Moving back and forward in time with the energy of a spy thriller, we see how the Putin we know today was shaped on the hard-scrabble streets of Leningrad (now St Petersburg). The film tracks how he escapes poverty by joining the KGB, how he models himself on the Russian James Bond, his reinvention as a political fixer in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and how he gets into position to take over from the ailing President Yeltsin.
The final instalment opens in Salisbury with the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The story tracks back in time to see how Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in 2012 after a 4-year absence is greeted by furious protests. His attempts to restore his ratings while coping with divorce and the loss of his youth are thrown off-course by accusations of corruption and American sanctions. He encourages a wave of populists, notably Donald Trump, but will he ever be able to leave power?