Woven into the story are some of the other great Russian Marxists of the period: Plekhanov, Kamenev, Yakov, Parvus, Sverdlov, Rykov, Bukarharin, et al. Dzerzhinsky, head of the Cheka, is portrayed as the grim reaper of the Revolution, responsible for egregious acts of mass murder and oppression. Of course, as one would expect, there is no shortage of western bias in this production. He did not reach the heights of infamy reserved for Stalin's chief executioner, Lavrentiy Beria.
Lenin, on the other hand, considered Dzerzhinsky to be a revolutionary hero because of great personal sacrifices he made over many years as a dedicated revolutionist. And it should be remembered too that Dzerzhinsky acted on the orders of Lenin and Trotsky who share responsibility for his actions. For example, it was Trotsky who argued for the reintroduction of return to political executions as an effective tool for suppressing internal dissidence. Dzerzhinsky as a true believe made full use of it in order to terrorise those who would not adhere to the party line.
Lev Davidovich Bronstein played a central role in the revolutionary events that unfolded in Russia in the first third of the 20th Century. Further, he participated in two revolutions, a World War, a Civil War, and a pre-war peace agreement with Nazi Germany for which he is heavily criticised even today. Not alone did he take part in these momentous events, but his personal decisions helped to shape the outcomes. Trotsky was the victim of both his own success and failure: Instigator of the policy of War Communism, Creator of the formidable Red Army, Hero of the Civil War, preferred successor to Lenin, he finally succumbed to a bogus friendship with his appointed assassin.
Was Trotsky haunted by his past in the manner this production suggests? Certainly, the death of three children in horrible individual circumstances would have left an indelible mark on his psyche. However, was he plagued by feelings of deep regret and remorse? This is strongly hinted at by the frequent nightmares and flashbacks that intersperse the narrative. In repeated conversations with Mercader, some verging on violence, Trotsky justifies the human cost of the early revolution by invoking the purity of the Ideal, whereas he accused Stalin of being motivated merely by a personal lust for Power.
Was Trotsky brilliant? Yes. Was he flawed? Most definitely.
The series is worth watching to fill a few cold, dark night at home.