If you’re looking for an episode of The Great to skip, this is the one. I cannot with it. It starts out innocuously enough, with a nice walk through the grounds with a bear (it’s so docile!), but then there is so much intense stabbing and mummified corpse sex and hanged people and potential dog death and SHOES on the BED.
That’s not to say there aren’t good things. But this is one episode that left me having to pause and stare at the wall for a few moments after. And with that, let’s get into it!
Peter has decided he’s changed since his near-death experience. Now he’s all about staring at birds and also having a food tester and a bodyguard. The bodyguard is a Tatar named Nick. I love Nick and hope he figures more prominently in the story going forward. Peter hasn’t changed so much, though, as to not hang every single person who had any contact with the borscht that poisoned him. This includes: the farmer who grew the beets, the guy who delivered them, the cook who cooked them, the servant who served them, and the guard he walked past with the borscht. He summons the entire court to gaze upon them and gives off an overall unhinged vibe as he says, “I want to be the most loved ruler in all of Russian history.” PETER.
I can’t decide if Peter is really making great strides this episode or if this will all vanish overnight. He’s interested in art and science, he’s being kind to Catherine, he asks other people how they think things could be better. All these seem like positive signs, and yet he also throws a dog off the roof.
Oh! Let’s not go any further until we address Orlo’s extremely weird The Revenant meets Naked and Afraid time in the woods. Okay. I don’t know what was going on here, but it’s a weird damn tone in an already weird damn tone episode. Orlo travels to the front to try and recruit Velementov for the Coup Club, but a bear in the road causes a carriage accident. The driver dies, and the horses run off, and Orlo is left in the middle of the woods with no means of transportation and a bear directly in front of him. In terror, he runs deeper into the woods, and eventually comes across a Swedish soldier who has captured a number of Russian soldiers. Orlo stabs the Swedish soldier (possibly by accident?) and then spends a WHILE sitting just outside the campfire, not doing anything, while the soldier slowly dies and the Russians yell at him to free them. He tries to help the soldier die a good death (“We must be people of reason and compassion”), but the soldier tries to kill him, so he stabs him in the neck a bunch of times. Later, the Russians give him the head as a souvenir, saying, “You had to and you did.” Okay. Sure. But this was dark as fuck, and I am not sure what the point of it was supposed to be. Is it saying something about the primal nature of humanity? Is it pushing Orlo’s character in a new direction towards action? It’s all super weird and sounds like a dream when you try to retell it. The metaphors are so blatant it’s embarrassing. Two thumbs down for Orlo’s story arc this episode.
Hey, remember Leo? He’s around all the time, but he’s mainly telling Catherine about new drinks (Moscow Mules! Dom Pérignon!), having sex with her, or discussing philosophical things, all of which are nice, but none of which really move a story along. He does say a nice thing when Catherine worries about being a good enough ruler, which is that humans are never quite as good as we wish. “It is the human way to fall short of ourselves. For our thoughts can be untouched by hard reality, whereas our bodies and souls must bump against the world.” Well done, Leo. Ten points for Gryffindor. Or, if Dumbledore were giving them out, 5,000. #DumbleSlam
Leo’s having a hard time because, as part of Peter’s whole new person thing, he’s sleeping with Catherine more, including quite literal sleep, which has never happened before. He’s also listening to her. He wants to change, but he doesn’t know how. She suggests it be manifested through Russia, which means sponsorship of the aforementioned art and science. He gets very jazzed about this and goes on a walk about the court to get other people’s opinions. He is 100 percent naked while doing this, and I highly enjoy seeing Nicholas Hoult’s shoulders. Well done, sir.
Catherine, meanwhile, is being more upfront than before, and basically tells the ladies she hates throwing balls on the lawn. One of them admits that it’s “fucking dull,” and that is the story of how Smash Bottle Game was born. Smash Bottle Game involves (1) rolling balls toward Champagne bottles in hopes that they will (2) smash. It looks extremely fun and is basically bowling, but better.
And what’s Archie up to over there? Being extremely upset about art and science. Archie reacts to art and science the way you would hopefully react to someone putting their shoes on the bed, which is absolutely unacceptable and yet Archie does it anyway. Our current century is the century with the least amount of shit in the streets, and it’s STILL horrible to put your shoes on the bed. Why would Archie, patriarch of the Russian Church, put his 18th-century shoes on a bed? Where someone sleeps. Unforgivable. He still doesn’t deserve to have Catherine nearly bite his fingers off (oh yeah, add that one to the horrifying list), but almost.
I’m not addressing the sex with a mummified corpse thing because I wish to forget it as soon as possible, but let’s just say it’s why Marial’s entire family was bumped down to servant class and why Peter absolutely will not restore her to the nobility.
The eponymous parachute is a science experiment that servant Vlad is trying. Peter eagerly joins him in it, but he attaches! A dog! To the parachute! I don’t know what writer Tony McNamara’s DEAL is with animals, but one dies almost every episode, and it is to the point that I think he hates them. For anyone worried, no, the dog does not die. Or, as my notes have it: “OH THANK GOD, THE PARACHUTE CAUGHT. OH THANK GOD. OMG. AHHHHHHHH. AHHHHHH.”
Haven’t we suffered enough in recent times not to also be subjected to potential dog death? Not cool, show. Not cool.
Birth control lemons: 3
Fingers almost bitten off: 2
Dogs saved: 1