Note: While this is another brilliant episode of The Great, there are mentions of some gory violence and dark humor depicted during the episode. We advise those who don’t feel comfortable to not read beyond this point.
It seems Peter’s brush with death in the last episode really has changed him for the better … or at least made him less actively homicidal for the moment. As Peter tries to change his ways, Catherine sense an opportunity to move Russia in a better direction. But how will Archie handle losing his grip on Peter? And can Peter really be changed? Read on to see what happened in “Parachute” …
Catherine is defeated, lamenting her inaction after Peter’s poisoning. She admits she sometimes wishes she could just lie in a field with Leo and forget it all. The camera pans down to reveal who she is talking to … and it’s her pet bear. Meanwhile, Peter and Grigor are running through the forest. Peter is showing Grigor a songbird sitting in a fountain. Grigor wonders why Peter is at all interested in this, and Peter remarks that nearly dying has changed him, saying, “the me that was dying was not the me I wish to be.” He says everything is brighter now as he and Grigor head back to court.
But it seems not everything is rosy as Peter gathers everyone in the great hall. There are several dead bodies hanging from the rafters: all people who had something to do with making his dinner the night he was poisoned. Everyone is horrified, especially Grigor and Georgina. Peter gives a speech declaring that he’s more upset that someone was unhappy enough with him to want him killed, since his goal is to be the most loved emperor ever. He asks anyone with complaints to step forward, cheerfully saying, “oh, don’t worry about the bodies!” as it seems people are reluctant to speak. He says his days of killing are over now as he gives everyone cake to celebrate his new attitude.
Orlo and Catherine discuss the coup now that Peter appears to have changed. Orlo wants to go to the front lines to win over Velementov, sensing that Peter’s better mood won’t last. Catherine feels useless, and Leo tries to distract her. Catherine asks if she would have been a good empress had Peter actually died, and Leo reassures her that everyone thinks badly of themselves and their abilities. Leo says in this moment and within these walls they are happy, and this is all they can hope for for now. As they kiss, Marial enters and rolls her eyes. Catherine goes to her to talk about what happened. Marial is angry at Catherine’s “cowardice,” in her words. While Catherine gets to walk away from that night and still have a happy life, Marial and others like her are still toiling away. Catherine apologizes, but Marial senses Catherine wavering in her conviction and walks away. Marial storms through the palace, finding her father in the stables. In frustration, she punches him in the face.
Bet is preparing Ivan’s body for the funeral when Peter arrives. They discuss the strange dreams he’s been having, one of which is about his mother biting chunks out of him. Bet scoffs, “she only did it the once and it was a small piece darling, don’t over-dramatize it.” Bet says she was terrified he would die and that she was worried about Catherine taking the throne. She tells him he needs to get Catherine pregnant since it’s clear Catherine is too fragile to rule. When Peter protests, Bet invokes his mother to get him to do what she wants. Peter goes to Catherine’s rooms and interrupts her and Leo, telling her they need to have sex. Catherine shows Leo out, and expresses her fear that she will get pregnant. Marial overhears and gives Catherine a lemon drop to use as a contraceptive. While they have sex, Peter happily talks about his newfound joy while Catherine pretends to feel the same. They awkwardly bathe together, and Catherine asks him where this shift came from. Peter says he knows he’s perfect but must somehow change for the better. Catherine has an idea. She begins to plant seeds of her own ideas in Peter, who is blown away at the idea that perhaps if he listens to his subjects, they will love him. She specifically mentions art and science from Europe, emphasizing how back home the people loved the emperor for introducing these things. Peter walks out of the bath stark naked, approaching various members of the court for their ideas. He notices Vlad with a parachute and asks him to explain it. Peter goes to Georgina’s chamber to find Grigor and actually turns down her offer of sex, which is such a drastic step for him that she is stunned. Catherine tells Marial she now realizes there’s another way to get what they want.
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At a garden party, a drunk Leo laments that Catherine is no longer his. It seems her new relationship with Peter is making Leo insecure. As Peter and Grigor walk, Grigor senses an opportunity to keep Peter away from Georgina. He tells Peter he will have more luck getting an heir if he only has sex with Catherine, citing a vague notion of “science” that persuades Peter. Catherine creates a new sport, bowling, to make the party more fun and credits Peter with the idea to help his image. Archie watches all this, clearly worried about Catherine’s growing influence on Peter. Archie goes to him and interprets a dream of his, making it seem like Peter is straying from God with his new plans. This greatly disturbs Peter. Leo continues to be angry at the situation. It seems his carefree attitude is gone now that Catherine has less time to spend with him and he realizes just how precarious his love is. Catherine tells him she loves him, and Leo smiles.
Orlo is traveling to the front when his carriage tips over. His driver is dead, killed by a bear. Orlo runs away through the forest, terrified. Archie pays a visit to Catherine to try to dissuade her from telling Peter about science and art, wanting to retain his power. Catherine holds firm, and Archie leaves. Marial says not to judge him too harshly, but Catherine says only one of them has misjudged Archie and it isn’t Catherine. Meanwhile, Orlo runs into a Swedish soldier holding Russians prisoner as he tries to make camp for the night. In self defense he stabs the soldier but can’t finish the job. As the prisoners scream for him to free them, an overwhelmed Orlo runs away. It seems both he and Catherine are indecisive.
Bet and Grigor aid Catherine and Peter in their next sexual experience in a bizarrely funny scene. Peter and Catherine share a laugh when they leave. Peter tells Catherine he wants to back off the science and art “thingies” after speaking to Archie. They have a heart to heart about Peter’s fears, with Catherine saying he can be good if he chooses to be. Peter asks her to stay the night with him, and a surprised Catherine agrees. Orlo is sitting against a tree in shock as the wounded Swede reaches for his bag to the alarm of the prisoners. Orlo tells him to stop, thinking he is reaching for a Bible. But when the soldier goes after him, Orlo finds the courage he needs and stabs him to death. A distraught Orlo is given the head of the solider he killed as a trophy, which makes him deeply uncomfortable. But the Russian soldier who gives it to him tells Orlo, “you had to, so you did.” This incident makes him realize he is more capable than he thought.
Back in Russia, Archie released a crow in the night to try to get Peter back on his side. But the plan fails when one of Peter’s servants informs him that it was Archie who sent it. An angry Peter confronts Archie, who tries to reason with him before Peter punches him. The next morning at breakfast, Catherine pampers Peter with his favorite breakfast foods, confident she’s won him over. She asks for something to reward Marial, and we finally learn that Marial’s father offended Peter with a vulgar joke about his mother. He’s reluctant to give her her position back, but Catherine successfully negotiates Marial’s dog back. Marial is overjoyed … until Peter decides to test the parachute using the dog. But to everyone’s surprise, the dog is perfectly fine, ushering in a new appreciation for science. Catherine screams “huzzah!” as “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby plays.
The Great is available now on Hulu.