In Episode 5 of The Great Season 2, Peter sends Catherine a butter sculpture of her after they spend the night together.
The former emperor brags to his friends about growing closer to the empress. Grigor is frustrated that his focus is on his love for Catherine and not on unseating her.
Elizabeth is more perceptive than Peter when it comes to Catherine though. She convinces him that he must win her heart and not only her body.
Catherine tries to introduce new ideas to the court by having scientists and philosophers give speeches. The nobles aren’t much interested in science though. That is, until they discover a crocodile roaming loose in the palace. Everyone believes the creature to be a winged dragon or demon. Many think it’s a bad omen for the direction Catherine is taking Russia.
Catherine learns that the Ottoman Ambassador arrived home without his head. Velementov believes the Ottomans did it themselves to justify a war. He urges the empress to let him run war like his own business. She basically tells him to shut up and let her handle things her own way.
She continues to see Peter, and he tries to seem more interesting to her by reading books and making Galilean planets for their child.
Orlo, despite his prior inability to enjoy sex with women or men, finds himself easily flirting with the school teacher again.
The crocodile takes a chunk out of Elizabeth’s leg. Having seen pictures of crocodiles in books about the Americas, she knows what this creature is.
Learning this, Catherine believes she can sway the people that the animal isn’t an omen. She asks Father Basil to stand with her.
But her plan backfires. Basil tells everyone that it could still be an omen. And Archie says that it could be just a crocodile… or it could be a sign that the empress is destroying Russia. He persuades everyone that, as Patriarch, only he can discover the truth from God.
Archie reveals to Catherine that he obtained the crocodile from a missionary. He blackmails her. She must do three things: Get rid of Basil, make Russia a one-church country, and come to know God. Only then will he put the court’s mind at ease.
Not wanting to commit to this plan of action, Catherine asks Peter’s help in capturing the reptile. They look for it together. Although he sees it, he pretends not to in order to spend more time with his wife.
When he tells Catherine he will always be there for her and their child, strangely enough, she believes him. His plan to charm her seems to be working.
Catherine gives in to Archie and goes with him to “meet God.” They take hallucinogens. While Catherine does not see God, she does see light and feels the presence of love. She and Archie recognize their differences, but also see common goals. They agree to work together, discovering a newfound respect for each other.
Velementov apologizes to Catherine for his reaction to her hesitancy to go to war. He admits that this war feels like his fate. The empress, however, believes she can bring him a new fate. Their disagreement remains unresolved.
Catherine cooks up a scientific plan to catch the crocodile, involving mice and poison. She and Archie present the creature to the court together.
Archie frames the crocodile as an omen representing what they face to change Russia. Catherine proclaims a victory for reason and science. She says they should not kill the animal, but kill the idea it represents, and everyone cheers.
Of course, the crocodile chooses to wake up right then. No worries! Everyone rushes forward to give it several dozen stabs.
That night, Catherine informs Peter about the animal’s death. He makes her laugh and persuades her to dance with him. For a romantic moment, they enjoy themselves—before she abruptly steps away.
The Episode Review
Who knew so much fun could be had at the sighting of a crocodile?
The conflict between Velementov and Catherine is somewhat tired by now, so I hope the next episode decides to deal with their issues head-on.
Orlo’s flirtation with the school teacher is a minor subplot, but one I found interesting. I think the show writers may be implying that Orlo is demisexual. That’s not something I’ve ever seen explored in media, so I really look forward to seeing how his sexuality is portrayed throughout the rest of the show.
Now, the main themes of this episode were handled expertly. Catherine’s and Peter’s relationship has been so complex this entire show, and this episode takes a huge step in expanding on their chemistry. While it’s obvious they’re fundamentally wrong for each other, their connection is something that’s hard to look away from.
Writers also develop Catherine’s long-standing struggle to interest people in science and reason. I was not expecting a willing partnership between Catherine and the Patriarch to this end, but it makes so much sense in this context.
Victories are victories, but there’s still a lot of delicious tension surrounding Catherine’s rule. Will her connection with Peter undermine her authority? Will she be forced into war?