The Regime’ Pilot Review (Spoiler Free)

HBO’s new show, The Regime, used its pilot to make sure you knew just one thing: women can be  narcissistic, irredeemable, power-obsessed, cruel a-holes, too!

If you’re wondering if that’s an anti-feminist take, let me reassure you: I’m a woman and a passionate feminist, and on our weekly global women call (you didn’t know we do those?), we voted that it was okay. Women can excel at all the same negative traits a man can. Yay feminism! 

If The Regime existed in a truly post-feminism world, I would have known for sure I was being talked down to. The writers make sure to check off every trait on an exhaustive “bad person” checklist to establish Chancellor Elaina’s profile. After showing she is cold, they show she lacks empathy, then show she is unkind to her household staff…and on and on and on. If you’re wondering how the former traits can be distinguished from one another, you’re in good company. Many scenes feels like they’d rather underline the sentence “This is a Bad Person” than convey additional information.

But we don’t live in a post-feminism world. Most female villains I can recall seeing in media are traumatized victims, separated from society, hardened by their childhoods, and all too often sexually and physically abused. In media, men are often portrayed as violent, dominant, and without any sophistication by their “true nature”, whereas women are flawless, beautiful, and submissive, and only corrupted by outside influences – and by the way, that “patriarchies hurt men, too” stuff we won’t shut up about? This is one of those things. The Regime’s pilot strives to communicate that this powerful woman sucks, and that I don’t need to know how she got this way before deciding she’s not a good person. 

I respect how they make sure to “show, don’t tell” me about who she is, but their overinvestment shows and the story struggles for it. They have the rest of the series to cement that impression. Why spend so much time doing it now? Why not introduce more story elements, nuances of side characters, or show me something about what she wants? I want to believe you know what you’re doing, HBO, but I’m sideeyeing you hard.

Kate Winslet’s masterful portrayal of Chancellor Elaina leaves me thinking often about this compelling, interesting, and thoroughly unlikeable woman. She is strong, but often blind to her weaknesses, like most people who are intolerant of criticism. The Regime doesn’t have me completely sold on the show’s merit. Investing in showing the many, many negative traits of the Chancellor means there wasn’t much time left to set up the story. But will I tune in for the second episode? Absolutely. 

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