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SilverStormm

The Romanoffs

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Hoo, boy. I was looking forward to episode 5 when I saw Ron Livingston was in it. (I’ve had a crush on him since Swingers. and yes, that crush survived Berger and the post-it note.)

But... boy. This episode fell like a thud for me. I thought it might turn out as Mad Men Bob Part II—nice, accommodating gay man that turns out to be shady!—or maybe a really terrible Highsmith knockoff—but once I read this Rolling Stone review of the episode (spoilers if you haven’t seen the episode), it actually troubled me even more.

The acting itself is good. The house it takes place in is AMAZING. But if you were already contemplating skipping this episode, don’t feel guilty if you actually do.

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In Episode 5 I surmised (correctly) that the minute that the Detective told Katherine to keep their conversation to herself that she’d go and share it with her friend Cheryl. Then of course Cheryl told Debbie. This became a game of telephone and it turns out that nobody got it right.  I wished we had learned why he always had some “punk” waiting for him in the driveway while he taught the piano lessons. Also whether or not he was lying about being a Romanoff (or why he borrowed Katherine’s life story). What was the deal with the money situation? The piano teacher was shady, but we never learned exactly how or why. 

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I found episode 5 kind of fascinating and I'm still mulling it over in my head. The point was made that Katherine fired a former employee specifically for lying. As the episode progresses she learns that David is a big liar and yet she slowly seems to accept and even defend that lying maybe isn't that big of a deal. He's an interesting guy - it's just a quirk of his... And Alex, who clearly dislikes David in the beginning, gradually starts to accept the same behavior that he found so gross earlier in the episode. He waves off the possibility of David giving alcohol (or was it just beer??) to a minor. He even kind of laughed about falsely accusing someone of doing something awful in order to get out of trouble wasn't so bad. He would have done the same when he was young! 

Then there was the flashback scene of Alex being chewed out by his father after he asked a friend if they were a boy or a girl. Grown-up Alex understood that his dad's harsh reaction came from the desire to make him a better person. So, when Alex sat his boys down, his speech went in a totally different direction than I expected. I thought he was going to cut through the bullshit and offer them a safe environment to confide in him regardless of what (if anything) had happened, but instead he completely shut it down.  And there were definite red flags, like the boys wanting to skip their lesson, or the middle-aged boy acting so angry and defensive when asked about it, that should have been investigated more by the parents. 

At the end when Katherine slowly shuts the door on the piano lesson, I interpreted that as acceptance - on "closing the door" to the willingness to question or suspect any past or future wrongdoing. 

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I see all the flaws people point out--and agree with most of them...

Yet why am I still absolutely loving this series? 

It's like I'm looking forward to a hit of grown-upped-ness each Friday when a new episode drops.  And on this week's Chekhovian episode "Panorama," when

 

Spoiler

Victoria said "I'm so glad" to Abel after he confesses he was never sick...so unexpected, so moving. 

(Btw, I had no idea what to make of the ending, with the parade of Rivera figures come to life in the Zocalo.  Pretentious? Yes. Preachy? Probably. But I still loved it.)

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Okay, I think I'm at the point where I'm pretty much hate watching this show. I won't go so far as to say that there are no redeeming qualities but damn, I feel like any complimentary observations I have are completely superficial and have nothing to do with the stories that are being told. I like the music and the locations. I like a lot of the cast and it was nice to see some familiar faces back on my screen, but I can't help but feel like most of the actors have been wasted in this series and it's really too bad because I honestly thought I would love this show. 

I don't even know where to start when it comes to why I've found this series to be boring, pretentious, and anything but compelling. 

First there's the whole thing with calling it The Romanoffs. Why? What was the point in having each episode have a character who may or may not be related to this historical family? MW chose to do nothing interesting here and it's frustrating because there were so many possibilities. Not one of these stories needed the Romanov name drop. In each episode it felt like a tacked on afterthought whenever a character mentioned the family connection. It feels like he just wanted to do this because it's been a hundred years since the assassination of the family.

