Ewan McGregor Looks for the Exit

The penultimate episode of A Gentleman in Moscow follows a series of events that come after Stalin’s death. It is now 1953, and Russia is on the verge of a new beginning. No one at the Metropol Hotel is celebrating, but at the same time, it doesn’t really feel like anyone is really mourning his death, either.

That is, except for the Bishop (John Heffernan), who makes the staff put on some weird funeral party for the late Soviet Union leader. Alexander (Ewan McGregor) attends as a waiter, but he can’t get his mind off Sofia (Beau Gadsdon), who is in the middle of a big piano competition. It must be hard, raising a child who goes out into the real world while you stay in the same hotel for your entire life. Poor Alex.

Luckily, it’s all smiles and good news when Sofia and Anna (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)—who has officially become Sofia’s stand-in mother—return from the competition. Sofia won! Not only that: Because she won, she now gets to join the conservatory’s tour of Europe, meaning she’ll get to go play in Paris, Prague, and Minsk. To celebrate, Sofia slides onto the piano bench at the Metropol and plunks out some Beethoven, later turning the tunes into swing-versions of his concertos. Stalin banned the blues, but hey—Stalin’s dead! Who cares?

The Bishop, that’s who. After a staff meeting, the Bishop confronts Alex and asks him to tell Sofia to never play such inappropriate music ever again. Alex obliges, later telling Sofia that she’ll have to cut it out, but Sofia is just like her mother Nina: a rebel. Sofia insists that she’ll play what she wants.

While grabbing drinks with Alex, Richard (Lucian Msamati), an American diplomat staying at the Metropol Hotel, has a confession to make—he’s actually a spy. Okay, random. But sure, cool. Richard then offers Alex a deal: If Alex can record a conversation between huge Russian leaders that’s set to happen at the Metropol in a few days, Richard can help Sofia immigrate to the United States, giving her a better life. Alex makes no promises, but he does seem intrigued by the opportunity.

Osip (Johnny Harris), too, wants Alex to do some spying. If moderate Nikita Khrushchev is chosen as the next leader of the Soviet Union, Osip is in some real trouble—he has plans to shake up the guards around the nation. He hopes Georgy Malenkov, who is a lot more like Stalin, will be the successor. If Alex is in on the meeting as a waiter, he can give Osip a heads up, allowing him to protect his wife and daughter.

John Heffernan, Lyes Salem, Ewan McGregor, Beau Gadsdon, Leah Harvey, Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson, and Gabriel Robinson.

Ben Blackall/Paramount+ with SHOWTIME

Anna and Alex mull everything over together. America would give Sofia a more convenient life, yes, but Alex says his favorite parts about life have become the inconveniences. Then again, Anna argues, things haven’t been great for revolutionaries like Mishka and Nina, and Sofia is showing early signs of being a rabble rouser. Alex agrees. It would be best to get her out of Russia and into a more moderate country as soon as possible.

Speaking of Mishka (Fehinti Balogun)—he’s back! Unfortunately, he’s not in the best shape, but Alex is dedicated to helping him feel like himself again. After some major protests against Stalin, Mishka has seen better days—he can’t really remember what he’s saying half of the time. But there is a sweet moment in which Sofia asks about Nina, and while Mishka doesn’t have much to offer, Sofia seems pleased that someone has returned from the pack of resistors.

Ahead of the big meeting with the Russian figureheads, the Bishop asks to meet with Sofia to ensure she’s going to play appropriate music for the feast. Sofia snarks too much, and the Bishop really digs into her: She’s too much like her mom. The Bishop claims he tried to save Nina from her “corrupt nature” but failed. He hints at Sofia’s parents being killed, which really sets her off, because why wouldn’t it? Heading into this big night, it really seems like Sofia might crack under pressure.

Alex has fully signed onto becoming an American spy at this point, grabbing a bunch of gadgets to tape the event through his wristwatch. Once he has the recordings, he’ll pass them onto Sofia, who will leave them at the American embassy in Paris.

All eyes are on Sofia at this dinner, though, making it safe for Alex to do his recordings. The Bishop really gets in her face, demanding the national anthem after she starts playing a sadder melody. She obliges—which seems to upset him, considering he probably wanted to scream in her face. To upset the Bishop, though, Sofia throws in just a single verse of a blues-ier version of the anthem.

Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov in A Gentleman in Moscow.

Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

Following the dinner, Alex finds Osip with bad news. Khrushchev will be the next Soviet Union leader. “I understand now how you felt under the first revolution,” Osip admits. Alex kind of gets in Osip’s face, like, “Seriously, dude?” Osip has been kind to Alex, but he should still feel guilty about all the other people he killed over the years. Now, he faces a reckoning.

Mishka stumbles out into the night without a goodbye to anyone other than Sofia, who says he gave no explanation. So, really? Not a ton happened in this episode. Sofia is growing irate with the Bishop, Alex and Anna want her to move away, Mishka was back for a minute, and that’s all.

That is, until later, when Alex confronts Anna, who’s tired of being stuck in this holding pattern: “It’s time to get out of this madhouse.” One would hope that the series finale will feature a venture into the real world, but after seven episodes stuck up in the Metropol Hotel, it’s hard to see the show ever going anywhere.

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