Huzzah! We are back. Last season, we left off with Leo dead (or is he? — spoiler: Yes, he is) and the coup began. The weirdly small, contained, indoor coup. It is Catherine vs. Peter in opposite wings of the palace, in what reminded me of nothing so much as the Community episode “Pillows and Blankets” when Blanketsburg declares war on Pillowtown.
Catherine has been trying to displace Peter for four months and is now Very Pregnant. Peter is exactly the same as always, thank God, i.e., merrily bobbing along on the sea of life, occasionally murdering a dolphin but you’re somehow not mad at him for it. Nicholas Hoult makes this series, and may he never leave it. He was a delight last season, and now Peter has the bonus feature of being in love with Catherine and finding her every action delightful, including her coup attempt.
But we have to hit pause on Peter because Catherine is hung up on Leo. LEO. Her? If you love Leo, I guess write about it in the comments because I am completely mystified on this plot point. Catherine made this Big Choice last season between being in love with an alive person and leading Russia, and she chose Russia. “Great,” I said at the time, “let’s move on.” But we can’t because we have to watch her move through her emotions about this character who never once referred to people as blind, syphilitic boars! If I wanted to watch someone not do that, I’d watch literally any other show. There are so many excellent characters I’d love to spend time with in The Great, and the boring one is somehow, despite being dead, still obstructing me in that goal.
Speaking of characters who are neither boring nor dead, Marial, noblewoman-turned-serf, is over on Peter’s side of the palace, hanging out with Archie. Yes, she had to betray Catherine last season, but it all turned out fine and we still love Marial. Is it partially because she’s very pretty? Yes! But also there are other, less-shallow, reasons, which I shall enumerate some other time.
Everyone else is pretty much where you’d expect them to be — Arkady, Georgina, Archie, and Grigor are in Peter’s wing, and Velementov and Orlo are helping Catherine. New this season are the LOOKALIKES. Their main purpose is to impersonate the royal family and test whether they would get shot by Catherine’s men for trying to escape the palace (they would, the lookalikes do, and we lose quite a few of them this episode).
Things are at a stalemate, and Catherine’s bored. Peter and his entourage are obviously having tremendous fun because that’s what they do, but something needs to change. Someone named Molotov hands Catherine a bottle, and behold — she decides they’ll throw Molotov cocktails (“BORTLES”) at the opposing side, and if the palace burns down, they’ll just build another one. If you’re a bottle episode fan, The Great really took care of you in this season opener. Not only is half the episode dedicated to a coup held entirely within the palace (except for that lookalike who gets shot outside), but it also involves bottles as a device to further the plot: double bottling, A+.
I have been known to go on about how amazing Nicholas Hoult is, but the show does rest on Elle Fanning making this whimsical version of Catherine the Great believable. And she does! She makes Catherine an overly idealistic nerd who sees children kicking a human head around and delivers a grandiose speech on the preciousness of life, and it all somehow works. You want Catherine to win over Peter, but what you want the most is for them to rule together. Which is a real Once Upon a Time in Hollywood take on the historical reality, and I love it.
The Molotov cocktail attack does not kill Peter. He was secretly visiting Catherine and Paul (remember how he named the unborn baby Paul and it was Extremely Cute?) at the time to deliver a stuffed rabbit he made for Paul. He and his besties Grigor and Georgina flee the palace, and Peter immediately eats all their blueberries. In his defense, he thought there were more (should this episode have been titled Peter Ate All the Blueberries?).
Catherine doesn’t know where Peter is, but she has other things to think about, like how much she enjoys eating dirt while pregnant. This is a real thing and one theory is that it’s due to an iron deficiency, so let’s go with that. Elizabeth (Peter’s aunt and the IRL empress in historical Russia, here a delightfully dotty non-empress with weird fertility advice!) brings Catherine a frog to sit on her stomach to help with the pregnancy. Maybe it’s been too long in quarantine, but I’d kind of like a frog to sit on my stomach for a prescribed length of time. Would add some nice variety to the day. I mentioned this to my friend and she asked if frogs poop on you like chickens, so that’s the death of that dream.
When Peter, Grigor, and Georgina fled the palace, they brought only blueberries (which, again, Peter immediately ate). They are poor planners even by the season one standard set by Coup Club. So, okay, they’re all out of blueberries, and their plans B and C are to make salsa verde from weeds and roast a rat. It is, as you might think, very gross. Catherine finds them by following the palace chef to their location, where she makes him roast a pig with apples, cognac, and marjoram in order to lure Peter out, like those old cartoons where the characters float through the air on food aromas.
Peter’s side gives up, and his terms of abdication are that he gets to spend twenty minutes a day with Catherine and Paul. She says she’ll send him to the Urals, but then he immediately tells her how he’ll take the throne back. This feels like when you’re playing chess with someone and they go “are you sure you want to do that?” He keeps trying to offer a deal where they live in the palace together and have fiery sex while she rules the country, but Catherine declines. Look. I know Peter has Done Some Things, but this feels like a pretty good deal. Nevertheless, with the fiery sex off the metaphorical table, Catherine agrees to his terms and the coup is over!
Peter abdicates and eats some ham, Leo is definitely dead, Catherine is empress, but at what cost (really not a high cost).
• Will the lookalikes return?
• Could you eat a rat? I don’t know if I could, but probably?
• Okay, but like … Leo’s definitely dead, right?
More From This Series
- KY Jelly and Lard Ice Cream: Getting Intimate With the Cast of The Great
- The Great’s Phoebe Fox Loves Marial and Catherine’s Love Story
- The Great Season-Finale Recap: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story