DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Great Season 3 Episode 2, “Choose Your Weapon,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril. 

Huzzah! Episode two of The Great maintains the momentum from the season premiere. It ramps up suspense among the court concerning Orlo’s “disappearance” as Catherine and Katya dance around the reason for his supposed vanishing. I think this will make the potential discovery of Orlo’s corpse (however mangled) that much more devastating. Written by Tony McNamara and directed by Matthew Moore, “Choose Your Weapon” also puts Catherine’s empress skills at the forefront as she decides whether to help the British or Americans during the War of Independence. McNamara has already pushed the bounds of historical accuracy by keeping Peter alive post-coup, but if it’s supposedly the 1760s, the Revolutionary War wouldn’t happen until 1775. 

Thankfully, it’s easy to suspend disbelief when the cast is this funny, the narrative this clever and the performances this artful. We see Catherine struggle to maintain strict boundaries with her husband while they navigate their unconventional roles in their marriage. Catherine’s our breadwinner, Peter’s the doting house-husband and stay-at-home daddy. I think, eventually, this dynamic might wear on Peter in the coming episodes. 

Ready to delve into “Choose Your Weapon”? Let’s get to it. 

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We open with Marial (Phoebe Fox) and Grigor (Gwilym Lee) forking in a public space because 1). they don’t want to do it in front of Maxim, a child, and 2). Grigor still lives with Georgina. So, the salon it is, with Count Smolny (Alistair Green) asking post-coitus if they know where the milk is. Comedy. Oh, and Marial can’t stop thinking about Catherine and their friendship exploding into a million billion pieces. When Marial returns to her quarters, Maxim (Henry Meredith), in bed, inquires as to her whereabouts. None of your beeswax, little man!

Catherine stands before King Hugo, who sits on a bench while looking forlorn, in The Great Season 3 Episode 2, "Choose Your Weapon."

The Great — “Choose Your Weapon” – Season 3 Episode 2 — Catherine (Elle Fanning) and King Hugo (Freddie Fox), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Raphael/Hulu)

Meanwhile, Catherine (Elle Fanning) and Peter (Nicholas Hoult) prepare to greet the day. Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow) barges into their rooms and asks why they’re not putting another bun in Catherine’s oven. She also reveals the British ambassador is there to treat with Catherine. He’s an old friend of Peter’s. Before she meets with him, Catherine and Peter have a bang session, with Elizabeth watching said sesh from afar like the creep she is. Dr. Vinodel (Julian Barratt) offers to take Elizabeth then and there while the empress and her hubby make the beast with two backs. 

Later, Peter reunites with the British ambassador (John MacMillan). However, their reunion is short-lived since Catherine has a busy day ahead of her. The ambassador reveals they need assistance regarding the War of Independence in the American colonies, aka the Revolutionary War. Or “The Ingratitude,” as Britain calls it. The British ambassador asks for Russian troops to help them triumph over their scrappy opponent. What does Catherine get in return? Mallorca, Spain — her own private island. Catherine vows to consider it. 

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After consulting with Elizabeth, Velementov (Douglas Hodge) reveals the American ambassador is also here. Catherine asks Elizabeth to ensure the two ambassadors are kept apart. Meanwhile, Marial struggles to gain control of her unruly husband while he plays with his friend at the breakfast table. She chats with Archie (Adam Godley), who’s blessing some men on their knees (his past time). Marial wants to know how to return to Catherine’s good graces. Archie advises her to practice patience and allow Catherine time to realize she needs Marial. 

Marial and Maxim sit at a table in their quarters in The Great Season 3 Episode 2, "Choose Your Weapon."

