Friday, January 18, 2019
Ekaterina Television Series
This first season of the Russian television, Ekaterina, tells the story of Catherine the Great's arrival in Russia, trials and tribulations under the rule of the aging Elizabeth, and seizure of power. As a television show, the series is similar to The Tutors in its excitement, passionate love affairs, and political intrigues. Its leading ladies (especially the actress playing Elizabeth) are excellent actors. The theme sound is appropriately redolent of the Game of Thrones' soundtrack. As history, the series reminds us of that the awesome autocratic power of the post-Peter the Great Romanovs was somewhat tempered by Church authority and alternative claimants to the crown whose very existence could potentially inspire revolts. The series also reminds us on the complex diplomatic affairs of eighteenth century Russia. While capable of sending almost anyone to her dungeons, Elizabeth employed royal advisers, an expensive army, and a complex counter-espionage services to keep her royal prerogatives and her country's borders safe. As importantly, Elizabeth understandably worried about her heir. In fact, the dynastic succession was an almost overriding obsession for the empress. Who would follow her policies, continue the Romanov dynasty, or at least rule Russia competency after she died? The film depicts Catherine as intelligent and, increasingly, politically savvy. She learned Russian quickly and avoided political intrigue enough to stay alive. On the other hand, the film also suggests that Catherine craved love, and really did love both Saltykov and Orlov. In terms of its narrative power, the film does a wonderful job of depicting Peter III as a tragic hero. Flawed in terms of intellect, judgement, and (after a bout of smallpox) appearance, and capable of great personal cruelty toward Catherine, the film's Peter III nevertheless emerges as a complex and often sympathetic person. Suffering mightily throughout Elizabeth's reign, the often childish Peter III somehow mustered enough courage to periodically defy his aunt. He also demonstrated great musical talent, a capacity for love a woman of his own choosing, and some measure of courage when faced with a coup. He also tried to assert bold new policies for Russia, although these policies (especially those related to Lutheranism and the war against Prussia) were admittedly naive insofar as they flew in the face of popular Russian opinion.