(Sidenote: am I wrong or is there an error in this most recent episode? The mom in Panorama says that she's a descendant of the Romanov family and that this is why her son Nicky has hemophilia. Empress Alexandra (Princess Alix of Hesse before her marriage to the Tsar) married into the Romanov family and she was the carrier who passed the gene down to her son. I didn't think there were any other cases of the Romanov family having hemophilia. None of Alexandra's children had kids to pass on the mutation so why is this woman claiming that being a Romanov is the reason her son has hemophilia? Or is this supposed to be an indication that she isn't really a Romanov and is unknowingly in the dark about her ancestry?)

The #Me Too episode was a long trip to nowhere. I automatically assumed that the teacher wouldn't be guilty because I thought it likely that MW would want to tell the story of a man being falsely accused given how he recently had to deny accusations against himself. Not only did the conclusion to this story feel like a given but I felt like there was zero pay off in other areas of the story. We don't find out what the deal is with the teacher at all. We don't know why he would claim to be a Romanov or have any sense of what his personal life is like. We don't learn who the accuser is nor do we learn anything significant about the families who employ the teacher. There's minimal humor and we have a lot of characters who are kind of off beat only for it to not really amount to anything. The detective is weird, the teacher is quirky, the husband is uneven and temperamentally inconsistent, etc.

These episodes are long for no apparent reason. I remember wishing that Mad Men's episodes could be longer. I typically like episodes that have a long running time. These episodes are running over an hour with no commercials and with most of the episodes it's like there's barely any actual story. The only episode that felt at all satisfying was the premiere. There have been a few decent moments scattered throughout the series, but at no point have I been riveted by any of these episodes. 

When a show is good, I generally want to know more about the characters, the story, the inspiration for it, musings on what might happen next offscreen in terms of plot, etc. I have no questions with this show. I only want to know how MW fould have squandered the opportunity that Amazon gave him. They gave him a huge budget to tell any kind of story that he wanted and he mostly gave us an aimless travelogue of undeveloped and uncompelling characters. 

Edited by Avaleigh
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Yes, her son having hemophilia has nothing to do with being descended from the Romanovs since only Nicholas and Alexandra's family was affected.  I checked to see if maybe one of the other Romanovs may have married a carrier or someone with the disease, but they had not. 

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I thought Episode 6 was ok—if not an episode of this series. Kind of an interesting story, but the Romanov connection was  thread-thin (and apparently wrong, anyway). I’ll keep watching, because I’m in a rhythm of watching, but at this point my hopes are dwindling.

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On 11/10/2018 at 12:34 PM, TexasGal said:

Otherwise, what self indulgent bullshit this is.

I tried to watch Ep6 and couldn’t get past the first 20 min.  Overall I am iffy about finishing this series.  I came into it hoping to learn more about the Romanoffs legacy because that’s one of my favorite historical eras.  Instead, it’s been...meh.  A few episodes were interesting stories, but aside from a few gossamer threads tying the characters to the tragic Romanoffs, it wasn’t all that great.

 The first ep was good except I don’t like seeing 50-something guys hooking up with 20 year olds.

 The second one was entertaining.

Ep 3 was a total WTF.

 Ep 4 & 5 were good enough for short stories ...that mention the name “Romanoffs” a couple of times.

As said above, I couldn’t get through #6.  I am kinda curious about the next one because I like Kathryn Hahn, so fingers crossed, I guess???

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On 11/9/2018 at 5:20 PM, Avaleigh said:

The #Me Too episode was a long trip to nowhere. I automatically assumed that the teacher wouldn't be guilty because I thought it likely that MW would want to tell the story of a man being falsely accused given how he recently had to deny accusations against himself. Not only did the conclusion to this story feel like a given but I felt like there was zero pay off in other areas of the story. We don't find out what the deal is with the teacher at all. We don't know why he would claim to be a Romanov or have any sense of what his personal life is like. We don't learn who the accuser is nor do we learn anything significant about the families who employ the teacher. There's minimal humor and we have a lot of characters who are kind of off beat only for it to not really amount to anything. The detective is weird, the teacher is quirky, the husband is uneven and temperamentally inconsistent, etc.

