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Season 3, Episodes 7 and 8

Photo: Christopher Raphael/HULU/ HULU

Catherine and Georgina are still playing badminton. Friends. I’m really starting to believe Peter is dead. But that can’t be right because then what? Do we just have The Great with no Peter in it? That can’t be right. This show is ridiculous, and therefore I demand a ridiculous saving of Peter from his watery grave. Catherine’s brain also demands it, as she’s still refusing to accept he’s dead. Instead, she decides everyone needs to have more fun. What if the Enlightenment were fun, she asks. It’s funny because no one thinks the Enlightenment was fun.

Catherine’s first idea, which she puts to Georgina, is they build this new thing called a train that she’s heard about, stop in every town, play badminton, talk about the Enlightenment in a fun way, and then Georgina can go down on a peasant. I’d say grief messes with your brain, but also, this sounds like the sort of idea Peter would have, albeit without a detailed menu. Georgina counters by proposing that they focus on the now and have a festival called The Festival of Truth, Jokes, and Stunningly Clever Ideas. This makes me realize you can just invite people over and declare a festival in your own home if you want, and that sounds extremely fun. My festival would be The Festival of TV and Snacks.

The festival idea means we hear a lot of bad jokes in this episode, so if that’s your thing, I hope you had a good time. Catherine just continues to spiral, and might I remind you that only she, Grigor, and Georgina know Peter is dead, and she doesn’t even know Georgina knows! And then Georgina locks Grigor in his room after drugging him! So from the court’s perspective, Catherine is acting increasingly unhinged for no discernible reason. Absolute monarchies are a delight.

There is still the Pugachev problem, which Marial and Maxim are off to fix, and by “fix,” I mean “shoot Pugachev.” When Marial goes to one of his harangues to hear him talk to the peasants, though, Pugachev sees her and tells a story about Marial to the crowd, where he calls her a scared, angry woman desperate for the approval of the nobility so she can feel some level of freedom. Of course this works. I want to be mad at Marial, but I can’t be! She has had a terrible time. Her hatred of Peter is justified, as is her anger at Catherine for not following through with the plan but instead falling in love with Peter and taking him back. So Marial doesn’t shoot Pugachev. Maxim does, only he just wings him in the shoulder and runs away (“These fucking people,” says Pugachev correctly). So now this man stirring up dissension and revolt is even angrier, having been stabbed and shot by the nobles.

Georgina has her own plan, which involves schoolteacher Katya putting on a satirical play she wrote about Catherine’s reign. Remember a few episodes ago when I thought maybe a period show would finally have a decent women-loving-women romance? Okay, well, that is trashed here, and Georgina is just using Katya to upset Catherine and being extremely cavalier with Katya’s life! But also, what show am I watching? Of course she is. I should add that the maid Petra is erroneously convinced she and Georgina have extraordinary sexual tension. And yes, Tony McNamara, the two new characters when Peter is gone are named Petra and Petrov; we all see what you’ve done there.

So Katya stages her treasonous play after Georgina assures her it will be hilarious. Catherine has just shot birds inside to demonstrate vigorous Enlightenment discussion (again with the animal harm!). Then she laughed about being punched in the face by Georgina during a game of Marco Polo, so there is, in fact, a chance that she will love being mocked and ridiculed on stage in front of all the nobles. She does not, though. This is partly because the play is not good, but it’s also one of the first times Catherine has looked like herself since Peter’s apparent death (okay, but I ask again, what if he isn’t dead?). Instead of raging about the play that ends with her fucking a horse (c’mon, man), she orders everyone to dance until they throw up. A fitting punishment. Then Catherine sends Katya to Siberia for a writers’ residency, which was one of my favorite moments of the whole episode.

Georgina tells Petra to start telling all the servants that Peter is dead, then tells Catherine there are rumors of it. Marial returns to the palace and unlocks Grigor’s door (oh yeah, Grigor’s been locked in this entire time), and he tells her about Peter’s death too. Marial is happy. We end with Catherine crying and remembering Peter telling her he loves her with all his fucking heart and body. Damnit, I love them.

