The Regime Episode 1: Created by Will Tracy, “The Regime” is a new HBO miniseries streaming on MAX. It is a political satire set in a fictional world, which follows Chancellor Elena Vernham, who starts behaving erratically as her authoritarian regime starts to crumble. While staying confined in her lavish palace, she confides in a soldier – Herbert Zubak. Their complicated relationship furthers a gradual downfall, both for her and the region she is in charge of.

The central cast of “The Regime” includes Kate Winslet, Andrea Riseborough, Matthias Schoenaerts, Martha Plimpton, and Hugh Grant. The showrunner Will Stacy is the writer whereas Steve Frears and Jessica Hobbs serve as the episode directors.

Spoilers ahead. 

The Regime Episode 1 Recap:

What happens in The Regime Episode 1?

Episode 1 of HBO’s “The Regime” begins on a strangely comedic note. Somewhere in the middle Europe, we see the gates open up to a palace. A couple of cars enter its premises. Inside, palace manager Agnes (played by Andrea Riseborough) reads a news piece about a violent situation. Titled as the ‘Butchers of Site Five,’ it talks about victims’ families decrying violence. Moments later, some soldiers bring a man out of their car. The man, Herbert Zubak (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) is a recently-disgraced soldier, who is injected with some drugs to calm him down.

Agnes worries Herbert to not cause any danger to her employer. Nevertheless, as per her duty, she guides him through the insides of the palace. He sees some workers sanitizing it. Eventually, he meets two ministers working for the Chancellor of their Central European autocracy. They question him about his understanding of the Chancellor’s ailment. Being under the influence of drugs, he remains clueless. He looks like a fish out of his pond. Anyhow, even in that state, they walk him to meet Chancellor Elena Vernahm (played by Kate Winslet). She then explains the reason why he is chosen for a particular job.

Why does Elena bring Herbert to her palace?

Elena reveals that Herbert is brought in because he is a ‘site five boy.’ Earlier, locals from the Site Five mine protested against Elena’s policies. Herbert was one of the soldiers who were sent to silence them. So, the locals called them the ‘butchers.’ In the present, Elena tells Herbert to use a hygrometer to measure humidity in the air. He is supposed to join her everywhere she goes and check if there is a mould anywhere nearby. Herbert still remains as confused as ever. Eventually, Agnes brings him to his room. He reads the letter Elena gave, which says – ‘See you in my dreams?’.

In the news, Herbert sees Elena speak about her victory against a radical chancellor. The next morning, he receives a call to get ready in 20 minutes to head for work. While walking him out, Agnes guides him on etiquettes to follow as a part of Elena’s strict health precautions. Eventually, he meets Elena and ensures that she remains safe. Her associate guides her on the bureaucratic matters – that require her to act upon their cobalt partnership deal with the U.S. In the wake of the Site Five conflicts, it is more important for her regime’s image.

What is the regime’s Cobalt Deal with the U.S. about?

Herbert stays bewildered on his first day of work in Elena’s palace. The ministry discusses the issues with their regime. Elena soon joins them and gets congratulated for her recent victory. The ministers tell her about Richard Kaiser, a CEO from Texas, who is going to join her for dinner. They want the deal to go through well because the regime is in dire need of a significant financial investment. Susan Goin (played by Pippa Haywood) – the Minister of Finance mentions that it will help in maintaining her safety. However, unlike them, Elena does not find it urgent – or at least pretends not to.

regime episode 1
A still from “Regime” Episode 1 starring Kate Winslet as Elena Vernham.

With Herbert, she walks back to see her father’s corpse. She speaks with him as if he is still alive. Later, her personal physician – Dr Kershaw (played by Kenneth Collard), checks her health condition. He tries to keep her optimistic but fails. While trying to stay mentally stable, she prepares for an upcoming event. Meanwhile, her husband – Nicholas Vernham (played by Guillaume Gallienne), gets interviewed about the regime’s misuse of sources to surveil the local population. He diverts the interviewer’s attention from the mine-related tragedy to the NGO he runs. It clearly looks like his way to whitewash their tainted image.

What happens during the regime’s victory event?

The regime’s ministers try to cover up the severity of the recent conflict. One of the guests tries to pry information out of Herbert – claiming that the miners were not rioting, but only raised their voices because they were fed up with the poisoned air and the dirty water. Herbert maintains silence. Eventually, Elena gets up on the stage and begins her singing performance. In the end, she receives a thunderous applause. Then, she joins Richard Kaiser and his wife for dinner. Suddenly, Herbert stops Richard from shaking her hands, as per the safety protocol. Elena stops Herbert from interrupting them any further.

During their further conversation, Nicholas reveals that he and Elena met in the medical school in Paris. Elena was formerly a physician. She persuaded him to leave his previous family and wed her to help her with her political campaign. In the middle of this dialogue, Elena suddenly leaves the table and brings Herbert to a back room. Then, she repeatedly slaps him for making her look like an unstable individual. It seems like a sign of misplaced anger. But Herbert does not stop or oppose her. Eventually, she returns to the table.

The Regime Episode 1 Ending Explained:

What happens to the regime’s Cobalt Deal with the U.S.?

At the dinner table, Elena suggests Mr Kaiser fund the pits and the refineries at their cobalt mines. Richard accepts the partnership deal under the condition that he gets a 30% stake in mining rights along with an assurance to go up to 51% as a part of a proper deal structure. Elena understands that it would mean she will have to ask Richard’s permission to make use of the mines in the future. We do not hear her response to it. After the event, Elena suddenly demotes him, to stay away from her, and to do his purity-checking job only during the night. He gets angry at himself that he let his situation reach this drastic stage.

What happens to Herbert and Elena’s relationship?

During his rounds, Richard peeps into her room to see a bearded man on her bed. He suddenly takes it upon himself to protect her. After beating the man almost to death, he carries her to the physician’s chair. She worries for her own health since ‘she breathed him.’ This moment proves significant for her bond with Herbert. He stops her from getting killed, which makes him an inseparable part of her life. While she gets increasingly unstable and overly suspicious, he becomes her close confidant – to the point he controls Nicholas’ access to her.

Nicholas reminds Elena of her fearless, past self. Still, she remains extremely cautious and keeps herself at a distance from everyone besides Herbert. Soon after, Susan tells her that the intruder was a former miner. To protect Elena from similar security breaches, she reveals that the renovation work needs to be put on hold. So, she and Dr Kershaw suggest Elena move to another location in the countryside. Elena does not offer any response right away. Once they both are gone, she asks Herbert – a nobody as per her definition – to guide her on her next steps.

What does Herbert advise Elena to do?

He tries to persuade her to crush anyone who makes her weak. We see a change in their dynamic – where he suddenly becomes her mentor while still being her bodyguard of sorts. In the end, she backstabs her own ministers by throwing them out of her palace and her ministry. She calls them to be a part of the assassination attempt on her. Then, she issues an executive order to repay their debts while refusing to shake hands with the U.S.

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The Regime Episode 1 Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
The Regime Episode 1 Cast: Kate Winslet, Andrea Riseborough, Matthias Schoenaerts, Hugh Grant, Martha Plimpton, Guillaume Gallienne
Where to watch The Regime

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