The small municipality in Middle Europe of HBO’s “The Regime” displays modern authoritarianism on the big screen — this time with feeling.

Opening on the seventh anniversary of Chancellor Elena Vernham’s (Kate Winslet) victory of her country’s pseudo-“free and fair election,” episode one of writer Will Tracy’s (“The Menu” and “Succession”) ridiculous yet off-puttingly realistic show follows an anxiety-ridden Elena as she attempts to enjoy her special day while overrun by paranoia that mold has infested her residence. Her intense comedic and anxiety-filled performance exposes the true fear of her character — that her white-knuckled clutch on power is beginning to slip.

As Elena continues to obsess and fear that deadly spores have infected all of her soundings, she employs Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a soldier nicknamed “the Butcher’’ for his brutal suppression of a worker’s riot at the mines. He assigned with the task of following her around with an antennae-like machine, testing the humidity of every room she enters. This precaution is not enough to soothe her anxiety, of course, and the yes-men that surround Elena are incapable of questioning her tight-lipped autocratic decision that there is something deadly in the air.

Still, Elena gains some comfort from the quiet, haunted and clearly terrified soldier — perhaps it is because she and her fellow “public servants’’ cannot seem to view him as any more than “a dog using a calculator.” Although his character is less fleshed out than Elena’s, Schoenaerts’ performance reveals a character that is simultaneously placed in positions of power and looked down upon by those above him. He is exonerated of his guilt for acting so brutally against the workers’ riot by Elena, who reassures him that “they behaved like animals” and the soldiers “just reacted” — all the while, every other political elite Zubak interacts with views him as the animal, constantly reminding the viewer of the power structure put in place by Elena’s strict government.

Tracy does not only question the “Twilight Zone”-esque governance of this vaguely European country, but also the foreign diplomats who act as witnesses to the intense surveillance under which Elena’s citizens reside. Diplomats from all over the world enjoy a dinner to celebrate Elena’s “Victory Day,” commemorating her defeat of her left-leaning predecessor and implementation of a fascist government. Politicians from the United States are unimpressed with Elena’s performance of Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” and peppy attitude toward foreign relations, instead questioning the strict surveillance she applies throughout her country and asking if the miners were really rioting at all. These questions lead nowhere, however, and the big ticket item on the table becomes clear — there are stakes in cobalt mines and mineral resources found in this tiny nation. As disapproving as these American diplomats may be of the Chancellor’s repressive and highly censored governance, they are willing to look the other way if it means that they’ll gain 51 percent in shares of this mineral industry and a strong capital allyship.

The characters’ interests in authority and political partnerships is only heightened by the detailed costume and set design, which take on a rigid shape, exposing not only the strength of Elena’s reign, but the structure required to maintain such power. Her costumes stick out from the drab, shapeless dresses of characters like Agnes (Andrea Riseborough), Elena’s aide.

The setting is almost Roman Empire-esque, seemingly inspired by imperial villas that display great wealth and power in the form of nature murals all along the walls. The greens and blues rub oddly against Elena’s sterile and watchful poses, a sort of discomfort that cannot be controlled.

Surreal and all too recognizable, “The Regime” takes the most disgustingly comedic path to expose modern politics, displaying a charismatic and well-loved character whose authoritarian reign is enjoyed only by herself and those who benefit from it. Paranoia follows the audience throughout the pilot episode, yet Elena’s entertaining charm disguises her power as almost laughable, before getting to the most frightening bit — how great power continues to be great power, even when the person wielding it seems to be the most ridiculous choice.