'The Romanoffs' Season 1 review [SPOILERS]: Simon Burrows is the one that holds everything in the season finale
Impeccably well written, thrilling and mysteriously layered, the finale 'The One that Holds Everything' reminds us why we were excited about the series in the first place
Saving the best for last were you, Matt Weiner?
Let's be honest, Weiner's eight-part anthology series 'The Romanoffs' hasn't had the best run. After a confused couple of episodes and a disappointment called 'Bright and High Circle', the show hasn't exactly been the most enjoyable. However, 'The Roamnoffs' really stepped up their game with the finale, 'The One That Holds Everything'. It has everything that makes a great thriller — identity crisis, revenge, scandal, family heirlooms and the most important element of all — murder. While the story itself is absolutely on point, there is one gem that really does hold everything about this episode together — the exciting yet excruciatingly sad character of Simon Burrows.
This installment takes us to the French trains for its plot while moving back and forth to Japan. On a train to London, screenwriter Jack Edgar (JJ Feild) sits next to a rather chatty woman who tells him the story of Simon, who claims that he is a Romanov. A rather miserable tale, she tells him about Simon's childhood — how his mum was killed in a house fire and he always suspected his babysitter Ondine did it. After all, he had seen them canoodle through his window when his mum had been very much alive. Little does Jack know that the woman talking to him used to be Simon once upon a time. Even worse, he has no clue that the babysitter is actually his own mother.
While the plot twist is more or less predictable, it is told delightfully. It is not messy or irritating as the rest of the series and manages to hold your interest till the very last second — especially as an unrecognizable Simon, walks out of the train onto the station right past Ondine, armed with his Romanov heirloom and the sweet taste of revenge.
For the first time in the anthology, 'The Romanoffs' does not treat the brutal history of the Russian royal family like a fly on the wall. Even though there isn't much said, it gives us a taste of what it means to hold your ancestry so dearly that you could even kill for it. So far, it had gotten a mention in passing, at most. Simon's character brings out the obsession that 'The Romanoffs' claimed to portray in the beginning.
Played by Oliver Zetterström, Hugh Skinner and Adele Anderson, Simon's character has so much depth, it leaves you wanting to know more even when the episode is over. His screen time is split into different time periods and it gives the story a chance to explore his character arc fully, right from the time he was a boy.
Zetterstrom plays baby Simon. He slips into the character as easily as he slips out of the window when his house catches fire — Zetterstrom gives us an emotional performance. Skinner takes us through Simon's formative years — he runs away from his family, falls in love with a man, gets his heart broken and comes home, only to be rejected by his father.
Dejected, Simon tries to kill himself but fortunately, survives. He finds the courage to transform into a woman, his true self and finally realizes what he must do — make things right. Skinner's performance goes from heartwarming to painful to numb to incredibly strong. He is able to bring out the honesty in the character and the repeated ups and downs in his life. Finally, Simon becomes Candace, played by Anderson.
The most incredible thing about this part of Simon's character is that he's unrecognizable — not just in the way he looks. Candace is far from the hurt boy she used to be. She is confident to the point of being cocky, she has mastered the art of hiding scars and she knows exactly what buttons to push. Anderson is exceptionally terrifying as Candace and oozes the charisma of a person who has been hardened to the point of being unbreakable.
Impeccably well written, thrilling and mysteriously layered, this finale reminds us why we were excited about the series in the first place. Of course, Simon is the one that holds everything.