‘The Regime’ Episode 2 Recap & Ending Explained: Why Does Elena Decide To Intimidate Judith Holt?

Well, what do you know? The unstable queen sitting on an even more unstable throne seems to have taken a liking to the disgraced corporal after all. But I guess that was always what HBO’s political satire The Regime meant to keep at the center of all the unpredictability. Even though it’s rather straightforward how Chancellor Elena Vernham and Corporal Herbert Zubak have this mutually destructive dynamic, you never really know who’s the devil on whose shoulder. 


Spoilers Ahead

How Does Zubak Change The Landscape Of Elena’s Palace?

Who would’ve thought that Elena’s mycophobia would have such a simple cure? Bowls of steaming spuds have apparently brought forth a detoxifying effect on the odd Chancellor’s body and mind. Although I doubt if I’d call Zubak an expert on country medicine, Elena certainly seems to reap enough benefits from it to reject Western medicine altogether. In fact, Zubak’s influence on her is such that the former brilliant physician has started calling Western medication “poison”—the poison Zubak seems to rid her body of as he lovingly feeds her some black radish and slaps mustard on her chest. Agnes evidently doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for it, seeing as Elena is strongly opposed to little Oskar getting the medication he needs for his epilepsy. But as long as Agnes doesn’t have to cater to Elena’s unreasonable needs born out of her fear of mold and microbes, she’s grateful to Zubak. 


How Is Elena’s Anti-American Statement Affecting Her Image?

Judging by her growing popularity, Elena’s subjects seem to harbor the same sentiments about America as her. But approval from the “nobodies” isn’t everything, as is evident from the chaos that’s reached the White House and now threatens Elena’s position in the bigger political scenario. Just about three weeks ago, Elena couldn’t care less about the sugar beet festival. But now that the country girl in her has awakened thanks to Zubak, she’s way more excited about showing off the first crop than discussing business with Emil Bartos. Seeing as he’s the one who stands to lose the most financially if the cobalt deal doesn’t go through, he’d rather Elena recognize just how insignificant her position is in the bigger picture. But the looks exchanged between the Chancellor and Zubak say that Elena isn’t too keen on feeling like a pest that’s easy for an all-powerful imperialistic force to crush. 

Why Is The Holding Company Looking For Dirt On Zubak?

The adverse effect of Zubak’s closeness with Elena isn’t just felt by the staff and Nicky, who now has to wonder if all the fun his wife’s been having with Zubak is purely platonic. Mr. Laskin and Mr. Schiff are especially concerned about the Chancellor’s new infatuation and just how big of a mess they’re going to have to clean up once she moves on. So, naturally, the holding company and Elena’s long-suffering husband, who’s been waiting to get some intimacy from her for over a year, have all joined hands to bring the “gorilla” down. It really doesn’t come as a surprise that Mr. Laskin didn’t have to break a sweat to unearth some truly unsavory stuff on Zubak. The “Butcher of Site Five,” who took out 12 miners, also happens to have a violent streak that started in his childhood. The most gruesome form of it was first felt by his mother when he was just 14, and his untamable rage turned her face black and blue. Now, they all know that Elena isn’t quite the picture of emotional stability and would likely only be drawn to Zubak further if these findings fall in her lap. So they have to get a little creative. Luckily, Laskin has eyes and ears everywhere. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Agnes has been feeding reassuring lies to Elena about the effectiveness of Zubak’s “country medicine” and sneakily giving Oskar his epilepsy medication. Agnes is kind by nature, so much so that when she looks at Zubak, she doesn’t see a man who’s beyond redemption. Taking care of him isn’t included in her long list of chores to do, but she still finds it cruel to leave his self-harm wounds unattended when he wakes up from one of his “spicy” dreams about Elena. If Laskin didn’t have such dooming leverage on her, something that could put her child’s life at risk, she probably wouldn’t have helped them bug Zubak’s room with a camera. But they have no other way to find something about him that could turn Elena against him for good. 


Why Does Elena Decide To Intimidate Judith Holt?

