Amazon drops the anticipated The Romanoffs series today on the streaming service. Let us tell you, spoiler free, why this is a must-watch series.
It’s hard to follow a hat trick like the series Mad Men. That effort was and is so profoundly loved and critically blathered over that anything showrunner Matthew Weiner could have followed with will be compared, putting even more pressure on Weiner to produce something extraordinary.
His new anthology series, The Romanoffs, is uneven to be sure, but do not let that dissuade you from watching. The unique vignette and stand-alone stories are compelling, as each one is a twist of a yarn about a Romanoff descendant. And that is the charm of it.
Uneven in that the three episodes sent for review were bookended in keeping interest, the first and last of the episodes being quite memorable, the second one, less so. Not for lack of good acting, but just plausibility, weakness and overall execution in the story itself.
The concepts that Mr. Weiner is exploring are quite broad. The stories are clever plays on marriage, capturing happiness in adulthood, class divisions, inherent bigotry, the importance (or not) of family history, and the veiled historical prominence and betrayals the titular Russian royals actually lived.
Using absolutely gorgeous locales across Europe and Asia, Weiner and his cast in each of the three shorts visually command us to watch, but only the first and the last resonated with evocative storytelling. The second episode starring Corey Stoll as a Romanoff descendant stuck in an unhappy marriage was thin and quite frankly boring at times.
Despite that weak episode, please stay with it.
The third starring Christina Hendricks is a borderline horror film where a big star is sent on location, and through a series of events is haunted and terrified by the ghosts of Romanoff past. She is marvelous in this role as is Isabelle Huppert, a lioness of French cinema who plays her director and antagonist.
Another standout performance is turned in by episode one’s Inès Melab.
She plays Hajar, the Muslim maid who is also studying to be a nurse. She is dismissed and insulted by Romanoff heiress Anastasia Le Charnay, played to perfection by Marthe Keller. Anastasia is obsessed with continuing the Romanoff bloodline.
“Take your bombs and go home” is one of the many insults she hurls at Hajar, hired by her American nephew (Aaron Eckhart).
Ironically, Hajar turns the other cheek and uses classically Christian principles in dealing with this difficult client, winning a spot in her heart in a most unusual way.
It is a heartwarmingly delightful episode that almost feels like a modern day fairy tale. Plus, you will want to move to Paris immediately.
No spoilers, just know that this is not Mad Men and that each 90-minute episode is a stand-alone story and worth your time to explore.
Three episodes were sent to Monsters and Critics for review: The Violet Hour starring Marthe Keller, Aaron Eckhart and Inès Melab, The Royal We starring Corey Stoll, House of Special Purpose starring Christina Hendricks, Paul Reiser, Jack Huston, Isabelle Huppert.
The Romanoffs begins today, Friday, October 12 on Amazon.