The Country’s History & How Elena Won Her Chancellorship
8 mins read

The Country’s History & How Elena Won Her Chancellorship

Warning: Major spoilers for The Regime episode 1 “Victory Day” below!




  • “Victory Day” marks the anniversary of Elena winning her Chancellorship in The Regime’s unnamed nation.
  • The show gives a limited view of the country, so it’s unknown how the people feel about The Chancellor.
  • Elena comes from a powerful political family and fears dying from the lung condition that killed her father.

When The Regime opens, the unnamed nation it takes place in is celebrating “Victory Day,” which ties into Chancellor Vernham’s rise to power. Kate Winslet’s biting new political satire is her third HBO miniseries, and The Regime casts Winslet as Elena Vernham, the head of an authoritarian regime. On the surface, Winslet’s Chancellor projects calm and grace, but behind the scenes she has no real vision for her country’s future. Elena is also afraid of mold and toxic air, following her father’s death from a lung condition.

The Regime never names the country it takes place in or gives a good look at its people. Instead, it’s largely focused on Elena, her cabinet and the strange bond that grows between her and new bodyguard Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts). Despite being reviled for his part in shooting a group of protestors, Elena gives Herbert a shot at redemption and he becomes her new right hand. It’s through Herbert’s eyes that viewers see the dysfunction at the heart of The Chancellor’s cabinet as they get ready to celebrate “Victory Day.”

“Victory Day” Celebrates The Day That Elena Won Her Chancellorship 7 Years Ago

“V Day” is really about celebrating Chancellor Elena herself

Kate Winslet Chancellor sitting on a throne with a tiger mural in The Regime

Very little is revealed about the country The Regime is set in during episode one since the bulk of the story takes place in Elena’s palace. It’s known the nation has cobalt mines and sugar beets as a crop, but the focus is very much on the titular regime.

A key sequence sees The Chancellor attending a huge celebration, which reveals that “Victory Day” marks the seven-year anniversary of Elena winning her chancellorship over her predecessor, Edward Keplinger (Hugh Grant).

Elena was a former physician, who so inspired the apparently downtrodden country that she easily won her campaign. Again, The Regime’s first episode gives a limited view of the country itself, so it’s difficult to know how the people themselves view her. What’s known is the economy is in bad shape, with Elena’s cabinet pushing her into a cobalt mining deal with America. Instead of concern about growing the economy, The Chancellor is worried about “looking weak” in the eyes of the world by letting another country mine their resources.

While Elena may have glided to victory years before The Regime began, there are signs the nation and her own government are growing weary of her. While visiting her father’s mausoleum, Elena basically admits “Victory Day” is an excuse to throw a party in her honor, which includes performing a wince-inducing cover of “If You Leave Me Now” to a crowd forced to give her off-key rendition a standing ovation.

Elena Reveals She Was Elected Into Her Office With A “Free” Democratic Political System

The show is called The Regime for a reason

kate winslet and matthias schoenaerts walking out of a briefing room in the regime

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Portraits of Elena are seen plastered throughout her palace, and she gives regular televised addresses to the nation. The Site Five massacre, where a group of Elena’s soldiers shot dead a group of protesting miners is all over the news, with the mining company CEO being particularly unimpressed by how that will play in America. There are also little to no signs of opposing political parties to Elena’s rule, but despite all of the above, Elena claims to have been elected by a democratic political system.

The Regime isn’t subtle with its satire, so this claim is plainly ridiculous. She doesn’t appear to rule the country with an iron fist, but Elena demands unquestioning loyalty from her subjects and hates having her authority questioned. For Elena, appearances are paramount; this is best displayed when she slaps and berates Zubak for measuring the humidity in the air in front of her American guests. The Chancellor states this made her look ridiculous – mere moments after her embarrassing musical performance.

From shutting down protests to making sure “Victory Day” is centered around celebrating her achievements, Elena has little interest in being democratic. The ending of episode 1 implies worse is to come too; Herbert is acting as her advisor, she has arrested figures in her cabinet for “conspiring” to have her assassinated and she’s doubling down on isolationist policies.

Who Was Edward Keplinger? The Former Chancellor & His “Radicals” Explained

Hugh Grant’s Regime character has yet to appear

Hugh Grant sitting in The Regime.

The Regime also cast Hugh Grant as former Chancellor Edward Keplinger, who was deposed by Elena years prior. Sadly, Grant didn’t make an appearance in the first episode, though Keplinger is mentioned during a speech by businessman Emil Bartos (Stanley Townsend) while toasting Elena. Bartos decries Keplinger as “a rat” and that his band of “neo-Marxist thieves” left the nation feeling hopeless during his reign.

The Regime
reunites Kate Winslet with
Sense and Sensibility
co-star Hugh Grant after nearly 30 years.

This is when Elena Vernham rose to power, and apparently righted the ship. In a throwaway line, Bartos also reveals Keplinger is in his country home, where he “still licks his wounds.” Of course, there’s undoubtedly more to the story of Keplinger’s ousting than Bartos has revealed; it wouldn’t be a surprise if the former Chancellor is confined in his home under Elena’s orders. When her grip on power begins to slip in future episodes, Vernham might reach out to her former rival for some advice.

The Regime Episode 1 Suggests Elena Comes From A Powerful Political Family

Elena’s “Victory Day” visit to her father offers further backstory

Before attending the “Victory Day” dinner, Elena stops off by her father’s Joseph’s grave to lay some flowers. Joseph passed away a year before The Regime’s first episode, with The Chancellor fearing she will die of the same lung condition that killed him. It’s clear she has complicated feelings towards her father; there’s respect and a sense of mourning, but she nevertheless feels the need to humblebrag that she is more powerful than he ever was.


When The Regime’s Finale Releases & How Many Episodes There Are

The Kate Winslet-starring HBO political satire miniseries The Regime has debuted its first episode, with several more to go before the finale arrives.

Her husband Nicholas (Guillaume Gallienne) reveals later in the episode that he met Elena while she was studying in Paris, but she later returned home to head up her political party. This suggests, alongside the hints she drops while speaking to her father, that Elena comes from a political family herself. This would explain why she gloats about becoming Chancellor while Joseph never got near it.

Coming from a famous political family would have been a major plus to Elena’s campaign. Despite some frostiness while visiting the mausoleum, she does appear to genuinely miss her father and relates to Herbert when he reveals he’s lost both his parents.

New episodes of

The Regime

release Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and Max.

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

The Regime temp series poster

The Regime

The Regime is an HBO/Max mini-series that takes place over the course of one year and follows a failing dictator as her fictional empire begins to crumble around her. The show will see the beginning of the end of the dictatorship and the challenges that the Chancellor faces to keep her unsustainable rule afloat.

Release Date
March 3, 2024


Streaming Service(s)

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