 

I did not mind the #metoo episode until the resolution which was absolutely terrible. I thought prior to that it captured a lot of really interesting questions. If you received a visit like that - what would you do? Could you keep it a secret? Someone who tells a teenager a dirty joke is absolutely inappropriate but in light of those sorts of allegations you might start to see them as dangerous. The teacher became creepier and creepier once a magnifying glass was put up to his actions. Annoying qualities seemed almost dangerous upon reflection. It fell apart for me when the dad chastised the kids for not wanting to continue lessons. Um, no. When he was like "Spreading an accusation about someone - even if it's true can ruin their lives and that's terrible!" I was appalled. That is the worst possible message you could ever tell a small child. No, I'm sorry. I would want my kids to tell me if they hear of those sorts of accusations so I can investigate further. That was so clearly Weiner talking about his own accusations and it was self-indulgent. 

Also, I can say that if I found out that someone I trusted my children with: told blow job jokes to my underage son, sat around in the house when no one was home, lied and passed off my own family stories as his own, lied about me investing in a project of theirs in order almost as an endorsement to receive more donations, took two paychecks hoping I wouldn't notice . . . and then was being investigated by the Special Victims Unit  . . . um, sorry. Fuck no. This person is not spending time with my kids. They are dishonest and shady and my gut feeling would be off the charts about how this is not someone I need to be around my kids. I mean, a college kid buying a high school kid alcohol is one thing. I had older siblings of friends buy us prom beer and things like that. But the actor playing the teacher is 40. Even if his character is supposed to be younger - no one in their 30s should be buying a teenager alcohol. 

And I also don't buy the excuse that he bought alcohol for an underage person. Would the SVU honestly investigate that? Like to the extent of interviewing other parents? He seemed really shady and I was not sure why we were supposed to feel bad for him. 

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I wish more of the episodes were like Episode 7. It felt like a short story, in a good way. Again, the Romanoff tie was tenuous—but less so; and at least it was germane to the story. 

Kathryn Hahn has a great turn... for the most part. And Jay Ferguson was fabulous. 

Not really spoilers, as the eps have aired, but just in case: 

Spoiler

I thought Chekhov’s gun was going to go off when the husband went outside alone at night, as they were warned multiple times NOT to do, but alas.

I felt the “big fight” was not handled as subtly as it could have been—but that was mostly due to the writing. Or maybe a bit because of Kathryn Hahn... I personally felt like her portrayal in that scene could have felt deeper. 

 

On 11/16/2018 at 1:18 PM, Penman61 said:

Why is the name in the title spelled RomanoFFs, when even within its own stories it's seen spelled RomanoVs?

“-off” is an accepted spelling of the suffix, but my guess is that it was chosen to a) highlight the American-ness of the descendants, and/or b) to distinguish it in online searches/searches on the Prime app.

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Not sure what constitutes a spoiler in an all-episode thread, but to be safe:

Spoiler

In Episode 7, the Kathryn Hahn character, in a conversation scene with her husband in their hotel room, mentions her "cousin Victoria" traveling the world pursuing a cure for her child.  Victoria is the main character in Episode 6, traveling the world to find a cure for her hemophiliac son.  

So is this the first instance of a connection in the expanded Romanoff's universe?  Now I'm guessing I've missed some earlier ones...

 

Edited by Penman61
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@Penman61—nope, there’s another instance where we briefly see John Slattery in Ep 2, and then he resurfaces in Ep 4.  We also got a quick glimpse of Diane Lane in Ep 4 before she showed up in Ep 5.

The final ep is called “The One That Holds Everything,” so I’m wondering if there will be more.

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I enjoyed the last episode a lot. The first and last episodes were the only ones that felt like they were worth my time so two out of eight. I was disappointed with this series overall but this last episode is definitely worth talking about.

