A Gentleman in Moscow season 1 review: Is the Paramount+ series worth watching?

It's timeless and ahead of its time in some ways, and flawed in others. Find out whether the 8-episode series is worth your time.
Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime
Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime /

It was the official trailer for Showtime's A Gentleman in Moscow that drew me in. The limited series consisting of 8 episodes, now streaming on Paramount+, stars the incredible acting talents of Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Fehinti Balogun, and Alexa Goodall to name a few.

At first, the story reminded me of the classic 1965 film Doctor Zhivago. But as the season went on, the resemblance to the film was for all the wrong reasons. A Gentleman in Moscow, based on the book of the same title by Amor Towles, tells the story of how Count Alexander Rostov is spared death by being sentenced to life in the Hotel Metropol in Moscow.

Alexander lives through several world-changing events in Russia, while meeting new and interesting people and reflecting on his past, which often included memories of his deceased sister. The story transports viewers right into the midst of the Russian Revolution and all the less than spectacular changes that came with it.

As Alexander adjusts to his new way of life, always seeming to have the most positive of attitudes about everything, the TV show takes an almost foreign film-like persona. The setting, story, and stylistic choices make the show feel like a living art piece.

However, the biggest flaw I have found is the constant assumption that viewers are mind readers. If you are completely unfamiliar with Russian history, specifically The Romanov family and the Russian Revolution that followed, you are going to be completely lost.

Like Doctor Zhivago, the show provides little to no context as to what is happening. Unlike the film, A Gentleman in Moscow at least provides viewers with the year per each time jump. But like the movie, little to nothing is explained and the details are heavily needed. Time jumps happen constantly where one moment Alexander is teaching Nina all about the lifestyle of princesses and the next, he's a waiter at the hotel restaurant.

Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime /

There are times where brief historic events are mentioned and used, but it seems to only occur when it's some sort of plot convenience. Osip Glebnikov, a man left in charge of Alexander personally, who eventually becomes an ally of sorts, needs information about a possible spy working against Joseph Stalin. But we're told little to no information about Stalin, how he gained power, or any other context. One moment the Russian Revolution is all about changing Russia, and the next Stalin is suddenly in power.

I understand that the show didn't want to spoon-feed everything to the audience, and truthfully you are supposed to focus on Alexander. But if his life is constantly affected by what is happening outside the hotel, not to mention Russia as a whole, then the audience should be aware of some things.

It didn't have to be forced exposition. A simple headline on a newspaper being read by a bar patron would have helped. Two extras in the background discussing an issue for a brief moment would have been nice. Small things like that will leave a bigger impact. But for what it's worth, the story kept me engaged and captivated from beginning to end. Alexander's life was never dull, even if it became monotonous at times.

Still, if you are unsure whether A Gentleman in Moscow is for you, watch the trailer below and make your own assumptions. It's timeless and ahead of its time in some ways, and flawed in others if you are not a Russian historian. But as a story, it is far from boring with moments of humor, heartbreak, and lightheartedness.

Could the show come back for a season 2?

This is a limited series and the conclusion as such was not only effective but conclusive. Yes, there is a lot left for the viewers to interpret. Did Alexander have a happy ending outside of the hotel? Did he and Anna live out their days in love and happiness? It's what Sophia, Alexander's essentially adopted daughter, likes to think. And if that didn't indeed happen, why not let audiences believe it anyway?

Alexander's life both prior and during his stay at the hotel weren't always the best. Truthfully Alexander's life was astronomically better at the hotel. But life and the powers outside of it always had a way of ruining things, whether it be what it did to Nina's life or his friend Mishka. A second season would only prove to be a disservice to the story. Regardless of how much I enjoyed it.

Plus, the author did not write a sequel to the novel. And at this time, neither Showtime nor Paramount+ have confirmed whether a second season is happening. Though if you're hoping for a season 2, it's probably unlikely.

You can watch A Gentleman in Moscow season 1 on Paramount+.

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