The Great Season 1 Episode 2 Recap – “The Beard”

By Daniel Hart
Published: May 15, 2020 (Last updated: December 1, 2023)
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Hulu series The Great episode 2 - The Beard


The Great episode 2, “The Beard”, is another strong and funny episode with the coup and free-will taking centre stage.

This recap of Hulu series The Great Season 1 Episode 2, “The Beard” contains significant spoilers.

How does The Great episode 2, “The Beard” begin?

So far, The Great has made this into an enjoyable satirical experience and the opening of episode 2 demonstrates that. It starts with Peter having sex with Catherine who is watching a bee float around the room. Afterward, she tells him that he’s not Peter the Great. Peter always seems non-emotional by her responses, proceeding to sleep with another woman straight after.

What is Catherine’s plan to gain power?

Catherine wants to begin planning taking over to make a greater Russia. Marial suggests killing Peter again — she seems very up for violence. Marial tells Catherine if she is discovered plotting against Peter, she’ll be as good as dead.

Rustov and his beard.

The main story in episode 2 is all about Rustov’s beard and free-will in Russia. Rustov comes over to give peaches to Peter from his region and Peter questions why he has a beard. Peter explains that as part of his modern approach there can be no beards, which is ironically not a modern approach. Rustov explains that his wife has never seen his face but Peter tells him to shave it off and return to him tomorrow. Orlo speaks to Velementov to find a way for Rustov to keep his beard.

Getting Orlo on Catherine’s side.

Marial tells Catherine to seduce Orlo to get him on her side and then he will do anything for her — she gives Catherine seduction ideas. A nervous Orlo learns that Catherine is trying to seduce him in a poor show flirtatious attempts. Catherine cuts to the chase and brings up a coup and he freaks out. The reason why Catherine wants Orlo on her side is that he is an intellect with great ideas.

Peter tries to make peace.

Peter tries to make an effort with Catherine at breakfast. He apologizes for shooting her bear and punching her. He also tells her that he wants his Empress to be happy here, even suggesting giving her a lover as “he doesn’t want to kill her as she’s not a bad person”. Catherine coyly says she could kill him as he isn’t a good person. Peter agrees to not punch her again but Catherine says his whole idea is rancid.

Trying Orlo again.

Catherine tells Orlo that he needs to be on board to help her with her reign and bring a progressive, powerful Russia. Orlo says she has already proved she can’t do this by going to him and claims he is a coward. Catherine disagrees with his statements, stating that he is much more of a man. The Great episode 2 shows how manipulative Catherine can be. She’s way smarter than her husband.

Peter wants to be rid of Catherine.

But episode 2 also shows how immature and frantic Peter is. Peter tells his men that they need to find a way to get rid of Catherine — he’s told he will look like a failure in Europe for not keeping her woman happy. Peter tells Orlo that they will be killing Catherine.

Olo sounds out a warning.

Orlo tells Catherine that her obvious unhappiness will kill her. She needs to up her game in order to survive now.

Catherine pretends.

And what follows is probably the best scene from Elle Fanning so far in The Great. At a party, Catherine apologizes to Peter for being sour-faced and they dance together. Catherine keeps sarcastically complimenting him. It’s a great performance from the actress whose character is close to the edge. While eating at the party, Peter brings chopped-off heads to the table. Catherine keeps in character despite feeling disgusted. Peter gets everyone on the table to poke out the eyes of the beheaded head. Catherine does it despite tellingly disagreeing. Later, Peter and Catherine have sex again and she just smiles at him while he gets on with it.

One last try with Orlo.

It appears Catherine is trying attrition with Orlo. She confronts Olo again and tells him the books and ideas are as dead on the shelves as he is inside — “It’s the great life that I want.” Despite her persuasive words, Orlo declines again. You can tell that Orlo is frustrated with his position.

How does The Great episode 2, “The Beard” end?

Peter tells his men to forgive Catherine as she’s “fun”, just showing how thick he is. Rustov enters with a beard on his face; Orlo tells Peter to suggest considering free will and allowing people to choose and that it will show his strength in leadership. With Peter declining, Orlo gets frustrated and says he can’t force everyone to bend their will. Peter threatens Orlo and asks him to shave Rustov’s beard. Afterward, Orlo meets Catherine and confirms he will help her with the coup. He’s clearly disenfranchised with the Emperor.

The Great episode 2, “The Beard” is another strong and funny episode with the coup and free-will taking center stage.

Other points
  • Some of the women are annoyed at Catherine’s attitude.
  • Catherine tells Olo that Peter isn’t Peter the Great but “Peter Not Quite Adequate”.
  • Auntie tells Peter that his wife Catherine is unhappy and that he must do something about it.
  • The Archbishop asks Olo if he’s trying to have sex with Catherine and to not take advantage of her unhappiness.
  • Catherine asks the Archbishop to give the beheaded a blessing. She feels they need to be respected.

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