A Gentleman in Moscow – Ewan McGregor’s Aristocratic Charm Carries This Historical Series

SERIES REVIEW – A Gentleman in Moscow, an adaptation of Amor Towles’s beloved 2016 novel, aired on SkyShowtime, attempts to captivate viewers with its elegant visuals and profound human stories. Although the series might occasionally feel slow and the anachronistic woke/BLM content can be distracting, Ewan McGregor’s stellar performance makes every moment worthwhile. The depth of his character and the meticulous unfolding of the story compensate for the event-less, dialogue-heavy, and sometimes tedious scenes.



In the era of “prestige TV”, when trendy streaming services reign supreme, there’s still room in our hearts for simple yet enchanting period dramas. A Gentleman in Moscow – an adaptation of Amor Towles’s bestseller – debuted on Paramount+, yet it exudes the vibe of a cozy Sunday night TV show, significantly enhanced by Ewan McGregor’s mesmerizing performance.



A Russian Count Under House Arrest


McGregor stars as Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who, following the Russian Revolution, finds himself under “house arrest” as an enemy of the people. His current residence, however, is the opulent Metropol Hotel in Moscow, although his spacious suite is swapped for a stark room formerly reserved for staff.

His personal belongings are declared “property of the people,” and he is informed that “your money has been liberated from the hotel safe.” Despite this, Rostov manages to keep some cash and a few elegant outfits. While many would find this situation daunting, Rostov – always charming, witty, and upbeat – takes it all in stride.

Why wouldn’t he? Though he can never step outside the hotel, he gets to enjoy its restaurant, savor expensive wines, including his favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape, even if the Soviet authorities temporarily declare all fine wines as counter-revolutionary and strip them of their labels. Our hero, due to these challenges and his inherently optimistic nature, steadfastly refuses to succumb to pessimism. “Nikolai,” he tells a friend at the bar, “they can take away your house or your rooms, but they can’t take away who you are.”

We witness the unique, whimsical, and enchanting life of the count through McGregor’s portrayal, who appears in almost every scene. He masterfully controls every moment, captivating us with his personal charm and almost “infectious” good spirits. Rostov is fundamentally a good man – a gentleman in the truest sense – and McGregor brilliantly reflects every bit of his charm.



‘Black Lives Matter’! Historical Accuracy? Not So Much…


The authenticity of A Gentleman in Moscow is significantly influenced by the frequently forced political correctness and the impact of the “Black Lives Matter” movement on today’s streaming platforms. Despite the series being set in 1920s Russia, the creators decided to cast black actors in Russian roles. As this is a historical and not a fantasy series, this choice severely damages the work’s authenticity. It’s particularly disturbing when the story explicitly positions a character as Russian, such as Fehinti Balogun with noticeably dreadlocked hair, named Misha.

This is not an isolated incident in the world of historical dramas: Jodie Turner-Smith’s portrayal as Anne Boleyn or Caroline Henderson’s role as an African Viking queen in Vikings: Valhalla are similarly problematic. While there are historical series where African American actors perfectly fit, it is questionable why they need to be forced into European or Russian history. It would be equally troubling if Caucasian actors were cast in stories about people of color – though nowadays, only the reverse seems commonplace.



The Plot Crawls at Times


Unfortunately, along with the overwhelming woke themes, another drawback is the series’ occasionally sluggish pacing. Particularly in the first few episodes, very little happens to excite viewers as the narrative focuses more on a succession of character interactions rather than on dramatic events or confrontations. We witness Rostov engaging with figures such as his old friend Miska (Fehinti Balogun), a precocious young girl named Nina (Alexa Goodall), and an actress, Anna Urbanova (played by McGregor’s real-life wife, Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who provides the romantic subplot. Even the secret police officer, Glebnyikov (Johnny Harris), doesn’t seem to pose a significant threat to Rostov’s cultivated lifestyle as the story meanders through the decades of the 20th century, reflecting Russia’s tumultuous history.

Ben Vanstone, known for his work on Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small, is adept at crafting light drama, and the goal of A Gentleman in Moscow is indeed to enchant. Despite McGregor’s compelling portrayal, by the end of the second episode, the sparse happenings might lead viewers to reconsider their commitment to the series. Yet, perseverance pays off as the narrative eventually picks up pace, enriching the plot with greater drama and action in the final episodes. Here, Rostov embraces his role as a guardian to a gifted and beautiful “daughter,” deepens his affair with Anna, and gets involved in a conspiracy against the Russian leadership.

This improvement in pacing and complexity in the latter part of the series justifies the initial slow build, rewarding the patience of viewers with a satisfying culmination of character development and plot twists, and McGregor’s excellent performance rewards those who follow A Gentleman in Moscow through to its conclusion.

-Gergely Herpai (BadSector)-



A Gentleman in Moscow

Direction - 6.2
Actors - 7.8
Story - 7.2
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 7.8
Ambience - 5.4



A Gentleman in Moscow, starring Ewan McGregor, is an elegant but slowly unfolding series set in 1920s Russia. The series divides its audience by choosing black actors to play Russian characters in the name of modern political correctness, which many believe undermines historical accuracy. Despite the slow narrative pace, McGregor’s brilliant performance and the series' visual execution may compensate those viewers who stick with it.

User Rating: 2.16 ( 1 votes)

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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