The Great Season-Finale Recap: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story

The Great

Season 2 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

The Great

Season 2 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Gareth Gatrell/ HULU

Do I like this season better than the first? I think yes! The mutual antagonism between Catherine and Peter is not quite as good as when it’s one-sided or as when they present a united front. It took us over a year to get a second season, and one can only hope that whatever production hurdles brought by global events have now been cleared, and we can get a speedy third installment to this excellent, excellent series.

My friend was very concerned that we would end with Peter’s death. This feels valid! Who is truly safe in The Great? We haven’t had a main cast death, but we’ve had many secondary characters die, and what could Catherine do after learning that her husband had sex with and killed her mother? But then, how do you do this show without Peter living life at 120 percent? It would be a pale ghost of a show, potentially only redeemed by Peter’s actual ghost. If his father showed up as a hallucination spirit, then Peter could too. But we don’t have to worry about that because Peter does make it through the season intact. Barely.

Before all this, he and Catherine are having terrific sex while Elizabeth watches from the door, and a nearby Archie tries to recover from an alcohol-based stupor. Archie feels that God has abandoned him and is thereby having some problems. He plans to read the Bible and whip himself. You do you, sir.

We must note! In the opening, instead of “An Occasionally True Story,” for the first time it says “An Almost Entirely Untrue Story.” As the show has progressed, we have strayed further and further from history, and this seems to be a sign that we are just dropping it. Timelines are mashed together, characters are invented, backstories are wiped clean and rewritten — if there were ever a time to doubt the truth of what The Great says about the Russian court in the 18th century, that time is now. But also always, because this is not a historical-fiction piece.

The wedding of the title is that of Marial and her 8-year-old cousin Maxim. Yes, that wedding is proceeding. Maxim wants to serve only ice cream and have a cake in the shape of a dog, which Marial considers for a moment before nixing. It’s your special day, Maxim, you have that dog-shaped cake if you want. Did I mention Marial and Grigor are casually swapping I love yous with each other? I LOVE IT. I LOVE IT ALL. He’s concerned she will tell Catherine about Peter and Joanna, which he says will ruin everything. This is true, but he is not considering that Marial is still extremely angry with Peter. She tells Catherine because of course she does.

This is a Moment. There is an extreme close-up of Catherine’s face as she digests the information, and you can see her internally lose it. She goes to where her mother is buried in the forest and sobs, and I say, “Shit!” She returns to the palace and almost stabs Peter, but he’s holding Paul. This is all poor timing because she has to meet with the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and she is now alienating everyone she knows, so instead of a trusted adviser, she drags along a random soldier. She and the Sultan meet in the forest, each with their plus one.

Ugh, we have to talk about the Sultan. I love this show very much, but this … is an odd choice, and by odd, I mean racist. The Sultan of an Islamic empire that existed for over 600 years is wearing a large fur coat, which, sure, it’s cold in Russia, but that’s a costuming choice that connotes “barbarian.” He tells a story about killing all his brothers to become the Sultan, and he has a necklace made of ears hanging around his neck. I hate it? How was there not someone on set going “Hey, so what’re we, uh — what’re we thinking here?” Did the law of fratricide exist in the Ottoman Empire? It did! But it ended more than 150 years before this episode took place! The Sultan at this time was Mustafa III, who wrote poetry, established a fiscal policy, and built large grain stores for the empire. This portrayal is just not cool.

The (of course!) violent Sultan stabs Catherine in the hand and she stabs him in the neck before being saved from his plus one by Elizabeth. Elizabeth, who knows what’s in the wind, sends Peter a note that says “run.” He’s going to; he’s all set. He and his entourage are going to take Paul and get out of Russia. Only he can’t. He can’t take Paul and can’t leave Catherine, even though he knows she will likely kill him. GROWTH. Peter’s arc has been so good. Huzzah for Peter.

Catherine is punching herself in the face again as she and Elizabeth drive back to the palace. She has to kill Peter, and she does not want to. Elizabeth tries to talk her out of it, but Catherine says he killed her mother. Elizabeth counters that overconfidence in window ledges killed her mother, which is an excellent point. Showing some of her empress-level traits, our beloved and eccentric-but-wise character talks to Catherine about the importance of bringing her pure ideas of love and philosophy down to earth and mixing them with humanity’s imperfection and failures.

It’s time for the wedding. Will Peter live, or will he die? Will his entourage pull out the guns they have hidden under the table and end things for Catherine? Well, we know from the start of this recap that Peter makes it through, but how? The how is through rhetoric and also a cunning plan. Catherine and Peter trade speeches about marriage and love and what it means. Peter tells her he is honestly just so fucking sorry, and it is one of the most sincere apologies I have ever heard. Catherine imbibes some of Elizabeth’s advice and admits that her optimistic quest for perfection was perhaps the wrong tack to take in life and that a great love, like a great country, is a flawed one, which continues as long as we are working to make ourselves better. This damn show. *wipes tear*

Catherine asks Peter to meet her, and you know something is going to go down. But! After leaving, Velementov and Orlo come into the reception, arresting Arkady, Tatyana, Grigor, and Marial. What is going on! And why do we have to wait at least a year to find out!

Back with Peter and Catherine, she approaches him by the fire, his back to her (suspicious), and she stabs him in the back many, many times. Immediately after, she falls on his body, sobbing. But who was it? Yes, the LOOK-ALIKE! Back once more to stand in for a stabbing. He is somehow okay (how!), and Catherine and Peter hug. END OF SEASON.

Final Lingering Questions

• What does rhyme with “our love is like a hippopotamus?”

• Why wasn’t Georgina arrested!

• Now that we’re fully off the rails, will Catherine and Peter do something like sail to America or journey to Machu Picchu? I hope so.

The Great Recap: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story