The Great Season-Finale Recap: Everybody Wants to Rule the World

The Great

Destiny/Once Upon a Time
Season 3 Episodes 9 and 10
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

The Great

Destiny/Once Upon a Time
Season 3 Episodes 9 and 10
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Christopher Raphael/HULU/ HULU

There are not many shows that I have enjoyed as consistently as The Great. Despite Tony McNamara’s partiality to animal cruelty, his writing is so sparklingly funny and clever that, three seasons in, I am still delighted by it even when he kills my favorite character! I think I will not get over it, but I do. Sort of. In a way. I want to stay angry about this! But I can’t, because wow, these characters have really gone Through It and emerged even more interesting and complex.

This Pugachev plot of Archie’s has really gotten out of hand. Marial, Georgina, Catherine, and Elizabeth go to the town where he’s currently speechifying to try to calm the rebelling peasants. It does not go well, and Marial saves Georgina’s life, although she later regrets it. Catherine’s realizing that the people really do hate her, which can’t be a good feeling at any time, especially not right after you’ve lost your husband, and the people you govern are flocking to a man you stabbed a bunch who is now pretending to be him. What a complicated situation. Soon after this, Pugachev takes Moscow. MOSCOW. Catherine’s response to this is, “Okay. Thanks.” Saying she is depressed is a gross understatement, as it is more of an existential fugue where she drifts through life with nothing meaning anymore. I’m sure many of us have been there, but we weren’t governing a country being taken over by an angry mob of its citizens. Side note: While Catherine instituted many reforms, she was not pro-democracy in her own country! Very much the opposite!

To determine whether Catherine actually has a destiny or has just been deluding herself this whole time, she lays out three guns every day, only one of which is loaded, points one at her head, and shoots. Her logic is that if it is her destiny to rule, she will never pick up the loaded gun. To this, I say, good LORD. When Elizabeth insists that Catherine has a destiny, Catherine says that it is true, according to today’s guns.

We’ve touched on this in previous seasons, but this conversation between Elizabeth and Catherine feels like two alternate realities coming together, as Catherine asks Elizabeth why being empress isn’t Elizabeth’s destiny. Because Elizabeth was empress! That happened! It gets a little weird, though, with the show’s moving around of family members, as Elizabeth was Peter the Great’s daughter and not his love interest. She is seen as a very successful monarch, though, which I’d definitely believe of the Elizabeth we know and love, butterfly training and all.

Paul is living in a box in a tree, and it’s absolutely batshit. He’s in what looks like a bear costume, and Grigor brings the box down via a rope multiple times a day to feed him and play the violin for him. Folks. This is not sustainable. It’s clear that Grigor is losing it, though; his main goal is to keep Paul safe and not let him be ordained since Peter didn’t want it. Catherine sanctioned this “take Paul away for his safety” thing, but it’s unclear if she knows he is living in a tree box that occasionally bears attack. If everything feels like it’s chaos, it is. No one is in control, everyone is running around trying to secretly accomplish their own agenda, and it’s all banana muffins.

Also, Velementov is now not dying! He finally goes to the doctor, and the doctor casually tells him they came up with a cure for what Velementov has a few years ago and also that people need to read his pamphlets. So now Velementov isn’t in an alcoholic, self-destructive spiral! But it’s a little too late, and Petrov remains head of the army. Catherine does listen to Velementov’s plan for Pugachev, though, which is to take him alive and make him go on a tour, telling everyone he’s not Peter. Gosh, things were hard back then. Archie panics about this plan because then Pugachev might reveal that Archie hired him and started this whole thing. He just wants Pugachev dead. I mean, he also wants to have sex with him, but the dead thing more.

Catherine and Marial sneak into a Pugachev rally to hear what he has to say that’s so riveting. He promises everyone they will kill all foreigners who look them in the eye, build the tallest towers in the world, and send ships to steal all the gold and raccoons from America. HEY. Those are OUR raccoons. We need them to make funny videos.

