'The Regime' review: Kate Winslet becomes an outrageous, delusional leader

The "Mare of Easttown" star takes command of the complex, comedic role in the HBO show, alongside Matthias Schoenaerts

Mare of Easttown star, Kate Winslet, takes on political satire as an authoritarian leader of a central European country in the new HBO limited series The Regime, with Matthias Schoenaerts.

The Regime release date: March 3 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT
Where to watch The Regime: On Crave in Canada, HBO and Max in the U.S.
Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Andrea Riseborough, Guillaume Gallienne, Martha Plimpton, Hugh Grant
Showrunner: Will Tracy
Number of episodes: 6

Watch The Regime on Crave

Kate Winslet in HBO's The Regime (Miya Mizuno/HBO)
Kate Winslet in HBO's The Regime (Miya Mizuno/HBO)

What is 'The Regime' about?

Winslet plays Elena Vernham, the Chancellor of a nation in "Middle Europe."

All of the political decisions are made inside Vernham's palace, with a group of advisors operating from a briefing room, think the Dr. Strangelove war room.

At the beginning of the series we find out that Vernham is an incredibly paranoid woman, a germaphobe who is specifically obsessive about there being mould in the palace.

When addressing the public, Vernham has a calm disposition, speaking about the love she has for the people of her nation, but when the cameras are off she's concerned about breathing in other people's breaths, giving odd requests to the staff in a stern manner, including palace manager Agnes (Andrea Riseborough), and Vernham's husband Nicky (Guillaume Gallienne).

Vernham hires Herbert Zubak (Schoenaerts) to work at the palace, a solider dubbed the "butcher" after his regiment shot protesters at a cobalt mine, called Site 5. His core task is to use a device to monitor the moisture level in each room of the palace as Vernham walks through each space.

But the longer he spends with the Chancellor, Zubak begins to understand power, and starts to be able to influence Vernham, both personally and politically.

Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts in The Regime (Miya Mizuno/HBO)
Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts in The Regime (Miya Mizuno/HBO)

Kate Winslet finds the balance between the bizarre and the emotional

Much of the success of The Regime rest on Winslet. Admittedly, we're not confident many actors would be able to navigate the ebbs and flows between bizarre and outrageous comedic choices in Vernham's paranoia, harsh emotional moments, and Vernham's desire to just be loved, and maybe being delusional in her thoughts that the people of her country do love her.

From singing Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now," very off-key, to hurling biting insults, and the great lengths Vernham will go to address her perceived health issues, Winslet takes command of the screen in all those moments with equal strength and complexity. There's something particularly appealing when an actor is able to transport you into a world where you're truly not quite sure what her character will do next.

But it's the storyline outside of Winslet's performance that feels lacking. Both Andrea Riseborough and Schoenaerts' characters feel underserved, that there was room to learn more about them. There's an ambiguity with the rest of the characters that feels more like we're missing a piece of the puzzle than creating curiosity.

With that comes of sense of confusion at times in The Regime, where the connective tissue in the narrative is lost. Things are purposefully vague in this fictional world, but perhaps some more specifics would have made it series to feel invested in, particularly when it comes to Vernham's political decisions and the political commentary you'd expect from the show.

Despite that, Winslet still carries an impressive performance to keep you engaged throughout the six episodes. You'll want to watch just to see Winslet's transformation into Vernham, even if you're not in love with the plot.