The Great — “Choose Your Weapon” – Season 3 Episode 2 — Marial (Phoebe Fox) and Maxim (Henry Meredith), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Raphael/Hulu)

Next, Catherine meets the American ambassador (Ed Stoppard), who’s taken by her beauty. He explains he needs supplies to defeat the British properly. His can-do spirit and American idealism enthrall Catherine. The Great has never been more modern. This man’s dialogue is proof of that. Marial interrupts the meeting to confront Catherine, demanding to know why they can’t mend their friendship. Marial bent over backward to help Catherine ascend the throne. Catherine pulls Marial outside the room and doubles down on her stance. She orders her guards to escort Marial away from her. Should’ve followed Archie’s advice. 

Later, Catherine walks with Archie and Velementov. While her advisors urge her to assist the British since they’re allies, Catherine’s heart is with the Americans. Peter introduces Arkady (Bayo Gbadamosi), Grigor and King Hugo (Freddie Fox) to the pleasures of flavored salt. Vinodel puts maggots in the bullet wound in Tatyana’s (Florence Keith-Roach) stomach, much to her dismay. The magic of medicine. Maxim barges into the room and demands Grigor battle him in a duel for Marial’s affection. He’s tired of watching his wife getting her PDA on with Grigor. Peter, whose various past times probably include dueling, is ecstatic. 

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When Marial learns what Maxim proposed, she wrestles him to the ground to knock sense into him. He refuses to see reason, though. Catherine seeks out Orlo for advice regarding the ambassadors situation; however, he’s not in his quarters. Katya (Jane Mahady) believes he was murdered, while Catherine asserts he most likely left the palace of his own volition. Girl, you killed him — accidentally, but still. Catherine finds Hugo fake crying outside Katya’s chambers. Earlier, we saw him put on the waterworks for Queen Agnes (Grace Molony) in a test run. Hugo’s feeling all at sea. He’s a man with no country. 

Grigor and Arkady stand in a corridor while looking shocked in The Great Season 3 Episode 2, "Choose Your Weapon."

The Great — “Choose Your Weapon” – Season 3 Episode 2 — Grigor Dymov (Gwilym Lee) and Arkady (Bayo Gbadamosi), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Raphael/Hulu)

Hugo urges Catherine to impose sanctions; otherwise, Russia will go the way of Sweden: absolute, total anarchy. He begs her to help the British. Catherine asks him to set aside the fake tears to reveal why he feels he failed with Sweden. Hugo claims his genuine belief in people’s goodness with his undoing. That’s when the real tears pour forth. While Arkady is on baby duty, Peter and Grigor practice for the latter’s duel. Marial storms outside and shoots in Peter’s direction. Well, except the bullet flies in Arkady’s and baby Paul’s direction. Incensed, Peter trains his weapon on Marial. Grigor stands between them to defuse the situation. Marial’s attempt to stop the impending duel has failed. 

Later, we see Catherine preparing for a big dinner with the two ambassadors. Our empress is trying her damnedest to ban duels, much to Peter’s irritation, but it most likely won’t work. At dinner, Catherine asks Peter to sit with the ambassadors’ wives at the other end of the table. He addresses the table, vowing to remedy the paltry excuse for a dinner menu. Marial and Maxim dress up to attend the dinner; however, the guards turn them away. Catherine grows jealous as Peter offers the women around him to suck on his fingers to test his flavored salt. 

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Of course, Peter’s envious of Catherine blatantly flirting with the American ambassador. Voltaire (Dustin Demri-Burns) presents a toast to the group, triggering a response from an inebriated Hugo. He blames Voltaire for the downfall of his rule, claiming he tried to implement the enlightened philosopher’s ideals.

Suddenly, Hugo launches across the table and fights Voltaire. The British ambassador seeks advice from Elizabeth regarding how to move the needle in his favor. Catherine incessantly asks the ambassadors what they can offer her, with Russia’s resources for this war seemingly going to the highest bidder. The British dude is prepared to gift her with more islands. 

Catherine and Peter host a dinner with the cast sitting at an elaborate dining room table in The Great Season 3 Episode 2, "Choose Your Weapon."

