‘The Regime’ Ending Explained & Finale Recap: Did Elena Betray Zubak?


After five snail-paced episodes, HBO’s The Regime ended with something that they could’ve been doing all along. If you’ve stuck around, you know that you’ve been making do with a lot less than this show could’ve given you had they gone a different way. Don’t get me wrong, Elena’s been a fascinating creature to watch in her natural habitat of the “people’s” palace. But there’s no denying that the finale feels like a spinoff or a revival that avoids the pitfalls of the original. Packing an overwhelming amount of psychological warfare and enough wicked twists for a whole season, the 6th and final episode of The Regime plays with your emotions only to give you a bitter dose of reality.

Spoiler Alert

Are Elena and Zubak fugitives now?

Well, in their defense, Zubak and Elena deal with their crestfallen condition out there in the wild exactly as you’d expect. Two loonies out and about amidst gunfire and the droning sounds of helicopters, Zubak and Elena have absolutely no allies to turn to in a country where people are out for their blood. Elena’s delusional as ever. With no shelter in the country where her government’s been overthrown by the Westgate Resistance Army, she’s certain that a plane will pop up out of nowhere and whisk her away to fantasy land. Her infantile tantrums as they run for life and dodge the eyes of protestors make the whole ordeal all the more nerve-wracking. Even after hearing an announcement that makes it abundantly clear that phone services are down, Elena wants to wish a magical phone into existence. Help from China and her loyalists up in Rinnburg is apparently just a call away. Zubak’s taken charge of the situation. With his military background, he knows just the right calls to make in a dire situation. But being an obsessive guy who isn’t wired right, he can’t help but desperately seek reassurance from Elena, even when death’s knocking at their door. Her situation may have changed, but her manipulation tactics are just as sharp as ever. And when that doesn’t work on someone as insecure as Zubak, Elena has no problem lying through her teeth. She’ll never betray him (she cracks me up). 

Why does Tomas trap Elena and Zubak?

It’s always “my people” when Elena needs something from them. Now that they’re in dire need of a safe shelter, Elena isn’t above begging people to help her out. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Hitchhiking on the road isn’t the best option, but it’s the only option that they have. Gregor isn’t feeling the Christmas spirit at all. He’d rather drive home before curfew and not risk having his head blown off by harboring the state pariah. But Tomas seems to have all the creepy, obsessive love in store for the Chancellor. Zubak isn’t too keen on being chauffeured by a drunk who seems even more unstable than him, but Elena’s only priority is to get to a landline so she can call Nicky. They should’ve been a little suspicious about the fact that Tomas could send the guards away with a wave. But they’ve got to make the most of what they’ve got. You have to give it to Tomas for playing the part of a crazy loyalist to a tee. It turns out that his objective was not to help the Chancellor after all. He’s one of the countless people who’ve been tormented under Elena’s reign. And now that he can hand her over to the Security Service, he can avenge the acute poverty Elena’s government has plunged the nation into. 

What does Laskin want from Elena?

We’ve all seen Laskin’s absolute frustration as he tried and failed to talk some sense into Elena. Of course, he defected. But more importantly, he’s gone and gotten himself a significant position in the Security Service. Although he isn’t too on the nose about it, you can sense that he’s waited a long time to bring the tyrannical queen down to her knees. Turns out, he’s quite the game theory nerd. The first thing he needs to do in order to get some confessions out of either of them is to separate the two and make them turn on each other. But Laskin can dream. If Edward Keplinger couldn’t make Zubak betray Elena even as he was locked up and tortured in the dungeon, Laskin’s words most certainly can’t penetrate that thick layer of manipulation now. And Elena, well, the woman’s lunacy may be off the charts, but she’s no fool. She knows what Laskin is up to. No amount of intimidation and guns pointed at her face can make her scared for her life. If they wanted to kill her, they’d have done it by now. What they want from her is an official confession so that the transference of power can be legal and above board. Be that as it may, Elena’s innumerable phobias are sure to give Laskin an upper hand. There was obviously no “dangerous black mold” in that can that Laskin’s men forced Elena to inhale from. But that’s ultimately what makes her comply. The plan’s all set in motion. As soon as Elena confesses her crimes in parliament, the National Freedom Front will take charge of the country and make efforts toward ending the civil war. 

Did Elena betray Zubak?

The Regime got you, didn’t it? No, don’t lie now. Having been in the same boat as you, I can vouch for the fact that you were dreaming up that fairytale ending. Elena is in jail, or worse. But The Regime is an exaggeration of reality, the antithesis of utopia. In this world, Laskin’s loss is a melodramatic version of all those people who die far before getting as close to the noble win as he did. In this world, Elena gets a taste of fear before being saved, while her more realistic counterpart would’ve never felt the discomfort of impending death. But that’s only if you’re talking about current day geopolitics. In fact, Elena’s peculiar whims and the autocracy she stood atop are eerily reminiscent of another Elena, the very real Elena Ceausescu. Wife of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Now off you go down the rabbit hole of drawing the parallels I assure you are very convincing. Back to the matter at hand, Laskin and his men are shot, while Elena and her ox get an unexpected fright, thinking the new captor would be far worse. But it’s just Emil. Good business as usual. The sly businessman that he is, Emil had kept his secret friendship with the Americans going while his country shook hands with China. I’m sure Judith Holt thoroughly relishes this sweet-as-hell turn of events. Once the bully, Elena’s now at the mercy of the messenger of the bad news. She’s under America’s thumb if she wants their help in mitigating the situation. And her favorite butcher will be taken from her. 

I’ve got to admit that I’m convinced of Elena’s love for Zubak. We’ve never seen kindness as her strong suit, even toward people she’s fond of. She didn’t have to go through the trouble of comforting him with the lie of their bizarre dream coming true someday. In passing, though, I feel like the show’s kind of sneakily pointing out the ways Elena is damaged. In the finale itself, we got hit in the face with two shockers (sort of) from her story. All those gorgeous wigs hide an uneven scalp she’s ashamed of. And her father’d probably abused her sexually unless that was Laskin being a man taking that unnecessary misogynistic route to diss Elena. Now, this woman, for reasons I’ll go over in a bit, has found herself emotionally attached to the man who was supposed to be a fleeting hobby. For someone who loves dreaming, the kindest way to put Zubak down would’ve been to send him off to a dream where he and Elena are happy together and have somehow reformed the country, too. And that’s exactly how Elena does it. They could’ve just shot him in his sleep, though. But I guess it could’ve been an accident that Zubak woke up just as he was about to go off to sleep forever. 

The Regime‘s ending finds Elena dolling herself up to address her “beloveds” on the 9th anniversary of her Chancellorship. Being a good little girl and complying with America has saved her from sure death and stolen the country’s opportunity to do away with this nightmarish Chancellor. Nicky is back to being by her side as she recovers from the little “wobble” she’s just had. So Zubak was all daddy issues after all. And Elena’s the cliched victim of parental abuse who now has Zubak’s corpse encased in a glass box like her dad used to be. It’s rather uncomfortable to say, but her attachment to Zubak could’ve stemmed from the emotional tug-of-war between being protected and abused by him at the same time. One of her dreams has come true, though. She’s now found a way to fill her countrymen’s hearts with her manipulative love right from her balcony. That’s progress, I guess. Even though there’s a bulletproof glass wall between the Chancellor and her “loves.” 

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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
In cinema, Lopamudra finds answers to some fundamental questions of life. And since jotting things down always makes overthinking more fun, writing is her way to give this madness a meaning.

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