Catherine the Great – Recap Episode 2


Episode 2 of Catherine the Great (2019) can be summed up with this post I put on Facebook, 10 minutes into it:

Oh God. 🙄🙄🙄

But since I suppose you all want some form of recap, I will elaborate.

Episode 2 opens two years after the first episode and Potemkin has been off slaughtering Turks for Catherine. He’s now been promoted to Major General and is, apparently, a badass. I guess. I am so meh about his character and that the script is trying to do everything it can to insist he’s some kind of warrior heartthrob is just becoming overwhelmingly obvious. Potemkin shows up and we are supposed to feel swoony and tingly in our lady parts because Catherine clearly feels swoony and tingly about him. Yeah, no.

Proof of badassery: Eye patch; pile of dead Turks.

The whole thing with their “relationship” is weird. According to the plot, they’ve mainly sent one another letters over the course of the preceding two years until suddenly Catherine decides she’s in love with him and wants him to come back to Russia. So, off to Catherine he goes, but not before observing a peasant uprising in the works. But he’s got to go fuck the Empress, so, you know, priorities.

Yet another blue dress. Good hair. Sad face because pen-pal boyfriend is off murdering Turks.

Paul and Natalia. He’s a drip and she’s out of his league. Obviously, a match made in heaven.

Upon arrival in Catherine’s court, she basically ices him. Ok, so now we see that Catherine is a capricious bitch, cool. She’s also got to deal with her current lover whose name I can’t be arsed to remember, and her previous lover Prince Orlov who is still sulking around the council being pissy that she’s a big meanie who won’t share her power with him. Actually, that goes for like all the men in this show so far … every single one of them is just one heartbeat away from throwing a temper tantrum every time they ask Catherine for some of her sweet, sweet power, and she’s all “Fuck no. Piss off.”

“I’m here to bone, Your Majesty.”


So, anyway, Potemkin is in a snit about Catherine’s less-than-warm welcome and he goes and gets a hand job at the opera from Catherine’s bestie Countess Bruce while Catherine is basically watching and laughing, because it’s funny some how? Immediately following said hand job, Potemkin proceeds to have a meltdown about how MEAN Catherine is being to him, and he goes stomping off, vowing to leave the court.

I’ll be honest. I had a hard time figuring out who was getting the hand job initially, Potemkin or Lord Douchington sitting next to Catherine.

Catherine is all, “LOL whatever.”

Potemkin, doing the manliest of flounces.

There’s a weird bit in there, too, with Paul and his new bride Natalia, who is clearly fucking Paul’s best friend. Natalia also won’t bow to Catherine, but it’s not explained why so we are left to wonder wtf her damage is with her mother-in-law. It’s all very low-key uninteresting. Minister Panin keeps trying to stir up shit between Paul and Catherine, and Potemkin and Catherine, and the Orlovs and Catherine … Basically, I don’t care whose side he’s on at this point. All I know is Panin is literally the most annoying character in the show by far.

They better explain why Natalia doesn’t bow or else I’m going to throw something.

I do continue to enjoy Catherine’s dressing gowns.

So, Catherine comes running out to Potemkin as he’s about to flounce, and she manages to convince him to stay. Then, when things start to develop towards sexy times, he abruptly leaves. Catherine is amused. I guess she likes love games. I, personally, find them annoying AF.

My favorite of Catherine’s gowns this episode. The left side of the darker blue robe is stuck behind her pannier, so that’s why it looks like it’s two different blue skirts.

Catherine offers the use of her bath house to Potemkin, so he goes. Catherine isn’t going to sleep with him just yet, though, so he takes a bath instead. As soon as Catherine leaves, and Potemkin is drying off, he hears a sword being unsheathed and he goes to investigate with his own sword — er, swords — at the ready. Turns out it’s the Orlov brothers skulking around and being weird. Potemkin raises the weirdness by a factor of 10 when he tears off his robe and attacks Prince Orlov naked.

I don’t know, guys. I just work here.

Catherine wearing a bodice and skirt with a loose jacket over it, still in her trademark blues.

