Kate Winslet Gives ‘The Regime’ the Best Sexy Christmas Routine Since ‘Mean Girls’

The Regime is taking a page out of the Succession book in the penultimate episode of the season. Herbert (Matthias Schoenaerts) wants to play bitey with Elena (Kate Winslet). He’s been chomping on her fingers super hard, “almost chewing them off,” in his dreams. The new couple sit with a dream therapist to discuss these odd visions on Christmas day in the palace.

“Biting doesn’t necessarily signify aggression,” the therapist suggests. He’s wired to equate love with pain, and his dreams are a safe space to explore that. To practice a healthier mindset, Herbert should try placing Elena’s hand in his mouth but not bite it, which could create a nonviolent feedback loop in his dreams. Later, as Herbert and Elena have some intimate time—it’s a nightmare to watch these cringey scenes; get me to that dream therapist—Herbert sucks on her fingers, but doesn’t clamp down on them with his teeth. Elena applauds him, as if he were a rescue dog learning not to munch on humans. They’re “two little lunatics who fit like a glove,” Elena says, an apt title for their oddball relationship.

Christmas at the palace is full of chipper music, holly jolly decorations, and the distant sound of bombs coming from a rebellion just a dozen miles away from the palace. Luckily, the explosions are light rumblings, not loud enough to completely distract from the murmurs of “Jingle Bells” on a nearby boombox at the palace. Elena calls for a family photo in front of the tree with young Oskar (Louie Mynett)—whose mother is actually Agnes (Andrea Riseborough)—and Herbert, her bodyguard-turned-live-in boyfriend.

None of the palace staffers are handling this well. The main chef is sleeping under his work station because he can’t make it home, where the rebels are fighting. Elena’s cabinet tries to get through to the chancellor, but it’s no use—she’d rather make out with Herbert in front of everyone than actually listen to the reality of the situation they’re all in. “We are in the throes of the civil war,” one of her staffers warns. She needs to be relocated to a safe house. But Elena resists, and although the cabinet gives her one final warning, Herbert shuts the meeting down by shouting and threatening to turn things violent.

Another palace employee confronts Agnes about how dangerous the country is about to get. Neighboring countries want to help her, specifically, because she’s become what’s known as “the palace ghost”—she has information about Elena that the rest of the world desperately needs to hear to understand what, exactly, is going on in this bizarre European country. An official has two plane tickets to France for her and Oskar to escape, this staffer tells Agnes. She ought to take him up on this offer before it’s too late.

Kate Winslet gives Louie Mynett a bath in a still from 'The Regime'

Louie Mynett and Kate Winslet in “The Regime”

Miya Mizuno/HBO

More of Elena’s allies wave red flags in her face, but she’s not listening. “Off you fuck!” she screams at one, a phrase that is so brilliantly maniacal. Herbert even forces Elena to break up with her own father, insisting that she tell his corpse that she’s done speaking to him forever. As all this happens, the distance of the rebellion from the palace steps shrinks. They’re encroaching on breaking through the doors.

The Christmas festivities begin. Oskar picks the honorary koi fish and names her Elena, later going on a tirade about how he’s worried that “they” (the kitchen) will kill “Elena” (his fish) and serve her to the people in waiting. Herbert, Agnes, Oskar, and Elena watch the pre-recorded Christmas Village Celebration on television, which includes a message from Nicholas (Guillaume Gallienne)—who is absent from the palace, recovering from a bad case of “gout” (being cheated on)—and a dance routine from Elena. Gyrating her hips and donning a sexy Mrs. Claus frock, Elena serenades her turbulent nation with “Santa Baby.” Regina George would be so proud. Later, the dancers present a dead koi fish to the audience. Oskar gapes at the TV in horror. Elena?!

Then it’s time for gifts. Elena is first, she opens Herbert’s gift, which is a giant painting that looks as if someone tried to recreate Kate Winslet in the King of the Hill universe, but used only their feet to do so. Herbert takes all the credit. Elena can’t say if she likes or dislikes it, only that she appreciates it. Herbert is next, unwrapping an expensive gun from Elena, who gives him a big grin. God, they’re awful.

Following the disturbing TV broadcast, Oskar rushes out of the palace—a really dangerous move, at this point—to free Elena the koi fish, who is remarkably still alive. Oskar is really on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Agnes rushes to his side, promising safety and a good future in France. They’ll leave after Christmas wraps up tonight.

Andrea Riseborough stands in a still from 'The Regime'

Andrea Riseborough in “The Regime”

Miya Mizuno/HBO

Meanwhile, some of the main palace staffers meet for Christmas drinks at a bar nearby. (Is this even safe right now? Who knows, but also, who cares! The country is ending. Why not grab a pint?) They have an idea: Elena is known to have manic episodes. Per the nation’s constitution, these outbursts could qualify as unhealthiness, deeming her unfit to lead the nation. They’ll suggest that she should step down, per the constitution, and immediately announce it to the nation, putting an end to the unrest.

At the palace, as the booming noises get louder and louder outside, Herbert and Elena panic when they hear a knock at the door. Herbert cocks his gun. The doors open. He shoots—only for it to be the literal palace security. These are the only people left who are willing to keep Elena safe, and here’s Herbert, greeting them with warning shots. They promise to secure the perimeter, and after they’ve gone, Elena scolds Herbert. Herbert, trying to protect himself, says that these people—the people who are risking their lives to protect the chancellor—actually want her dead, too. A madman!

Elena’s cabinet returns to the palace with their plot to get her removed from office. The nation’s TV channel, which normally broadcasts Vernham propaganda, is infiltrated by the rebellion, who make the newscaster deem that Elena is no longer in control of her country. Elena finally panics: Maybe she should address the rebellion, which is now no more than a mile away from the palace, from her balcony. Good plan, definitely won’t lead to her getting shot in the face. Okay, no, she won’t do that—but what if she broadcasts an announcement to make them stop? No, again, they don’t really want to communicate with her, they just want her dead.

Her last option, Elena listens to the cabinet, is to simply step down. She has an epiphany: Yes, she’ll step down, and the new role will be given to Herbert. The cabinet is nonplussed, but this would maybe end the riots, seeing as Herbert is from Westgate—where most of the protesters are coming from—and not as wealthy as Elena. They’ll present this address live on social media. But as Elena gets to the big moment where she’ll announce she’s stepping down, she stammers, unable to admit defeat. Right as she does so, the protesters finally arrive at the palace, storming in, guns a-blazing.

It’s happening. It’s all happening. Herbert rushes Elena to an elevator, hoping to get her to the palace helipad and the hell out of here. They get stuck in the elevator—a fairly safe place to be, all things considered—when the power goes out. Using brute force, Herbert rips the elevator doors open and climbs the stairs with Elena, using his jacket as a shield (from…bullets?) for her. They make it to the helicopter, which is full of Elena’s staffers. Maybe she’ll make it out!

Nope. They wave goodbye to her and take off before she can rush to the door. They hate her. Everyone does. Herbert is her only hope.

Kate Winslet sits at a desk in a still from 'The Regime'

Kate Winslet sits at a desk in “The Regime”

Miya Mizuno/HBO

The protesters push Elena’s dead father out of the palace, his corpse shattering as it hits the ground full of flames and gunfire. In a tragic moment, Agnes is shot and killed as she attempts to rescue Oskar from a nearby room. So much for that big escape.

We end on a terrified Elena, who is still trying to use Herbert to escape. There’s no way to predict what could happen in this final episode—will Elena live? That’s one question, but the greater one would be: What the hell is she going to do to fix this completely ruinous country?

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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