TV Review: 'Ekaterina: The Rise Of Catherine The Great' Season 2

All hail the Empress! “Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great” returns for a second season of ferocious finagling. Picking up six years after the tumultuous events that led to her ascension, Season 2 finds Ekaterina (Marina Aleksandrova) trying to maintain her power as an Empress, and establish her power as the mother to the future Emperor. All the while, she works to blaze her own legacy, as a Great.

Season 2 has no shortage of action and intrigue that strikes a similar vein to Season 1. That main vein being that Ekaterina’s relationship with her son Pavel takes on startling parallels to her relationship with Empress Elizaveta. It is a sad cycle to see repeated, even though it is one, viewers are reminded helped forge Ekaterina into the steely power player she becomes.


Where Season 1 was Ekaterina’s origin story, the one in which she obtains her powers, Season 2 is about how she wields them. There is an unflinching angle to how the show approaches its subject, both as a person and a ruler. “The Rise” explores her life as a woman, mother, paramour, and empress. Throughout it all, she remains conflicted yet determined, struggling not to follow in the exact footsteps of her royal mentor, a woman who was part inspiration, and other part respected foe.

One of the things “The Rise” captures is the trauma Ekaterina still feels, despite her husband Pyotr being dead. The shadow of his mistreatment towards her still overwhelms his widow, and with a son, who is unaware of the whole story and idolizes his father, it creates a wedge between mother and son that becomes hard for them to overcome. It is a tragic split that neither party is capable of genuinely bridging.

The costume design is exquisite and the cinematography is equally stunning, creating a mood that transcends words and set pieces, the quality of which is also terrific.

The centerpiece for all of this is Ekaterina, a role Marina Aleksandrova is just as magnificent at playing in Season 2, as she is in Season 1. Whether she is conveying the heart of a woman wanting to be loved or the fierce leader who is dishing out sharp and troubling strategies, Aleksandrova is spot-on.

Ferocity and tenderness wrap around her portrayal of Ekaterina with a poetic ease that brings unparalleled dimension to a towering figure. No matter the situation, Aleksandrova finds the heartbeat in every moment, and it is this component that makes “The Rise” jump off the screen. Marina Aleksandrova is one of the best actresses working today and Season 2 solidifies that notion to a degree that makes it downright inarguable.


She is supported by an impressive supporting cast that includes Pavel Tabakov as Ekaterina’s compassionate; if sometimes misguided son. And as he did in “The Duelist,” Tabakov brings a sense of nobility to his role as the confused and often bewildered Pavel. He handles the teen’s rage with a finesse that comes across righteous rather than rebellious, a thin line to walk without bobbling.

Likewise, Lyubava Greshnova gives a layered performance as Ekaterina’s lady-in-waiting, Sofya, who becomes ensnared in a troubling love affair. In all, the ensemble provides a sensational spine for the series’ fantastic writing to play off of.

“Ekaterina” Season 2 provides a sequel season that maintains its congruity with the first. The style, passion, and dramatic flair are all there. Thankfully, there is no fall to the second season of “Rise,” which makes it pretty great.

Rating: 9/10


The second season of "Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great" is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Read Eclectic Pop's review of Season 1, here.

[Featured Image by Russia-1]

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