Ondine was HORRIBLE. I can't remember the last time I felt such loathing for a character. I am a nonviolent person in real life yet somehow I was hoping that she'd end up getting punched in the face. She pushed all of my buttons so good job on the actress for absolutely nailing the inner hideousness of this character. Ondine was the sort of person where her only redeeming quality is her appearance. It takes a special kind of asshole to be cruel to a child let alone a child who is suffering from the loss of a parent. Then to add in that she probably killed said parent and you realize they don't make them any lower than her. Then she actually has the audacity to suggest that if he'd really loved his mother that he would have saved her from the fire. Omg that made me see red. That would have been the nuclear button for me if I'd been in Simon's position. That was the point where I was hoping she'd get a smack in the mouth. Then she says that if her son had been in the same situation that her son would have saved her. Gah, what an awful asswipe of a human being she was. 

I know MW loves his horrible mother characters but this one took the cake for me. 

The stuff in Hong Kong could have been its own episode. I liked the use of Eternal Flame. 

What I find shocking about my reaction to this episode is that I was okay with Candace (presumably) getting away with it. I wouldn't feel this way in real life of course but since I know these are fictional characters, I'm totally fine with this murder going unsolved. The only thing that sucks is that Ondine won't ever realize that this was payback for the lifetime of cruelty she happily inflicted on her stepchild. I think in my headcanon I've decided that Candace will visit Ondine on her deathbed and whisper the truth to her. 

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I loved the roller coaster this episode was. The crowning glory was Candace walking right by Ondine in the end, wearing the Romanoff earrings and Ondine didn’t even feel it in her gut or notice them. How did Candace figure out that this was the opportunity to get his heirlooms? The twists and turns were making me either smile or cringe (mostly). This ended the season well. 

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14 hours ago, Mindthinkr said:

I loved the roller coaster this episode was. The crowning glory was Candace walking right by Ondine in the end, wearing the Romanoff earrings and Ondine didn’t even feel it in her gut or notice them. How did Candace figure out that this was the opportunity to get his heirlooms? The twists and turns were making me either smile or cringe (mostly). This ended the season well. 

Didn’t Ondine’s son mention at the beginning of the train trip that he’d been in Geneva?  I assume Candace was tracking him and knew that he’d been to the bank or wherever they were “in a safe” - maybe for his fiancée to wear for their wedding?

15 hours ago, Avaleigh said:

 

The stuff in Hong Kong could have been its own episode. I liked the use of Eternal Flame.

Agree.  Actually both the stories within the story were pretty interesting.  Little Simon was really well acted. 

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*Heads to YouTube to listen to “West End Girls”*

Why couldn’t every episode have been this good? 

Loved the use of “West End Girls”—actually works very well. It even kind of echoed the video a bit. 

19 hours ago, Avaleigh said:

It takes a special kind of asshole to be cruel to a child let alone a child who is suffering from the loss of a parent. Then to add in that she probably killed said parent and you realize they don't make them any lower than her. Then she actually has the audacity to suggest that if he'd really loved his mother that he would have saved her from the fire. Omg that made me see red. That would have been the nuclear button for me if I'd been in Simon's position. That was the point where I was hoping she'd get a smack in the mouth. Then she says that if her son had been in the same situation that her son would have saved her. Gah, what an awful asswipe of a human being she was. 

Not just saved her, but *died* trying to save her! Ick. I got the willies thinking that was actually something she was hoping for.

On 11/23/2018 at 8:56 AM, Penman61 said:

I can't believe Weiner missed the chance to title the last episode "Matryoshka."

The story in a story in a story was so well done. 

Now here’s something interesting: Amazon X-Ray said that Aaron Eckhart was in the scene around the 2 minute or so mark. Anyone else catch him? (I had to go back to look... won’t ruin it for those who want to hunt!)

And Jack was writing the “cursed” miniseries from episode 3! 

Oh... thinking about it, Candace was probably really enjoying being totally annoying at the start of the train ride. Ohhhh I know *I* was irritated by her ;)

And in rewatching the beginning, it’s interesting to reflect on the fact that Candace didn’t register at all for Jack... and that Jack wasn’t interested in Candace at all. Ties back to Candace/Simon being good at being invisible.

