The Great Season 2 Ending, Explained

Image Credit: Gareth Gatrell/Hulu

Hulu’s ‘The Great’ is a historical comedy-drama created by Tony McNamara. Revolving around the life of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) in the 18th Century, the show explores the difficulties she faces as a ruler, wife, friend, daughter, and mother. After she takes the throne from her hedonistic husband, Peter III (Nicholas Hoult), Catherine encounters several obstacles in her attempt to bring the Enlightenment to Russia.

A humor-laced deep dive into the intertwined nature of personal and political relations, the dramedy features complex characters struggling with their identities, emotions, and thirst for power. As the second season progresses, tensions rise between members of the court. Due to the chaos brought along by sinister secrets, horrifying betrayals, and an impending war, the future seems bleak for Catherine, Peter, and Russia. If you are curious about the shocking finale, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of ‘The Great’ season 2. SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Great Season 2 Recap

The season opens with Catherine, Orlo, and Velementov searching for Leo’s body, but it remains unfound. Later, we learn that the coup has been ongoing for four months. Peter goes into hiding in the countryside with Grigor and Georgina. However, Catherine uses his love for food against him and convinces him to abdicate the throne. Thus, Catherine becomes the Empress of All Russia. However, Peter then hands her a bloody sack, claiming that it contains Leo’s head.

A hugely pregnant Catherine tries to bring about radical changes in Russia but faces the disapproval of her subjects and inner circle, who believe that she is rushing into things. Meanwhile, Marial is reinstated as a lady of the court. Peter, placed under house arrest, hopes that Catherine will mess up as it will enable him to retake the throne. Surprisingly, he tries to tone down his violent tendencies and attempts to become a better man for his wife.

In a grand coronation, Catherine is officially crowned as the ruler. To the horror of the Patriarch, Archie, she immediately promotes religious tolerance. Velementov tries to convince Catherine that the only way to stop the encroaching Ottomans is through war, but she disagrees. Georgina and Grigor are exiled to France; however, Grigor comes back for Peter. In the meantime, Catherine struggles with guilt due to Leo’s death. At the same time, Peter comes to terms with his parents’ abusive nature.

Driven by hormonal imbalances, Catherine starts relying on Peter for sexual pleasure. Meanwhile, Peter’s supporters begin to plan the empress’ downfall. Tensions with the Ottomans rise when Arkady secretly kills the ambassador, Sunduk. Eventually, Peter begins to use his look-alike, Pugachev, in order to escape his house arrest.

The court members get bored of Catherine’s philosophical talks. After heated ideological arguments about a crocodile’s presence being an omen, Catherine grudgingly accepts Archie’s help and later fires Father Basil as the Archbishop. Meanwhile, Marial and Grigor fall in love with each other. After Catherine suddenly frees the serfs, a bloody fight breaks out between the servants and the nobles. Marial’s maid, Shakey, is murdered by Svenska. Distraught, the empress allows Velementov to do away with the rioters and unwillingly reinstates serfdom.

As Catherine nears her delivery date, her mother, Joanna, pays a visit. The empress tries to impress her mother, but Joanna mocks the Russians and asks her daughter to step down. Meanwhile, a science competition is organized, and the Russians invent a roller coaster for it. Secretly, Joanna begins to flirt with a stunned Peter. Upon receiving poisonous candles from the Ottomans, Catherine commands Velementov to wage war. When Catherine realizes that her mother does not believe in her, she orders Joanna to leave Russia. However, Joanna instead has sex with Peter and accidentally dies. Aunt Elizabeth and Marial cover up her death, whilst Peter frets over his marriage’s future.

Catherine gives birth to Paul in a public ceremony. The empress and Peter bond over their shared love for their son. Meanwhile, Georgina returns from France; she pretends to be on Catherine’s side but secretly supports Peter. The Swedish king and queen seek refuge in Russia due to their country’s adoption of democracy; they also wish to reinstate Peter and use his army to take back their kingdom. Meanwhile, Marial decides to marry her young cousin, Maxim, in order to keep the family inheritance. On the other hand, Archie becomes sexually frustrated and begins to lose his religiosity.

After Paul briefly goes missing, Catherine realizes her love for Peter. The two begin to have sex, openly embrace their relationship, and rejoice over their son. However, Marial tells the empress about Joanna’s death and Peter’s role in it. A seething Catherine decides to tend to the Ottomans first and has a diplomatic talk with the Sultan. However, the meeting goes awry and Catherine kills the Sultan in self-defense. Distraught, the empress realizes that she has to kill Peter for his betrayal as well.

