‘The Regime’ Review: She Will Make You Love Her

Of all the recent reboots of 20th-century franchises, among the hottest and most terrifying is populist authoritarianism. It is playing in revival halls on multiple continents, drawing a wide range of performers and cultivating a rabid fan base.

History may be repeating in real life as tragedy. But HBO’s lightly-yet-darkly entertaining “The Regime,” a six-episode series beginning on Sunday, plays it as full-on farce.

“The Regime,” written by Will Tracy (“The Menu,” “Succession”), deposits us in a palace somewhere in “Middle Europe.” Chancellor Elena Vernham (Kate Winslet), who rules her small country through surveillance, violence and telegenic charisma, has developed the debilitating fear that the residence is infested with deadly mold spores.

Whether the mold is real is immaterial; her retinue of advisers, oligarchs and sundry quacks must behave like it is. And the fear underlying Elena’s paranoia is clear. Seven years after taking power in the “free and fair election” that ousted her left-leaning predecessor (Hugh Grant), she senses that her kleptocratic state is rotting from within.

Her deliverance arrives in the form of Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a soldier reassigned to palace duties after putting down a workers’ protest a touch too enthusiastically. (The press nicknames him “The Butcher.”)

Herbert becomes Elena’s mold man, shadowing her with a hydrometer to measure the humidity of her surroundings. “If she smells mold, you smell it too,” instructs Agnes (Andrea Riseborough), Elena’s mordant, put-upon aide.

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