”This is the story of a murder,” indeed!

Edited by ivygirl
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2 hours ago, ivygirl said:

Now here’s something interesting: Amazon X-Ray said that Aaron Eckhart was in the scene around the 2 minute or so mark. Anyone else catch him? (I had to go back to look... won’t ruin it for those who want to hunt!)

He and his girlfriend from episode 1 were on the down staircase at the Gare du Nord in the early minutes of the episode.

ETA:

Screenshot 2018-11-24 15.41.37.jpg

Edited by Penman61
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On 11/5/2018 at 9:36 AM, sadpanda said:

I found episode 5 kind of fascinating and I'm still mulling it over in my head. The point was made that Katherine fired a former employee specifically for lying. As the episode progresses she learns that David is a big liar and yet she slowly seems to accept and even defend that lying maybe isn't that big of a deal. He's an interesting guy - it's just a quirk of his... And Alex, who clearly dislikes David in the beginning, gradually starts to accept the same behavior that he found so gross earlier in the episode. He waves off the possibility of David giving alcohol (or was it just beer??) to a minor. He even kind of laughed about falsely accusing someone of doing something awful in order to get out of trouble wasn't so bad. He would have done the same when he was young! 

Then there was the flashback scene of Alex being chewed out by his father after he asked a friend if they were a boy or a girl. Grown-up Alex understood that his dad's harsh reaction came from the desire to make him a better person. So, when Alex sat his boys down, his speech went in a totally different direction than I expected. I thought he was going to cut through the bullshit and offer them a safe environment to confide in him regardless of what (if anything) had happened, but instead he completely shut it down.  And there were definite red flags, like the boys wanting to skip their lesson, or the middle-aged boy acting so angry and defensive when asked about it, that should have been investigated more by the parents. 

At the end when Katherine slowly shuts the door on the piano lesson, I interpreted that as acceptance - on "closing the door" to the willingness to question or suspect any past or future wrongdoing. 

Yes--many red flags! But the craziest thing, which I haven't seen mentioned, is the very end scene where the youngest boy was having his piano lesson...the guy has his hand so close to the kid's bottom...and she shuts the door. 

I know I'm in the minority, but I love the show. I'm about to start episode six, and I've loved all five so far. I like that I have no clue what's going to happen, I like that the episodes are a little bit weird and off. It's different. I think the episodes are all beautifully cinematic; the shots are gorgeous. Even the parts that are cliche, it's like, they *know* they are and there is still a little spin on it. I am very entertained by this show!

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On November 23, 2018 at 8:55 PM, Avaleigh said:

The first and last episodes were the only ones that felt like they were worth my time so two out of eight. I was disappointed with this series overall but this last episode is definitely worth talking about

my feelings exactly. absolutely could not finished episodes 6 and 7. i liked the first,  but the final episode was so worth for all the reasons mentioned above. 

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On 10/29/2018 at 9:27 AM, TexasGal said:

Yes, I think the scene where she confessed to her husband was just imagined.

My daughter and I just watched this episode (Episode 4). Interestingly, she picked up on that too, and I completely missed it. I was further confused by the end, when the daughter was all, "You know you want to call him, I'll dial", or something like that. That left me and my daughter wondering if the daughter knew about her parentage, or at the very least, that Mom and Dad's Best Friend were clearly CLOSE.

Edited by TVForever

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On 11/24/2018 at 3:54 PM, ivygirl said:

Now here’s something interesting: Amazon X-Ray said that Aaron Eckhart was in the scene around the 2 minute or so mark. Anyone else catch him? (I had to go back to look... won’t ruin it for those who want to hunt!)

We actually both caught that immediately and wondered if we should be watching for characters from every episode to show up in cameos throughout the episode.

ETA: Did anyone figure out where Ondine was from? That was a hard-to-place (for me) accent and we're curious.