The Great Season 2 Ending: Does Catherine Kill Peter?

During Marial and Maxim’s wedding, tension is thick in the air. The supporters of both Peter and Catherine are armed and ready for a fight. When Peter apologizes publicly, Catherine seemingly forgives him and asks to see him in his room. Later, Velementov’s guards arrest Peter’s supporters and Marial. Georgina, however, is seemingly not arrested since the empress believes that she’s on her side. Meanwhile, Catherine finds Peter and repeatedly stabs him in the back. However, it is his look-alike, Pugachev, that she has attacked. When Peter shows up, Catherine hugs him and cries. After their embrace, the two look away from each other.

Thus, Catherine does not kill Peter. However, she did intend to murder him initially. But when she thinks she has killed him, she collapses to her knees and wails. Later, upon realizing the truth, she seems more glad about his safety than her failure; she does not attempt to assassinate him again. For once, Catherine is incapable of doing her duty because of an emotional barrier. The situation brings to mind how Catherine was willing to sacrifice Leo for the greater good but is unwilling to do the same with Peter. Consequently, an impasse is reached in Catherine and Peter’s turbulent relationship.

Does Catherine Love Peter?

Catherine, ruled by reason and logic, ultimately finds herself at the mercy of her heart. Despite initially denying Peter’s love and refusing to believe in his goodness, Catherine eventually falls in love with him. Additionally, the way Peter stands up for his son and wife despite being deposed tugs at her heartstrings. Similar to how she yearns for the difficult yet magnificent Russia, Catherine loves the idiotic yet endearing Peter. Thus, despite knowing that she should execute him, the empress cannot imagine life without him.

Is Peter Really a Changed Man?

After falling in love with Catherine, Peter tries to change himself in order to win her over. Although he does wish to overthrow her at the beginning of the season, towards the end he is content with simply being a husband and a father. He even takes up activities like meditation and kung fu in order to better himself.

Although he still indulges in food and other pleasures, he does tame his violent and cruel nature. He starts expressing guilt, accountability, and empathy. Peter finally comes to terms with the fact that he is unfit to rule. In fact, his changed personality is the reason why Catherine starts reciprocating his love.

Why Does Joanna Try to Remove Catherine From The Throne? How Does Joanna Die?

Joanna’s primary goal is to ensure that all her daughters become the cushy wives of powerful European rulers. However, Catherine’s coup resulted in the King of France, Louis XIV, calling off his marriage to one of Joanna’s daughters. This — combined with the fact that Catherine faces constant danger as a ruler — makes Joanna go behind her daughter’s back to try and depose her. She attempts to change her daughter’s mind through emotional manipulation; when that’s unsuccessful, she seduces Peter to convince him to retake the throne.

When Catherine banishes her mother from Russia upon finding out her true intentions, Joanna rushes to have sex with Peter — a move that is both self-gratifying and politically clever. During the act, when Peter pushes her up against a window, Joanna accidentally falls to her death. Although Peter is not her killer, he is indirectly responsible for her horrific demise. However, until Marial tells her the truth, Catherine remains unaware of her death and believes that her mother has simply left Russia.

What Are the Issues Between Catherine and Her Inner Circle?

Throughout the season, we see Orlo, Velementov, Marial, and Aunt Elizabeth rooting for Catherine yet harboring doubts about her rushed radical decisions. Additionally, Catherine finds out that Orlo has been stealing money from the royal treasury for his uncle, Varnya, and poor regions. She feels betrayed; along with this, Marial’s penchant for Archie and Grigor rubs her the wrong way.

Additionally, it seems that she has Marial arrested along with Peter’s supporters as she is unsure about her loyalty. Meanwhile, Velementov’s understandable desire to solve political matters using war leaves Catherine feeling uninfluential. On the other hand, Aunt Elizabeth’s warnings about Joanna, advice about Peter, and role in covering up her mother’s death make Catherine feel as though her authority isn’t taken seriously.

Although they share the same goals, Catherine and her inner circle have different means of reaching the desired outcomes. Whilst Catherine has the country’s best interests at heart, she still does not understand Russia the way her supporters do. Thus, personal and political complications result in an ideological and emotional gap between the empress and her inner circle.

Read More: The Great Season 3: Renewed or Cancelled?