The following episode is titled “Peter and the Wolf,” so I went, “Aha! We haven’t seen Velementov and Hugo this entire time, and Peter’s name is in the title, so maybe Peter clawed his way out of the icy river, spooned with a wolf for warmth, and is now with Velementov and his men.” But no. Velementov and Hugo are still planning to invade Sweden, and Elizabeth and this new army man Petrov are riding to the frozen lake (is it a lake? I keep thinking it’s a river, but it might be a lake) to get Peter’s body. I like Petrov and he’s funny, but I’m grumpy because he seems like he’s supposed to be Replacement Peter, and you’re not my dad!

The lake is still frozen solid (not frozen enough to support a man and his horse, though), so to get through the ice, Elizabeth and Petrov build a bunch of small fires. One might say there are little fires everywhere. Elizabeth tells Petrov about Peter bringing her a quail sandwich every day after her son drowned and how she laughed again for the first time when he asked if she’d feel better if the sandwich had aioli. Peter was a murderous psychopath who occasionally had positive moments toward the people who loved him. Also, he was our murderous psychopath. A wolf shows up and Elizabeth talks to it (sure), and that’s when I said, “Oh. So that’s the wolf.” Okay, sure, I guess.

As Elizabeth and Petrov wait for the fires to melt the ice, we can check in on Velementov and Hugo, who disagree about how to invade Sweden. Hugo doesn’t want to kill any Swedes, while Velementov says killing your own people as king is “basics,” and also he promised his men they could take home heads as souvenirs. Hugo wants time to devise a new plan where there’s no killing, so he conks Velementov on the head and ties him up. I know this is a viable option in cartoons, but just a reminder to not conk people on the head! The head is where your brain lives! Hugo plans to take over the uninhabited borderland and name it Hugoland. Damnit, Hugo.

The ice melts and Elizabeth goes into the lake in search of Peter, despite Petrov having just rubbed bear grease all over himself. Okay, once again! This is a cartoonish show; do not jump into a frozen lake! You will die! Elizabeth goes in fully clothed, clothing that would get waterlogged and heavy, and then she gets herself out of the frozen lake and walks around like she’s fine. DON’T TRY THIS. Okay, but Elizabeth also sees Peter in the lake and decides he looks peaceful and they should leave him there. There go all my hopes and dreams of Peter being secretly alive.

To get Velementov and the army back, Elizabeth and Petrov shoot Hugo in the leg and shoulder because he’s being himself. All set, then. Catherine is starting to acknowledge and mourn Peter’s death in court. She has a string trio follow her around, playing their song on repeat. The women of court wear coffin-shaped beauty marks, which, sure. And Catherine is determined to keep moving to stay ahead of the darkness of grief, so she’s legalized divorce. Marial and Grigor are jazzed, but so are all the men of the court who can abandon their wives with nothing. Consequences! She closes the Divorce Office, upsetting Marial, who starts insulting Peter but also just relating things he did, like burning down the school Catherine had built (hm, forgot about that).

Catherine has some moments of introspection and thoughts about her Destiny and decides to reopen the Divorce Office. But now, if you divorce your spouse, you need grounds, and men divorcing their wives must give up half their estate. Take that, men! Maxim pops by to say Pugachev isn’t dead and, in fact, has rallied thousands of people near Moscow. So that’s going great. People keep saying the phrase “very Maximesque,” and I don’t know if I love it or hate it.

Grigor is still deep into his mourning, obviously, and is dealing with it by shooting deer in the forest. He is now at the “anger” stage of grief and piles up a bunch of deer he’s shot because this is a Tony McNamara show, and why wouldn’t we have a pile of dead deer? (Once more, why do you hate animals, Tony McNamara? What did they do to you?) Grigor doesn’t know what to do about divorcing Georgina; he doesn’t know if he should marry Marial. He and Arkady see people heading to what they think is a grief orgy, but it turns out to be a large party with a banner saying “He is dead!” in Russian. Marial is there but tries to hide her face when Grigor and Arkady show up, shouting what the fuck. I will admit, putting the Peter statue in a big block of ice was a little much.

When Grigor tells the assembled celebrants that he loved Peter more than he loved anyone or ever will, Marial basically says, “for fuck’s sake, I’m right here.” Grigor is furious she’s there and tells her they can’t be together. Sigh. So. Peter’s dead and now you’re going to ruin my number-one ship, show? Okay. All right. Well. Let’s see how we end the season.

Catherine tells Paul nothing really matters now, then has Grigor take Paul into the forest dressed like Max from Where the Wild Things Are as she inspects guns. “HMM,” INDEED.

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