A genre-bending, anti-historical ride through 18th century Russia following the rise of Catherine the Nothing to Catherine the Great and her explosive relationship with husband Peter, the emperor of Russia.
In 1761, Catherine travels to Russia and becomes the Empress by marrying the Emperor of Russia, Peter. With hopes of marrying a great love, Catherine soon realizes Peter is a selfish brat who stands against everything she values. Catherine is feeling hopeless and verging on suicide when her servant, Marial, presents her with an alternative path – to overthrow Peter.
Catherine takes her first steps toward a coup. Taking advice from Marial, she attempts to seduce and recruit palace intellectual Count Orlo. It’s a disaster. However, after seeing Peter’s brutal treatment of local nobles and unwillingness to listen, he decides to join Catherine’s coup.
Catherine, Orlo and Marial continue their coup planning. They try to recruit an unhappy military general, Velementov, for their cause during palace celebrations honoring Peter’s late father, Peter the Great. Peter, noting Catherine’s unhappiness at court, gifts Catherine a sterile lover, Leo. She’s hesitant at first, but Leo manages to charm her.
Catherine tries to manage her reputation at court and her relationship with Leo, both of which distract her from the coup. Meanwhile, the influential Patriarch of the church dies, and a new one must be chosen. Orlo sees an opportunity to try and influence Peter in the decision, and Archie makes moves.
As the war with Sweden continues to rage, Catherine and Aunt Elizabeth visit the military at the Russian front. Seeing the soldiers reminds Catherine of her goal to rule Russia differently. Grigor struggles with Peter and Georgina’s relationship and poisons Peter to end it. When Peter falls ill, Velementov, Orlo, and Marial all try to influence Catherine’s steps toward takeover as Peter’s life hangs in the balance.
Peter has a new lease on life after his near-death experience. He is open to Catherine’s progressive ideas of introducing art and science to court and wants to focus on an heir. Orlo tries to figure out who poisoned Peter and faces demons of his own.
Catherine feels optimistic about peaceful coexistence with Peter and their increasing chemistry. When smallpox breaks out in the servant’s quarters, however, Peter reverts to his old ways. Meanwhile, Leo and Catherine’s relationship suffers and Georgina misses Peter.
Catherine’s political abilities are tested when she’s given an opportunity to travel abroad with Peter and Velementov to discuss ending the war with Swedish king. Velementov finally sees the potential of her leadership and decides to support the coup. Back at the palace, Leo wants to leave court. Marial tries to keep him there by telling him about the coup.
Tensions mount as Catherine, Orlo, Velementov, Leo, and Marial try to get regional counts on board with the coup. A few of the men end up killed. When a body is discovered later, Peter decides to torture everyone at the palace to find the murderous traitors. Marial buckles under the pressure and confides in Archie about Catherine’s plans. Catherine realizes she is pregnant.
Catherine’s decides to move forward with the coup on her birthday. Peter isn’t so easily overcome and holds Leo hostage as collateral. In exchange for a return to her status, Marial betrays Catherine to Peter and tells him that she is pregnant. Catherine realizes that the only chance for a greater Russia is to fight, without Leo. The battle begins.
Four months after she launched a coup against her husband, a pregnant Catherine is gaining the upper hand in her war against Peter. The fact that he is deeply in love with Catherine and their unborn child does little to dissuade her from taking his throne.
Catherine, Orlo and Velementov begin their rule of Russia and unexpected obstacles appear. Peter is on a journey of self-improvement under house arrest but convinces Catherine to let him attend her coronation and hand over his crown.
Catherine’s grief over the loss of Leo during the coup finally catches up with her. Peter’s part in Leo’s death, and the discovery that he just murdered a noble, causes Catherine to lock Peter in his apartments with only his mummified mother for company.
Catherine is frustrated by the lack of meaningful change in her rule of Russia so far. Seeking to shake the court out of its complacency, she plays a joke on them involving a serf to prove a point, but it gets wildly out of hand with tragic consequences.
Catherine’s team is falling apart and she begins doubting her reign when her mother comes to visit. She works hard to hide the realities of the court from her mother and puts on a science fair for which Russia must come up with the best invention.
Elizabeth pronounces that Catherine’s baby will be born in 5 days and the court begins preparations involving rituals for Peter and Catherine. Conflict with the Ottomans heightens, and Catherine tries to run the country while on forced bed rest.
Catherine and Peter are co-parenting their newborn son, Paul, with the help of Elizabeth and trying to avoid their feelings for each other. When Paul goes missing, Peter and Catherine are driven together in their quest to find him.
Catherine makes a devastating discovery about Peter before traveling to the war front for a meeting with the Sultan. Peter considers his options now Catherine knows his secret and all parties come together for a final showdown at Marial’s wedding.
Catherine involves the peasants, nobles and merchants in a conference designed to bring change to Russia. Peter’s hunt for revenge on an historic enemy threatens to destabilise Catherine’s attempt to outlaw murder.
Arkady and Tatyana help Peter and Catherine through a rough patch as they clash over their son Paul. Catherine fears Paul will grow up to be a ruthless and careless leader and Archie and Elizabeth are alarmed when Catherine refuses to ordain him.
Peter is once again tormented by his father, Peter the Great’s expectations and his failure to continue the legacy of his empire. Catherine must decide what to do about the unrest being stirred up in the regions, but Velementov is in no state to help her.
Catherine wants to bring more fun to the court. With Georgina’s help she stages a festival of truth, jokes and stunningly clever ideas. Katya puts on a play that challenges Catherine’s reign, and Catherine samples Peter’s invention of salty desserts.
Under orders from Catherine, Grigor hides out in the forest with Paul. Catherine plays a dangerous game with herself to prove that her destiny lies in Russia, and grapples with the impact Peter’s decisions have on her rule.
Catherine meets court scientist Nikolai, who announces a comet is about to pass through Russia. She uses this phenomenon to her advantage and in the face of some huge challenges, unearths a new side of her leadership.
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