The Romanoffs season 1, episode 3 recap: House of Special Purpose


Did The Romanoffs just cross over into the Twilight Zone?

The Romanoffs released it’s third episode of the season and it was quite the riveting experience, to say the least. Starring Christina Hendricks of Mad Men and Jack Huston of Boardwalk Empire, this episode’s premise follows that of Hendricks’ character, Olivia, who is a movie star that goes to Austria to star in a series titled The Romanovs (see what they did there?).

When she arrives, nothing is as it seems as she gets a less than warm welcome, minimal attention for someone of her status, and her director, Jacqueline (Isabelle Huppert) seems set on torturing her in every way possible. But there is something sinister and strange about the whole set and its atmosphere, and it’s something Olivia and the viewers latch onto immediately.

Olivia’s role is that of Empress Alexandra and her supporting cast include Czar Nicholas played by Brian (Mike Doyle) and Rasputin played by Samuel (Jack Huston). As thing start to get weirder during her time in Austria, Olivia tries reaching out to her agent Bob (Paul Reiser) back in the states who advises her to stay on with the project because it may impact her career negatively if she walks away now.

As I dig deeper into the episode, it should be noted that Huppert’s and Hendricks’ performances and chemistry is undeniable and something about it is spooky, jarring, and absolutely perfect in the context of this episode of The Romanoffs.

Credit: Amazon

This haunting episode is, in my opinion, the best one yet in three that have been released thus far because it is so out there and so unexpected in its twists and turns. When the episode begins, Olivia is taken from the airport directly to the set where she witnesses a group of soldiers dumping bodies into a hole.

It’s in this moment that we begin to wonder if what we just saw was actually happening or if it was just a part of them filming a scene. As the episode progresses and comes to an end, the audience learns that every horrific, frightening, and terrorizing thing that happened to Olivia was planned in order to bring out the best performance from her.

How they go about it is rather twisted and disturbing and results in something we didn’t see coming. Olivia tries to quit multiple times and finally walks off the set frustrated and bewildered over how the entire ordeal has been. She tries to find a ride back during which she finds out the production has been called off.

In her full Russian attire, she wanders off into the woods where she comes across a group of soldiers who start to walk towards her as she makes a getaway. She ends up back on set where she finds out that production is back on again and her agent, Bob, is there to meet her.

Personally, at this point, I was freaked out at Olivia’s predicament and was wondering what was to come of her in this perturbing The Romanoffs episode. Eventually, she finds her way back to the hotel where she falls asleep until a knocking on her hotel door wakes her up. She opens it to find soldiers pulling her away and having her board a truck in the middle of the night.

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None of this feels like it’s fake anymore, and viewers are starting to wonder if Olivia has somehow been thrust back into time and has now taken on the real-life persona of who she was playing in the show.

She is escorted and taken to a home that looks exactly like the house the Romanov family was executed in back in 1918.

We’re convinced now that everything is muddled together and either the cast and crew have lost their minds and immersed themselves into this world rendering them unable to differentiate between reality and fiction, or this is real life.

When dragged into a room in the house, everything is set up exactly like the room where the Romanov family died, and all her co-stars are there as well dressed up and playing the part. As the soldiers start firing at all the people in the room, Olivia is now convinced that everything is actually happening, and she falls to the ground in terror as she presumes everyone around is being shot.

At that exact moment, we hear Jacqueline say “Cut!” and everyone around Olivia wakes up and cheers because of how perfect that scene played out. So basically, everything was a twisted act that everyone was in on, but it came at a huge cost–Olivia actually dying.

As Jacqueline and Bob go to tell Olivia to get up, they realize she’s dead, presumably from a heart attack out of fear for what was going on. My, oh, my. What a way to get the best performance out of someone, right?

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I think once you realize what is actually happening, a lot of the events throughout the episode start to make more sense. During it, you’re lost on the purpose or what exactly is going, but once we realize that this was all part of Jacqueline’s plan, it all comes together–the young girl in the white dress, the weird phone calls in the middle of the night, the bar scene, and the investor dinner that went really wrong.

We have to give kudos to Matthew Weiner who took this to another level with this episode. I was honestly intrigued and while it was confusing, it was so worth it when it all ended. There is still a lot of mystery around the whole production and Jacqueline considering she had her moments outside of Olivia, but I think that’s the beauty of it. Just like the mystery of the actual events, we are left with questions about the episode we may never get the answers to.

The Romanoffs releases new episodes every Friday on Amazon!