When Bloodlines Blur (Series Review: “The Romanoffs”)


A mostly effervescent anthology series that poses the archetypal question, ‘what if there was a sole survivor in the Romanov massacre?’ If the answer is YES, what would the Russian royal bloodline’s transmogrification look like in a modern-day setting?

SnapShot Plot

The highly anticipated 8-part series from the creator of Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner, The Romanoffs is bringing an old fashioned screening pace to Amazon Prime, dropping just one new episode each Friday until the last one airs on November 23rd. It’s a scintillating exploration into the lives of characters who hail from different shores and who – from one independent episode to the next – have nothing to do with each other except for one illusive question mark that dangles in the ether like a glittering Faberge egg. They may or may not be descendants of the long line of Russian Tsars: The Romanov Family. The history books have it that the entire (gorgeous) family was massacred at gunpoint by the Bolsheviks, shortly after Russia’s “Mad Monk” and family confidant, Rasputin was himself murdered in 1916. But the mystery has remained as to whether one of the Romanov daughters may have escaped her executioners. It’s from that premise that countless fictionalized books and movies have been created.

In The Romanoffs, each distinct episode runs like a short movie with stories that span the gamut from an adulterous affair that turns comically murderous to an aristocratic Parisian dowager whose bigoted attitude about immigrants is put to the test, as well as a bizarre film production in Austria doing a Romanov re-enactment in which there may or not be ghosts running amok and a director whose grip on reality is tenuous at best. This is just a taste of the series, which so far has been slightly uneven but always deliciously so, and easily addictive.



Parting Shot

The Romanoffs is so far an extremely watchable and delightful series, due in no small part to the acerbic writing and actor-driven direction by Matthew Weiner. The enormous and diverse international cast shines with talent: Isabelle Huppert, Aaron Eckhart, Diane Lane, Amanda Peet, Radha Mitchell, Noah Wyle, Marthe Keller, Griffin Dunne, John Slattery, and the list goes on. Speaking of Marthe Keller. . . her portrayal of the Parisian doyenne, Anushka in the pilot episode, “The Violet Hour” is as close to perfect as anything I’ve seen. And to think, what most audiences will recall of her career is the minor role she played across from Dustin Hoffman in the 70s thriller, Marathon Man. What a catch to see her here.

Even when the story-lines verge on the edge of the preposterous, there’s something marvelous and mesmerizing about The Romanoffs. Maybe it’s the Weiner touch or the flirting soundtrack, or the gorgeous cinematography by Chris Manley which presents as a love letter to Paris, New York, the California coast and the European countryside. Or maybe it’s how this series takes the surviving bloodline trope and turns it on its side, showing the ‘descendants’ for who they really are as well as who they’re pretending to be, with a nod and a wink to the camera.

The Romanoffs is presently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Below: a portrait of the Romanov family, circa 1910:


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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUhQxSyTqJs

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