The jacket when its pulled closed in front. Sort of a pet en l’air style, I’m guessing?

More peasant uprising crap and, trigger warning, rape. Because this is a period drama, apparently there is a contractually obligated amount of rape required. I might have to make another tag for “contractually obligated sexual assault” to go with the “contractually obligated leather pants”, because I am just so tired of rape being used as a plot device all. the. fucking. time.

I’m looking at you Outlander.

Anyway, word reaches Catherine about the cranky peasants and she dispatches Potemkin, again, to take care of it. Which he does. She decides she’s going to go ride out to greet him as he brings the army back with the leader of the rebellion imprisoned. Everyone’s like “No, don’t do it, it’s too dangerous” but Catherine is like, “Whatever, I do what I want.” So she dons a cute man’s riding costume and sets off. And then, much to everyone’s astonishment, the peasants don’t attack her, but bow to her! Gasp! They LIKE her?! How can this be?

Right, because she’s clearly Head Bitch in Charge.

Once the rebel leader is brought back to wherever Catherine’s home base is supposed to be (Moscow?), he’s executed. Which is the perfect romantic setting, obviously.

“Executions always get me so turned on…”

FINALLY, Catherine and Potemkin consummate their love in the bath house, because water is literally the WORST lubricant in the world, so obviously they’re gonna do it in the bath. Everyone raise your hands who have tried this and had the perineal tears to prove it.

The scene closes with Catherine sort of proposing marriage to Potemkin. There is a bit of historical debate as to whether or not they were actually married, so clearly this show is going with “Yes, they were.”

In summation, I think the trouble I’m having with the show is that it’s cringey when it’s supposed to be compelling, and trite where it attempts to build tension. Catherine is barely likable as a character, but all the other characters are bland, so you feel like you have no choice but to root for her because everyone else is just … so … meh. Basically, the only thing it really has holding my attention right now are the costumes, which continue to be pretty good.


What did you think of the second episode of Catherine the Great? Share it with us in the comments!


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

12 Responses

  1. Fran in NYC

    I’m also only there for the costumes and the sets. The gorgeous tricorns the women wear!

    • M.E. Lawrence

      They are lovely, those tricorns and girly uniforms, and one always enjoys Helen and Gina. The rest of it–well, I got to see episodes early when I was in England last month, and actually felt boredom creeping in, even though I’ve been interested in C the G since I was a teenager. The transitions between Epic Sweep and Intimate Drama just did not work, and I couldn’t figure out what Catherine saw in the guy playing Potemkin, who was reputedly a fascinating person, sort of fire to her earth.

  2. Roxana

    So basically Helen Mirren looks marvelous – of course. And Russian history is totally trashed. Also all her men are meh.

  3. mmcquown

    All I remember about Potemkin was the story that he took the Empress on a carriage tour of what were supposed to be houses that hew had built, but were in fact empty shells, hence the phrase “Potemkin village.” Also there was a battleship named after him. There was film by Sergei Eisenstein and scored by Shostakovich about the mutiny on board the ship, which was regarded as a significant act in the Revolution.

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m also there for the costumes and Helen Mirren. But I’m strangely sort of liking it. Definitely not in the way I absolutely loved Gentleman Jack, but more of a guilty pleasure or habit.

  5. Frannie Germeshausen

    It made no sense last week, sounds as though that trend continues. I’m bummed that it’s a mess.

  6. Damnitz

    The best I can see here is the picture of Catherine on horseback, although I doubt, that the old Catherine (70+) still rode in her Military costumes.

  7. Katie O.

    Why does it seem so difficult to have costume dramas that have both good costumes and a compelling plot? It feels like it’s always one or the other

  8. samIam

    I’m so mad this show it’s trash.

    Also, a quickie perusal of the internet suggests Potemkin didn’t have a thing to do with Pugachev.

  9. CatnipTARDIS

    If I pretend the whole thing is based on a Philippa Gregory novel—with far better costumes. Going in knowing it’s a piece of trash makes it far easier to digest!


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