Everyone shouts, “kill her,” re: Catherine, and we end the penultimate episode. I know, I know! One episode to somehow resolve this massive chaos. Can it be done!! Well, basically, yes.

Pugachev gets sorted out right from the start of our season finale, “Once Upon a Time.” We’re still at the rally, and when Pugachev comes into an antechamber, there’s Archie. Archie shoots Pugachev in the shoulder right after Pugachev kisses him. This is his second shoulder-shooting. Pugachev runs away and sees Petrov, who doesn’t shoot him because he was ordered not to, so Pugachev flees into a carriage, and Maxim is there, holding a gun at him. Someone needs to take Maxim’s guns away. Pugachev is brought to court and tied to a chair. Catherine tells him about this speaking tour deal where he’ll admit he isn’t Peter. When she’s out of the room, though, Archie talks Maxim into going in and shooting Pugachev in the head, so now we’ve had to see Nicholas Hoult die twice in one season. It’s not fair. But also, shit. Now who’s going to do Catherine’s speaking tour?

There is a hell of a lot of moving pieces in this episode, so let me try to sum up motives: Grigor is insane but wants to keep Paul and marry Marial. Georgina wants Paul ordained and to marry him and be empress. Archie wants Paul ordained. Elizabeth wants Paul ordained, but she is no longer in cahoots with Archie. Petrov is just kind of vibing. The Swedes are running around doing things, but eh. Oh, and Marial wants a job. And everyone keeps bashing people on the head to knock them out! I thought we talked about this in the last recap!

Catherine gets a break when the royal astronomer Nikolai shows up and tells her that Halley’s Comet is about to appear. If you were immediately like, excellent, she can use this to trick the peasants; then congratulations, you are one step ahead of Catherine. To be fair, she’s having a rough time.

Speaking of which, Elizabeth has had it, and she tells Catherine that she needs to stand up, or someone else will. By someone else, Elizabeth means herself. Elizabeth says that if she and not Catherine sits in the empress’s seat in the State Room tomorrow, Elizabeth is not getting up again. Also, she loves Catherine, which is nice. Catherine seems to finally come to herself, not at this moment, but the next day during Gun Time. Catherine still chooses a gun. Right as she picks it up, someone comes into her room shooting in order to assassinate her, and she fires at them. The gun is loaded! Destiny! OR IS IT? (It is not. OR IS IT?)

After this incident, Catherine immediately seems like herself again, but harsher. Harsher in a way she probably needs to be to get anything the fuck done. She goes to a duel that is happening despite her banning it and shoots Petrov in the leg (he’s fine). She tells Archie to use the comet as a sign to calm down the Russian people, just like we all thought would be a great idea. It’s unclear how Archie will do this, though, as he has also ordained Paul against her wishes and did the Pugachev murder (which Catherine finds out because Marial finally tells her, thank you, Marial), so Catherine tells him he’s going to be buried alive. To be specific, she tells the guards to tear the cassock from his body, rip off his beard, bury him alive, and piss on his grave.

Catherine tells Archie that either this can happen or he can sign a paper freeing half a million serfs owned by the Church and giving them each 25 acres. Archie begrudgingly agrees, and then, of course, she has him dragged off anyway. Damn, Catherine! Elizabeth had indeed been in the chair of state, but once this Archie business happens, she yields it to Catherine.

Then we get a kind of quick wrap-up! Guards piss on Archie’s grave, but Marial digs him up and he’s still alive. Petrov fires Pugachev’s head out of a cannon into a room of his supporters. Catherine finds out all the guns were loaded the day she shot the assassin. She states that destiny didn’t get her where she is. She did it. She’s chopped off her hair, and we end with Catherine dancing around an empty room to “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC before sitting on the floor and crying. And THAT is where we end season three.

Will we get another season?? What on EARTH do we do without Nicholas Hoult on this show? And are we sure Peter couldn’t survive being drowned in an icy lake for several months?

What a great show.

The Great Finale Recap: Everybody Wants to Rule the World