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SEKTA – TV Series Review

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Marta Kessler as Kira and Svetlana Khodchenkova as Lilya in “Sekta.” Courtesy of MHZChoice.com

Good news, of a sort. The US is apparently not the only country having problems with cults. The Russian TV miniseries “Sekta” (“The Sect”) dramatizes the emotional and physical brutality of what cults can do to the gullible, and how hard it can be for others to rescue and de-program the victims. Powerful, if unpleasant, to witness, yet seemingly insightful and realistic about short and long-term effects on all touched by such situations.

The protagonist is a nurse, Lilya (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who helps a trio of parent-hired freelancers after they’ve managed to retrieve an unwilling Nika (Anastasiya Chistyakova) from her large, violent cult. The leader is a charismatic guy who claims the usual sort of insight beyond this lifetime, and a path to eternal bliss. They have no problem using any means to retake Nika, who supposedly is the key to their ritual ascension. They are also extremely well-funded, with clout in high places to keep the cops away. The proceedings are further complicated by Lily’s baggage from her previous trauma in another cult, and raising a young daughter, Kira (Marta Kessler), who may have some powers of her own. Lilya’s problems from that ordeal may not be completely behind her in several respects.

The early going is rather confusing, with numerous flashbacks delaying our understanding of what’s going on now, and what it all means. But patience will be rewarded, as the past and current story lines converge into an action-packed chain of events. Nika has been thoroughly brainwashed, and staunchly resists the process of returning to what we call a normal life. The “cure” often seems almost as bad as the indoctrination had been.

The sets are excellent for their bleakness that suits the subject matter. First-rate performances from the three women and Filipp Yankovski, as Berk the creepy, mesmerizing leader of Nika’s cult. He resembles a young Royal Dano, for those who recall that great character actor of yore. Gaunt and driven, one sees how his special brand of narcissistic psychopathy could reel in those who feel lost and adrift in their communities. Leaders of religious and political cults generally seem so certain of whatever they’re spewing, that the “Kool-Aid” seems plausible, and better than any other options they perceive.

Watching this is not a relaxing binge. But if you’re in the mood for something serious, with the bonus of the rare opportunity to see what Russians are viewing, it’s a good bet. “Sekta,” in Russian with English subtitles, is streaming now on MHZChoice.com

RATING: 3 out of 4 stars

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