Episode 8 of The Great Season 2 begins with Catherine inaugurating a salon that boasts Shakey’s paintings on the walls.
When Joanna starts insulting Marial and Elizabeth, Catherine distracts with peanuts newly imported from the Americas. Joanna tries some, and quickly suffers an allergy attack.
She ends up okay—well enough to give Catherine a list of people she should kill, at least. Of course, Marial and Elizabeth are on the list. The two start to fear how Joanna’s presence changes Catherine.
Everyone’s worries shift, however, when a frog dies on Catherine’s stomach during a checkup. According to tradition, this means she will give birth in seven days.
Joanna continues to seduce Peter, while Elizabeth instructs him to resist. Meanwhile, the court places bets on the lives of Catherine and her baby.
According to another tradition, Peter has to preemptively dig their graves. Everyone reminds him that they might die and that he must prepare himself to grieve. But he hates the practice and would rather celebrate the birth.
When Arkady’s unruly child insults Peter during this practice, Peter goes after him with his shovel. Arkady levels a gun at him, forcing him to stop.
Peter has everyone leave, but Velementov stays to help him dig, going against tradition. Peter confesses to him that maybe he’s not as prepared to be a father as he thought, considering he was ready to beat a kid with a shovel.
In a show of personal growth, Peter apologizes to the kid. He vents to Grigor and Arkady about how he cannot lose Catherine and the child. They disparage Catherine’s importance and tell him he can always start over with someone else. Peter lashes out at them for this.
Meanwhile, Joanna insists that Catherine rest. She brings ladies in to entertain her. Their gossip reveals to Catherine how many women are stuck in unhappy marriages.
Against her mother’s wishes, Catherine plots ways to change the laws that prevent women from divorcing men. Oh, and to nix the whole “women as property” thing too. Joanna isn’t happy. She later reveals to Elizabeth she believes men will crush Catherine if she takes their power.
A message from the Ottomans arrives just then. They’ve sent the empress a candle, with a note explaining that they would love to discuss a way forward with the empress. Everyone considers it a diplomatic victory.
Velementov is the only one truly upset. Believing his fate has been wrested from him, he burns his war plans.
Peter tries to avoid the temptation to sleep with Joanna by drinking a concoction that decreases libido. He hallucinates his father. Peter the Great urges his son to tap into the greatness in his blood and embrace the ruler that he is. Peter rushes forward to stab him before realizing he’s not really there.
The next morning, Catherine finds a maid dead after she spends the night working by the Ottomans’ candle.
Finally, Catherine agrees to go to war. Although he regrets burning his plans, Velementov is ready for the challenge.
Elizabeth has found Joanna’s actions toward Catherine curious. She accuses her of trying to get Catherine out of power and Peter back in. All in an attempt to keep Catherine safe, but mostly so that her other daughter would have a chance at marrying King Louis of France.
Joanna admits this much to Catherine. She asks her to transition out of power and into motherhood. Catherine insists that Russia is her child. Finally recognizing who her mother is, the empress asks Joanna to leave.
She does, but not before visiting Peter in his chambers. He decides to give in to her advances, and they embrace by a window.
Elizabeth sees what’s going on from the courtyard and is about to intervene when the window bursts open and Joanna falls to her death. Elizabeth takes care of the body, and Marial helps clean her room to make it look as if Joanna suddenly departed.
Catherine meets Peter at the freshly dug graves. The two share a touching scene where he takes her hand and she tells him they will be good parents.
When she notices a third fresh, but filled, grave, he lies and says he finally buried his mother’s body. He claims he doesn’t need her any more. Speaking of her own mother, Catherine agrees.
Just then, her water breaks over one of the empty graves.
The Episode Review
In the last instalment, Peter told Catherine he puts her happiness before his own. In this episode, he shows it. He’s finally able to let insults to his own person roll off his back. But insult his wife? —You’re a dead man. That’s the kind of character growth I like to see.
Catherine’s and Peter’s relationship is evolving fast. And so is their family! This episode has some nice symmetry to it. Both Catherine and Peter have to go through the excruciating process of putting behind what’s expected of them and embracing who they truly want to be. They’re changed people when they sit by the graves and hold hands.
Now, I struggle to accept Catherine embracing a relationship with someone who has wronged her in the ways Peter has. However, I’m intrigued by this changing dynamic. If Peter is not the main antagonist, who will The Great grant that role to?
As for the Ottomans… it’s a bit ridiculous that no one would suspect something about the candle. But it is exciting to set up the simultaneous births of a war and of a child. I expect a lot of glorious chaos next episode!