, which is constantly dismissed by Elena. However, the audience never sees it for themselves until the very end, making it particularly complicated to understand the urgency of the situation.

Matthias Schoenaerts and Kate Winslet run down a corridor in episode 5 of The Regime
Matthias Schoenaerts and Kate Winslet in season 1 episode 5 of The Regime (Miya Mizuno/HBO)

The Regime chooses to focus exclusively on Elena and life at the palace once again in episode 5. This would have worked if the opulence of Elena’s Christmas celebrations was juxtaposed with the conflict and poverty in the country, but the latter is only spoken about and never actually visually contrasted to everything that we see in Elena’s life. Only at the end, do we get to see a glimpse of everything the show has not been showing us. With incredible shots of a red-lit palace with Christmas ornaments and chandeliers broken on the floor as armed rebels take over and chaos spreads, I loved seeing the rebellion finally take place, except we only see very little of it.

Elena also seems incredibly weak as a character, especially in episode 5. Instead of exploring her psyche more, the character becomes more and more stereotypical as The Regime goes on. By portraying her exclusively as a crazy, delusional and incoherent woman, the show underplays the horror that such an authoritarian leader might actually cause. This is because the reality is that people like Elena exist in our politics today, but they are a lot more calculating and ruthless than the Chancellor of this country is portrayed as. Similarly, I find it odd how the show keeps heavily emphasising Elena’s sexual relations, especially when this does not benefit neither the plot nor her character development: would this have happened if the show had focused on a male leader instead?

In episode 5, The Regime quite literally forgets about its most interesting characters. Elena’s husband Nicholas Vernham (Guillaume Gallienne, of Marie Antoinette) and her political opponent Edward Keplinger (Hugh Grant, of Wonka) both almost entirely disappear in this episode, which is a shame as they are the most fascinating characters to watch on screen, especially as they oppose Elena in their way. Of course, in this episode, Elena’s counterpart is Herbert, just as in previous episodes of the show. But now that he is back on the Chancellor’s side, his character arc feels a lot less interesting to watch compared to when we were not sure where his loyalties laid.

Agnes’ storyline has been completely misused in The Regime, especially in episode 5 where she could have had a much bigger role. Agnes’ part in this episode could have been a lot more interesting if the show decided to explore the internal struggle between protecting her son and being loyal to her Chancellor, which was only suggested in this episode. For a character that had so many stakes in the plot of this episode, and the show overall, I had hoped this would finally be the episode in which we saw more of Agnes as this would have added a very interesting dimension to the show.

This episode is far too slow, especially considering that it is the one before the very last episode of the season and should, therefore, set up the show’s grand finale. The Regime needs a big change especially in terms of storytelling if it wants to deliver a successful season finale next week. But the show has the potential to do so with its magnetic acting performances and its excellent premise that, in episode 5, felt very much undelivered. Will it get better next week? One can hope, but The Regime’s track record may beg to differ.

Episode of The Regime are now available to watch on Max.

The Regime: Series Finale Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
With its final episode, HBO series The Regime concludes the narrative act of its characters this week, but is it a fitting season finale?
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