While the country that Elena runs with her extremist, undeniably fascist approach is never really named in The Regime, we can speculate that it’s a region that has been torn up by civil war. We’re not entirely sure if the Chancellor seeks to reunite with this certain Faban Corridor, but she certainly doesn’t want to be under America’s thumb and wants to rule the country as she sees fit. Being the authoritative narcissist that she is, Elena doesn’t see why the American president himself wouldn’t show up at her doorstep to mend the alliance that her recent outburst has shaken up. She isn’t exactly over the moon that America wants to wrap it up by sending Judith Holt, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But she plays nice. It’s only when Judith makes her feel like she should be indebted to America for throwing scraps her needy country’s way that Elena’s ego is further bruised. After that, no direct line to the President or an offer to become a NATO member could hold Elena back from cutting Judith down to size. It’s when she returns the “favor” by reminding Judith that her country has aided America in both reasonable and absolutely unreasonable ways that Judith knows that Elena isn’t keen on playing ball. Elena’s country has given more than enough for this very one-sided alliance that only seems to favor America. It’s at this point that The Regime gets a little interesting and asks us to wonder if there really is a telepathic bond between Elena and Zubak. All those freakish shared dreams and everything aside, it’s weird that Elena and Zubak just need to share a glance to know what the other one is thinking. Zubak didn’t even need so much as a nod or a whisper to know that Elena wanted to scare the bejeesus out of Judith. He’s immediately on board with the intimidation strategy as Elena, under the pretense of giving Judith a tour, isolates her and locks her in a room. Judith does get away in one piece, but this certainly marks the end of America’s diplomatic approach to fixing their pact with Elena’s country. 

What’s The Fake Story About Zubak’s Lineage?

If there’s one thing predictable about Elena, it is her characteristic extremism. Once she starts something, she has to see it all the way through. And that would’ve been fine if she wasn’t the Chancellor of her country and her decisions didn’t affect the very future of her people. But Elena, caught up in her delusions about how much is actually in her control, tends to go to extreme lengths without much thought about what she’d do once she’s done severing all ties with her allies. Now that Senator Holt has been sent back humiliated and terrified, it’s time for Bartos to pay for favoring America and dismissing Elena’s imaginary self-sufficiency. And boy, does he get taken for a ride! He was probably expecting to talk some sense into Elena when she called for a meeting. He didn’t think that he’d be knocked off his pedestal in front of the international media in an unprecedented press conference. The risk of associating with Elena is that once you’re off her good books, you won’t just be taken down a peg; you’ll be destroyed. And that’s what happens to billionaire Emil Bartos as he is forced to apologize for his long list of crimes (once sanctioned by Elena herself) and is made to stack chairs on television. 


As one of them falls, there’s no keeping the rest from imagining the worst. It’s clear that the otherwise neurotic Chancellor is at her worst under the influence of Zubak. So it’s only normal that the group planning to take him down is now in a hurry to get it over with. It may just be his newfound fondness for his wife; given that she’s just slept with him for the first time in a year, that’s encouraged Nicky to go a little easy on her. But his plan isn’t bad at all. Instead of a direct ambush, Nicky proposes a more strategic approach. Considering how Elena is about a new fixation, like a child is with a new toy, it’s best to wait for her to be bored with Zubak. And that process can only be fast-tracked if Zubak’s rise can be accelerated. So, it’s better to make up an enticing story about the man instead of trying to bring him down in Elena’s eyes. 

In the ending sequence of the 2nd episode of The Regime, Elena proves that all we’ve heard about her in passing—all the brutal anecdotes and the hush-hush jibes—are all true. She is gullible enough to have once been convinced that she’s a descendant of Charlemagne. Even though the physician in her could very well refute the dodgy claim, her inflated ego could hardly deny such an honor. And it’s her tendency to readily believe what she wants to believe that Laskin makes use of as he hands her the reports of Zubak’s chromosomal link to the Foundling himself. Although Laskin doesn’t elaborate much, the myth that I believe he’s basing his lie on is about the three brothers from “Wielkopolska Chronicle”—Lech, Czech, and Rus. It is believed that these three, while out hunting, followed different prey, went in different directions, and eventually established the Polish, Czech, and East Slavic states. In the fictional Central European setting of The Regime, it is apparently said that there was a fourth brother, the founder of the country that Elena is now in charge of. It’s this fourth brother whom Laskin refers to as the “foundling,” the first one to have settled on their land. You can imagine how eager Elena would be to eat up the theory that her right-hand man is a descendant of the Foundling himself. A glorious (read embarrassing) portrait of Zubak clad in ancient armor is just the first sign of her rapidly aggravating obsession with Zubak, I’m afraid. 

Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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