Edited by PamelaMaeSnap

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Finally finished this series. I agree that the last episode is the best one. Ondine was utterly horrible, just awful. I especially despise how she manipulated him not to say anything, because as shitty a father as the dad was, surely he would've turfed Ondine had he known she likely set the fire, if for no other reason than because that could implicate him.

As up and down as this show is (I find the pacing to be unbearably slow), I'm enjoying trying to figure out which Romanoff scenario is paralleled in the episodes.  For example, Episode 2, "The Royal We," I think refers to the terrible marriage between Catherine the Great and her awful husband, Peter, who reportedly wanted to replace her with his mistress. Catherine famously took to her new home and culture (cf., Shelley being caught up in the Romanoff cruise--is Ivan supposed to be a modern-day Count Orlov?) and ended up having Peter "removed." "End of the Line" surely is meant to evoke the despair Nicholas and Alexandra felt at never getting that heir, and their joy when Alexei was born, and their subsequent horror when he turned out to have hemophilia.

But I found "Panarama" deadly dull. And as others have noticed, the idea that her hemophilia is from the Romanovs is ludicrous. Only one branch had the disease--Nicky and Alexandra--because it came through her line and she married into the family, and their line for obvious reasons was terminated. Perhaps if Elizabeth (Alexandra's sister--therefore possibly a carrier--who also married into the family) and Sergei had had children who had survived the Revolution, it might've been plausible but that didn't happen. Which brings me to another point--there aren't that many Romanovs out there. The Bolsheviks killed almost a third of them, and those who survived are all accounted for and most have titles of pretense. It's odd that there are seemingly so many running around who are brought up believing they have a connection to the family and have Imperial* china and/or jewelry. If you've got the toys, you should know exactly how you're related.

*Which brings me to another point--the series keeps saying royal, royal family, royal this and that. The Romanovs ruled over an empire, not a kingdom; therefore, the family was imperial, not royal. That's been driving me crazy.

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Just finished this series and found it to be a lot of pretentious and pointless character study pieces. With the exception of episode 3 you could cut out any reference to the Romanoffs and it wouldn't make the slightest difference to the story so I have no idea what Andrew Wiener was going for here. 

Now, granted, some of these pieces were sort of interesting, but their connection to one another and to the Romanoffs was so tenuous I just have no idea what the point of it all was. Other than character study for the sake of character study - something that happens to be the darling of movie and TV critics but something I find self-indulgent and self-important.

The last one had an interesting narrative format, but it didn't really make a lot of sense, because Simon was telling a story about Simon who then told his therapy group a story and then the point of view changed to his lover telling a story about Simon's childhood. How would Simon have known that part of it? Possibly the lover told him about it later but the formula doesn't really work.

Also, I guess they had to use a different actor to play Simon on the train since we would have figured it out way too soon, but it was kind of a cheat because everyone else was played by the same actor (with the exception of child-Simon) at different ages. Even Ondine was played by the same actress from teenager to middle-aged. 

I can't imagine Amazon giving this another season. And I can't imagine myself watching it even if they did. Sort of a semi-interesting creative failure, and not much more.

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Finally binged this series and a few thoughts.   Wiener is obviously focusing on white privilege and the accompanying sense of entitlement.   I get that the characters' ties to the actual Romanovs  is tenuous at best, still....

The problem is that most of the characters are not that interesting, period.   Don Draper was a fascinating anti-hero, flaws and all.   Here all this angst over clueless , self indulgent wannabe "Romanoffs", the dramatic payoff doesn't seem to matter all that much in these narratives.

From the racist older Parisian woman in the first story, to the loser with his midlife crisis who tries to off his wife, to the actress/director clashes, to the NY mother who is obsessed with controlling her life, to the couple trying to obtain a Russian baby, to the Mexico City episode with the hemophiliac child, etc.  Why should we care for most of these people?

There are nuggets here and there that resonate, the absurdly surreal cosplaying of the Themed Cruise ship scenes, the genuine debate between what to expect from a "purchased" baby, and the transgender character trying to navigate his  struggles within the context of a horrific childhood trauma.  

Hopefully if there is a 2nd season the characters will be better written, give them more nuances/shading.

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