WE’RE IN IT NOW. The season (series?) finale is here with REVOLUTION. Sure, they try to make it hinge on a romance I very much did not care about by the final episode, but there are also mind games and attempted stabbings and people running around fighting and barricades and Voltaire.
But this build happens slowly. We start with the pee wheat. Catherine throws this apparently foolproof 18th-century Russian pregnancy test in the fire and enters a fugue state where she absorbs nothing until she decides she wants Russia for her birthday. Which is today. She says Peter will be dead by the end of the day.
The Hoult Effect is in full force in this episode. While Catherine plans to murder Peter, he’s gotten her a gift that he is incredibly proud of and you just want him to succeed so badly while also being technically aware that he will fail and possibly die today and that he is a terrible ruler. Hoult Effect! He is determined that by the end of the day, Catherine will say I love you back. And you know what he got her? Yes: VOLTAIRE. There she is, practicing stabbing the dead body Velementov rented for her as a prelude to her regicide, when Peter just brings one of her favorite philosophers to court. (“I ordered him from France.”) It’s just so thoughtful I cannot. But he also tries to stage Leo’s attempted murder as a hunting accident and fakes a goodbye letter from him where Leo apologizes for being so bad at sex. He’s a complicated man.
Before all this, though, Elizabeth figures it out. “You’re coming for Peter,” she tells Catherine, without really betraying her own opinion. I hope that if we get a season two of The Great, Elizabeth appears as a royal adviser, because she is subtle and brilliant and I want to see more of her. And she has such a good line! Of Catherine’s ideas for Russia, she says: “Most women die with an unsaid better idea in their hearts.” I will get this line embroidered on a throw pillow! The realness of it all. Speak up with your ideas, ladies! Maybe you would do a much better job than the current guy of running, say, the Imperial Russia of the water filtration industry.
Elizabeth asks Catherine not to kill Peter, which she agrees to, but she also said they wouldn’t kill Archie but then told Orlo to do it, so it seems she’s not to be trusted anymore. At least as far as not killing people is concerned.
Back to Leo’s fake good-bye letter and its sex apology. Catherine rushes Peter with her teeny-tiny knife and after ALL THIS PLANNING and all this studying and all this nixing of Marial smothering Peter with a pillow, he easily disarms her and locks her in her room after calling her a firecracker. He seems to think this is all part of foreplay. I know Catherine’s only 20 years old, and she’s really doing well for that age, but GEEZ that was a sad assassination attempt. Just really terribly done. I am embarrassed for Catherine the Great.
Orlo also fails at murdering Archie. Velementov starts the coup before anyone is ready, and it is a THRILLING scene because there are pistols and running inside a palace. Anytime you see someone chasing a foe down the hallway of a palace, it’s a worthwhile scene, but it’s preferable if there is general chaos all around them, and there is. Archie, who has beaten Orlo in the head with a Bible, tells Marial she must betray Catherine to save herself. Marial does, BUT before you get all judge-y about Marial, she has an actual plan this time, and it works. Which is interesting since Catherine tried thoughtless action and it utterly failed.
Peter knows about Catherine’s pregnancy. He holds her at knifepoint, but she says that he loves her and he loves Paul, so he won’t kill them. She is CORRECT. Instead he kneels in front of her and says, “Hullo, Paul. It’s me, Daddy.” I know it’s farce but my heart exploded anyway. They seem to have reached a stalemate, since he won’t kill Catherine and her attempt to kill him failed, and the coup outside the doors appears to be on hold. She tells him to abdicate, and his counteroffer is that she calls off the coup or he has Leo’s head cut off.
I really, really expected her to immediately sacrifice Leo here. Did I transfer my own boredom with him onto her? I guess, but also this whole time she’s been like, this is my dream, this is my life goal, I will be empress, I will change everything, and instead she’s like, “Got it, yes, will call off coup to save boyfriend.”
You know who saves the day? Voltaire! He talks about the transient nature of love, etc etc, general pessimistic Voltairian comments. This all turns out great (well, not for Leo) because Catherine realizes her real love is Russia. She will meet other men, but not other massive Eurasian countries! She says goodbye to Leo in a forest, they try to make it romantic, I do not care because I want them to get back to the hallway barricades and Velementov talking about how there’s hope in the eyes of their supporters.
She runs back to the palace, gives Velementov a nod, and he fires the go-ahead into the air.
New rulers of Russia: ??? Did it succeed?? Will there be another season? We do not know! But please bring back Peter.