The Great – Season 3 Episode 1 “The Bullet or the Bear” Recap & Review

The Bullet or the Bear

In The Great Season 3 Episode 1, both Catherine and Peter are alive, neither having wanted to kill the other despite the tension resulting from Peter’s indiscretions and Catherine’s plans to stage a coup.

Peter’s friends (and Mariel) might not be as lucky. Velementov lines them up outside to face their execution, much to Orlo’s delight. They get to choose: by bullet or by bear.

Catherine doesn’t know what to do. She didn’t kill Peter, as everyone thought. And she doesn’t want to execute the traitors in cold blood. But the people of Russia are itching for an execution, and to go back on her plan could make her look weak.

She seeks advice, not from Velementov and Orlo, but from Archie and Elizabeth, due to their ability to analyze scenarios in an unbiased manner. In the process, she hopes to learn strong methods of ruling from them.

When Georgina interrupts them to declare her loyalty to Catherine (in an attempt to save herself), Elizabeth has the perfect idea to buy Catherine time.

They put a gun in George’s hand and instruct her to shoot Tatiana. She does, and guards take Tatiana away (The doctor says she’ll probably be okay). Catherine doesn’t like the violence, but the act works to her favor. Turning the former friends against each other makes it look like Catherine is playing clever mind games with her opponents.

Catherine apologizes to Orlo for not killing Peter, but Orlo’s anger isn’t absolved. She went back on their pact, and they can’t find a way forward together unless Peter dies. He thought she would bring great change, but now he thinks she’s just a foolish girl. Catherine realizes it’s time to leave Orlo behind.

Meanwhile, it looks like Hugo and Agnes are still plotting to take back their Swedish throne, but have a hard time deciding to appeal to Catherine or Peter. They figure they’ll have an easier time convincing Peter to help them, and thus thwart one of Orlo’s many assassination attempts on the emperor.

Agnes also tries to get close to Velementov. She asks that he teach her about military methods as a hobby. But she and Hugo have more than harmless hobbies up their sleeves.

Peter has a hard time dealing with the fact that Catherine might kill his closest friends. Elizabeth tries to help him see the situation from her side. He had Catherine feeling completely alone. And if he acts against her now, that will only happen again.

Peter tries to help his friends and Marial escape, but brings them back when guilt eats at him for betraying Catherine. He tells Catherine he will abide by what she decides.

What she decides is to give her traitors reason to be loyal to her. She speaks to Tatiana and Arkady first. She’s harsh with them, but offers them a deal in exchange for their loyalty. She then reaches an agreement with Grigor, finding common ground in their love for Peter.

Then, it’s Marial’s turn. Marial doesn’t understand why her loyalty was ever in question; she wants an apology, but that’s not what Catherine has in mind.

Marial had the choice to tell her about Catherine’s mom straight away or not at all. She hasn’t had an open heart with her about Grigor either. She’ll allow Marial to live, but they can’t be friends anymore.

Catherine and Peter then endure a ritual to put their bad blood behind them. They go on a hunt together, with Paul strapped to Peter’s chest.

They don’t know that Orlo hides from them in the bushes with his gun, desiring to kill Peter. He rustles a bush, and Catherine shoots instinctually. 

Peter insists she shot too high to get an animal, so the emperor and empress move on. But behind that bush is a dead Orlo, having been shot in the head. Soon after, the hungry execution bears come across his body.

The Episode Review

I have so many thoughts and feelings about The Great’s wonderfully entertaining return. But first and foremost in my mind is… what happened to Pugachev? They allude several times to the decoy and yet never confirmed his fate! Or even acknowledged how insane it was that he got up and walked away after suffering five stab wounds.

But then, The Great has never taken itself too seriously. I’m happy to see the show is still boasting its trademark, delightfully dark sense of humor. Case in point: The faint note of apology in Georgina’s voice as she tells Tatiana, “I’m going to shoot you,” and does, to everyone’s stark disbelief.

As always, everyone in court seems to be working in their own interests. And that leads to some fascinating flips in the script. Some unexpected (Marial’s and Catherine’s breakup), some fun (Archie and Elizabeth as the new top advisers), and some extremely sad (Catherine’s and Orlo’s parting).

That shot in the head felt like a shot to the heart. Orlo has always been the crown’s voice of reason. I fear what his death signifies for Catherine’s reign–that she’s committed more fully to ruling with her heart and not her head, extending trust to those who may never deserve it.

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You can read our full season review for The Great Season 3 here!

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