In the opening scene to "Servant of the People," the popular 2015 TV series that helped catapult Volodymyr Zelenskyy from comedian to president, three oligarchs bargained for control of Ukraine as they looked out over its sleeping capital, sipping champagne and brandy.

Eight years later, the tables have turned. The man who played the show’s fictional hero as he bumbled from teacher to president is Ukraine’s war-time leader in real life, wielding emergency powers as he directs the fight against Russia’s invasion. The oligarchs, meanwhile, have seen their assets and political power shrivel.

The humbling of men who for so long personified Ukraine’s endemic corruption and "state capture,” as the International Monetary Fund once called it, comes at a critical time. Ukraine is clinging to a financial lifeline via tens of billions of dollars in aid from the U.S. and European Union, with substantially more needed for postwar reconstruction.