Hulu’s ‘The Great’ follows the story of Catherine the Great, who arrives in Russia hoping to join her husband Peter III in running the country together but discovers that they are of conflicting minds on what Russia should look like. When Catherine realizes that Peter as the emperor, will do no good to anyone, she decides to overthrow him and place herself as the ruler of Russia. One of the parts of successfully orchestrating the coup includes killing Peter. While he might not be as sharp in other matters, Peter has measures in place for such situations.
Peter knows the dangers that surround him, so he has a lookalike who comes in handy whenever Peter needs to dodge a tricky situation. In the finale of Season 2, Pugachev, the most Petery lookalike, survives the brunt of Catherine’s five stabs, but things don’t work out so well for him in the third season. What happens to him at the end of Season 3? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD
Is Pugachev Dead?
One of the most entertaining things about ‘The Great’ is how it crafts its characters, giving them a quirk or a quality that sets them apart from the rest. This quirk usually pushes the character’s arc forward but threatens to become their undoing. For Pugachev, this quirk is being the best double of Peter III. When Catherine executes the coup, Peter gets lookalikes to keep himself out of harm’s way. Many people show up for the job, but Peter decides that Pugachev bears the closest resemblance to him.
It isn’t just that Pugachev looks a lot like Peter, but over time, he reads into Peter’s habits and character and starts to inhabit so much that if it wasn’t for his teeth, he could very well pass off as Peter. To the viewer, the distinction between Peter and Pugachev is visible. Still, to the people in the story, especially the masses, who have rarely seen Peter, Pugachev passes off as the emperor on numerous occasions.
Another thing about Pugachev is that he is a survivor. Being the emperor’s double means, he is often in harm’s way, which means he has to survive knives and bullets, among other things. In the Season 2 finale, Catherine walks into Peter’s room, intent on killing him. She stabs him in the back five times but later discovers that it is Pugachev. Getting stabbed usually means the death of a person, but Pugachev walks away with the wounds and survives them with the help of a serf.
He spends his days downstairs, hoping not to cross paths with the Empress or her husband again, but then Archie seeks him out. This was around the time that Catherine refused to ordain Paul. This puts her in direct conflict with the Church. Not having her son ordained is a bad political move, but it also shows that the Empress is ready to distance herself from the Church. Getting ordained means that God has chosen the ruler. By not having Paul ordained, Catherine is challenging the notion that God has anything to do with it.
To get Catherine in line, Archie comes up with a plan. He sends Pugachev out into the country to act as Peter and rile the masses against Catherine. Archie believes that she will not be able to contain the situation, which is when he will come up with a deal with Pugachev and secure Paul’s ordination. However, things get out of hand as Pugachev starts to enjoy his popularity, and the rebellion turns violent. By then, Peter’s death has left Catherine unable to function, and she doesn’t pay much attention to Pugachev.
As Pugachev gets more powerful, Maxim and Archie try to kill him. Both shoot him at different times on his arm, but the man survives. Eventually, he is caught by General Petrov, who arrests him and brings him to the palace. The debate about Pugachev’s fate ensues, with some wanting him dead instantly, while others advise caution as killing him might turn him into a martyr. In the meantime, Archie sends Maxim to finish the job, and the boy doesn’t miss this time. He shoots Pugachev in the head, finishing the job he’d set out to do.
Read More: Is Peter Dead? Did Nicholas Hoult Leave The Great?