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Wick's Review

Created Jul 27, 2019 06:52PM PST • Edited Aug 19, 2019 04:38PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    The Last Czars dramatizes the personal and political perils of Nicholas & Alexandra, the last Czar & Czarina of the Russian Empire. Nicholas the Bloody and his profoundly unhappy family were such wanton rulers they made the Bolsheviks look good, thereby triggering “the greatest catastrophe in human history”.1

    Sexy, glitzy historical docudramas like this are prime products for the over-the-top networks now. As with Ovation’s Versailles, Netflix’s Last Czars is an intimate look at a legendary royal family, graphic sex, perversity and all, albeit this Romanov series is more historically accurate than that Bourbon series.

    The Last Czars doesn’t stint on the bizarre characters that were part and parcel of the Romanov tragedy, including the infamous Rasputin, their family “friend” who happened to be a grand scale sexual predator. And their children, including Anastasia, the princess who haunted Europe for much of the 20th century.

    Nicholas & Alexandra & Rasputin’s grandly obtuse haplessness – utter incompetence actually – led to the deaths of 100 million people over the next 100 years.1 How could their system not be stupid given that there is no way a centrally controlled society could process the range of inputs and situations across the vast Russian Empire, the third largest in world history – in an age of industrialization.

    The parade of horribles The Last Czars portrays would be funny if they weren’t massive catastrophes.

    1. Khodynka Tragedy: 1,389 people died in a stampede for party favors after the Czar’s coronation.
    2. Russo-Japanese War: The Japanese Navy sank pretty much the entire Russian Navy. Whoops.
    3. Anti-Semitic pogroms: Nicholas the Bloody resorted to the age-old crutch of conniving despots – Blame the Jews!
    4. Bloody Sunday: The straw that broke the camel’s back and led to the Communist Takeover. Soldiers shot over the heads of unarmed demonstrators, accidentally shooting children out of trees.
    5. The violent suppression of the 1905 Russian Revolution: Heinous yet ineffective, the Czar lost, got captured, was forced to abdicate, and then the entire Imperial Family was shot in cold blood.

    Tragedies notwithstanding, The Last Czars is a grand show of regal proportions, not just essential history. A mere six 44-minute episodes make this big-bucks Neflix production richly and rewardingly bingeworthy.


    1 100 Years of Communism—and 100 Million Dead, by David Satter, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute & fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

  3. Great 4.0

    Robert Jack & Susanna Herbert play Nicholas & Alexandra, Czar & Czarina, Nicky & Alix to each other.

    • Ben Cartwright essays the addled Grigori Rasputin, one of history’s more freakish villains. Ben Cartwright? We’re a long way from the Ponderosa here.
    • Gavin Mitchell dominates the cast as Nicholas’s Uncle Sergei, the man who compelled the Czar to retain autocracy, which led directly to the downfall of the empire.
    • Sarah Ball is as forbidding as a Grand Duchess could be.
    • Daughters
      • Aina Norgilaite – Tatiana
      • Digna Kulionyte – Maria
      • Gabija Pazusyte – the fabled Anastasia
    • Son & future Czar: Oskar Mowdy as poor Alexei, who suffered horribly from hemophilia.
  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Great 4.0

    The Last Czars covers 25 years in six episodes, from the early 1890s to 1918, when the Reds shot down the royal family in cold blood.

    Most of each episode is drama, with helpful academics popping up as talking heads here and there.

    • Rasputin was a sexual predator on a grand scale, a little known fact given what a bowdlerized figure he’s become in pop culture.
    • Alexandra was a German princess who married the Russian Czar, so the Russian people hated her when Russia fought Germany in World War I.
    • Folly that led to mass disaster and ultimately to genocide many times over.
  9. Direction Great 4.0
  10. Play Great 4.0
  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Great 4.0
  13. Content
  14. Sordid 3.4
  15. Sex Erotic 3.5
  16. Violence Savage 3.7
  17. Rudeness Profane 3.1
  18. Glib 1.1

    Russia lived with extreme centralized control under the czars and then under the communists, the former from the right, the latter from the left, both crushing to the masses. Notably, each claimed infallibility.

    The result of the latter was 100 Years of Communism—and 100 Million Dead. David Satter’s WSJ essay states that “the Bolshevik plague that began in Russia was the greatest catastrophe in human history.”

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.4
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0

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