The Romanoffs: The Legacy That Goes On... And On... And On | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The Romanoffs: The Legacy That Goes On… And On… And On

TV Editor Morgana Chess argues that while Amazon's The Romanoffs provides a quirky light relief, the episode length poses a problem for viewing

Created by the same talented mind that brought us Mad Men, Amazon Prime’s latest offering The Romanoffs has a lot to live up to. The anthology series follows the lives of several modern-day descendants of the notorious Russian royal family, with each episode centring on a different character in a different location. At 90-minutes each, and with a new cast each episode, these play out more like mini films and Matthew Weiner gets given the chance to stretch his creative muscles. Perhaps a little too far.

The soundtrack mixes classical overtures and modern band hits, giving the series a veneer of style

The opening credits set the tone for the quirky nature of the show that follows as we see the Romanoffs of history being bloodily murdered in vivid colour with a banging soundtrack playing overhead. Possibly the show’s strongest asset, the soundtrack mixes classical overtures and modern band hits, giving the series a veneer of style and saving several moments from venturing into tacky. The cast is good too, and we are presented with quite a variety of eccentric characters.

Like in Mad Men, where there is anxiety about domestic life and characters think about their legacy, the different Romanoff storylines are united by the common theme of identity crisis. Feeling like they are destined for more, the descendants are often dissatisfied with their modern lives, and some of them even appear reluctant to let go of the racist and sexist views of their 17th century ancestors. Just as Mad Men brought us through the overt sexism of the 1960s, though, there’s hope for some character development. However, it looks like this could take a while.

The stories are worth watching for the tongue-in-cheek twists and turns, but a lot of the time it appears to just be self-indulgent

Episode one brings us to Paris, where Anushka Romanoff, both a racist and a hypochondriac, sweeps about her grand apartment and struggles to come to terms with her new caregiver, a young Muslim woman; it’s both warming and a bit bewildering to watch their relationship develop. The second episode focuses on an American couple going through marital difficulties and features a bizarre cruise exclusive to descendants of the Romanoff family. The stories do have their funny moments, and they are worth watching for the tongue-in-cheek twists and turns, but a lot of the time it appears to just be self-indulgent.

With these hefty running times each episode feels like a huge commitment, and unlike Black Mirror, the payoff isn’t always satisfying enough. At about an hour into each of the episodes I’ve watched so far, I’ve found myself reaching for the stop button and almost missing the story’s climax. The show is actually quite enjoyable, and some moments even unpredictable, but it all would have been so much slicker and neater had the episodes been shorter. Understandably, Amazon have given Weiner a free reign but, to my mind, the series could do with a little more discipline.

Overall, I like it. It provides a similar light relief to The Good Place but sadly, does not exist in the same digestible format. The big budget, wacky characters and a trusty creator will keep me watching, but it might not be long until I’m reaching for that stop button again.

@morganachess // TV editor // Final year English Literature student



Published

8th December 2018 at 7:00 am

Last Updated

7th December 2018 at 5:05 pm



Images from

Romanovempire.org



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