The following contains major spoilers from The Great Season 3, including the finale. Proceed accordingly.
Peter III (played by Nicholas Hoult) survived a coup and an assassination attempt by his wife Catherine (Elle Fanning), only to be taken out by… thin ice.
The Great, which released all Season 3 episodes on Friday, killed off the discontented former emperor in Episode 6 without much fanfare. As Peter bade farewell to Catherine on horseback, he and the stallion fell through ice, never to be seen again. His sudden death may have caught the empress off guard, but portrayer Nicholas Hoult says he was aware of his character’s fate beforehand.
“[Showrunner Tony McNamara] had prepared me for when he was going to die, and so I wasn’t shocked by how,” Hoult tells TVLine. “There had been rumors, I guess, circulating about how he would die for a while.”
Before Peter took his deathly ice plunge, he and Catherine argued over his plans to invade Sweden in what amounted to a ridiculous power grab that would have been disastrous for her reign. As he crossed the ice, he paused briefly, and it looked like maybe he changed his mind. But Peter slipped through the surface before he could finish his sentence, leaving his final thoughts a mystery.
“I think it summed up Tony’s writing perfectly that the last words that Peter says, ‘Actually, I…’ and you’re not quite sure what that could have been or what he was thinking and where things would have gone had that not taken place,” Hoult explains. “So it was emotional to read and emotional to film and tough to say goodbye to the character, but beautifully done.”
After Peter’s death, a grieving Catherine emulated her late husband through impulsive decisions like announcing plans to invade Sweden and sleeping with a stranger because she felt like it in the moment. Towards the end of Episode 10, she pulled herself together and showed signs of the great leader she’s destined to become, all while still grappling with loss. The empress wrapped the season with a euphoric dance to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” after killing a would-be assassin and ordering Archie to be buried alive. (Unbeknownst to her, Marial pulled him from the grave alive.)
“I think it’s the most important relationship in her life, and that will always be there. But I do think that for her to step into her power and truly be the leader that she feels in her heart is her destiny, Peter has to not be there,” Elle Fanning, who plays Catherine, notes. “In some ways, they were both holding each other back. As sad as it is, it had to happen, and I think she is almost reborn in that last scene. It’s a new Catherine, but also a Catherine with weight and history.”
“I think in the first season, she’s a girl that doesn’t look like she really has a past. She hasn’t experienced much life yet,” the actress continues. “At the end of Season 3, she’s seen so much and lost so much and experienced that pain. You have to experience those things to be able to relate to your court and your people and have empathy in a different way. I’m hoping that she’ll step into that leader we want her to be because she hasn’t quite gotten there yet.”
As for the AC/DC song, that was all Fanning.
“I picked it,” she shares. “I go home a lot after work and dance alone to let off steam. There are certain songs I listen to, especially when my adrenaline’s high and it was a good day or a bad day. That’s one of the songs, and so I was thinking about the dance and what I wanted it to be, and I just I love that song so much. I also love the juxtaposition it brings the show. We always have a little needle drop at the end, so that was our needle drop. And then the credits are silent. That was a choice.”
How do you feel about the way The Great wrapped Season 3? Grade the episode and the season below, and then share your thoughts in the comments.
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