The Great — “Choose Your Weapon” – Season 3 Episode 2 — US Ambassador (Ed Stoppard), Catherine (Elle Fanning), Peter (Nicholas Hoult), Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow), Queen Agnes (Grace Molony), King Hugo (Freddie Fox), Arkady (Bayo Gbadamosi) and Tatyana (Florence Keith-Roach), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Raphael/Hulu)

Catherine and Peter get into a spat at the dinner table, with Catherine believing Grigor should attempt to make peace with Maxim. Peter is still a staunch proponent of the duel. Catherine pulls her husband aside and orders him to be “compliant” and “docile.” Honey, that’s not Peter’s way. He offers advice concerning the War of Independence and Russia’s place in it. Grigor sits with Maxim and tries to talk the latter out of the duel. When you think he gets through to the child, Maxim hurls horribly graphic insults in Grigor’s direction. It’s hilarious. This kid is so funny. 

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During the dinner, Catherine continues hearing proposals from the ambassadors while they occasionally divert their attention to each other to deliver scathing insults. I love when the American ambassador threatens to remove the extra “u” from words like “humor,” “tumor” and “rumor.” The British ambassador is so offended. Meanwhile, Agnes overtly flirts with Velementov to further her and Hugo’s agenda. That evening, Catherine and Peter mend fences after their public argument. The following morning, Grigor and Maxim prepare to duel. However, Grigor sends a second in his place — also a young boy. Peter and Arkady are there among the spectators. 

Aunt Elizabeth stands in a room with her hands clasped while grinning in The Great Season 3 Episode 2, "Choose Your Weapon."

The Great — “Choose Your Weapon” – Season 3 Episode 2 — Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Raphael/Hulu)

Then, Catherine and Marial arrive during the aftermath. Maxim utterly obliterates the competition, making Marial his once and for all. Grigor is a sore loser. Catherine and Marial bond briefly in that moment before remembering they’re feuding. Later, Catherine reveals to the British ambassador that she plans to give the British her troops. They’ll arrive in nine weeks (even though the American ambassador said the British would lose the war in eight weeks). Then, she offers the Americans the reinforcements and supplies they need to succeed. Her little scheme worked. But that’s not all — Catherine forks the American ambassador on her desk. Scandalous. 

Next, she tells Peter about her sexy fun times with the American ambassador. Naturally, he’s heartbroken, but Catherine claims they’re now even. She still loves her little psycho. Peter runs into the arms of Grigor and Georgina (Charity Wakefield), who support him during his time of need. Peter heads outside to kill the American ambassador before he departs. However, Peter doesn’t expect the ambassador to be such a talented opponent. Velementov and Grigor let the boys fight it out. 

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“Choose Your Weapon” is a fun, zany outing that pulsates with the cheeky spirit of this show. Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult’s chemistry is divine. I love the arguments between the ambassadors and Grigor versus Maxim. As mentioned above, The Great feels more modern than ever with the contemporary dialogue, i.e., “getting shit done,” and the dark comedy. I’m always a sucker for period pieces with modern sensibilities, which drew me to The Great in the first place. 

Peter brandishes a gun while standing outside in The Great Season 3 Episode 2, "Choose Your Weapon."

The Great — “Choose Your Weapon” – Season 3 Episode 2 — Peter (Nicholas Hoult), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Raphael/Hulu)

I love the development of these characters, especially Peter and Catherine. You see Peter try to rein in his impulsiveness, while Catherine endeavors to keep her idealism and apply practicality to ruling a country. Side note: I adore Catherine’s dresses, especially the gorgeous pink frock and her dinner gown. Utterly ethereal. 

Do you think Catherine’s and Peter’s marital dynamic is sustainable in this climate? Will Catherine learn she killed Orlo? Is Georgina pretending to be Catherine’s most ardent supporter? Only time (and more episodes) will tell. Huzzah! 

The Great Season 3 is now streaming on Hulu

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Melody McCune
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