The flashback is the first part of the series. Six years ago, Habsburg witnessed a revolution similar to the one commoners want to see in the present. Franz’s uncle, the Emperor, lost his throne and his life. He was ushered into succession, and Sophie ensured she was there every step of his way. Max was the one who sat in the background, the sibling that was ignored.
Sophie awakens with nightmare-like residuary memories of the time. Esterhazy is shaken, but she quickly regains control. She delivers good news. Elisabeth may be pregnant, and Sophie suggests that everything be done to ensure the child’s happiness is real. The honeymoon phase may be over. Esterhazy obeys Sophie to the letter, giving raw eggs and placenta to Elisabeth.
Napoleon expressed dislike toward Austria. The Tsar has not responded. Sophie suggests that a show of force is needed urgently to quell fears about the empire’s need to defend itself. They don’t have enough money to do this anyway. Franz invites Alexander, the son of the Tsar, to Vienna. This might be perceived as a provocative act by the ruler, and he is warned. Max vents his frustrations at Franz by almost taking Franz’s head in a fencing duel. The palace is heating up. Max asks Franz for a leadership position, but Franz says no. He might be right. It is not that the brother sees it with any reason, but jealously and malice.
Franz and Elisabeth spend time by the river in a more relaxed moment. Both are seen in loose-fitting clothing, and the former sketches nude. The couple is experiencing tender love. Will it endure the fortitudes of war, diplomacy, and jealousy? Franz is disturbed by the thought that his people are still poor and angry. His wife assures him that he can make a difference.
The cold war between Elisabeth and Sophie continues. Franz suggests Alexander could be invited to Vienna quickly, and they clash once more at dinner. Although Sophie claims it will take them too long to prepare for a grand entrance, Elisabeth suggests that an intimate meeting may be just what they need. Franz supports the former.
As an avenue, a hunt is created. Franz decides to take Elisabeth along with him, and not Sophie. She is upset about Karl’s visit to Auhof. She nevertheless joins the entourage. Franz also receives the papers from Von Bach. The railway work will soon begin. Tensions are rising between Leontine and Amalia. The former distrust her. Elisabeth tries again to make Sophie feel secure and to mend the relationship. She does the same but warns that Sophie should be her top priority.
Max proposes a new plan and goes behind Franz’s back to convene a meeting with his cabinet. Napoleon is so offended he tends to attach Habsburg from one side while the Russians might be from the other. They are in a very precarious situation. Only Max will be installed as the new Emperor, and the French will not go to Habsburg. What if Franz and Alexander could reach an agreement? Max promises he’ll handle it. Another devious plan afoot?
Yes. Max arrives at Auhof in the morning to join royal couples for the Hunt. Elisabeth leaves Maria and the other countesses to go on their own while the men hunt. Alexander says that the heart of the Tsar is broken. Franz talks about the younger leadership Russia is looking for; one that wants peace. Franz demands that the Russians pull their armies out of the border.
Alexander is open to the idea. Amalia detects Leontine’s fakery and presses. Leontine is walking on dangerous ground, and Amalia is very close to her. Max meets Alexander while taking sex. He begins to sow doubt seeds.
A scout spots the prey, and the royal entourage starts again. Elisabeth also joins the men. Sophie feels nostalgic, remembering her little girl. Karl claims Elisabeth looks like Sophie, and that’s why he hates her. Max’s plan appears to be working, as Alexander believes that Franz is offering peace in return for Russia’s expansion as they battle France.
The Empress and he go their separate ways looking for prey, but it’s a chance to discuss politics. The Russian misses twice his mark when the beast is found, and Elisabeth must intervene to kill it. He doesn’t like that a woman saved his life, and he leaves the party in disgust. He gives Franz some of his thoughts, and Max’s plan proves to be a huge success.
Alexander refuses Franz’s plan, and Sophie calls for an emergency meeting. Franz is not happy with Elisabeth’s behavior. Max listens to Elisabeth and compares her situation to his. They are both blameless and have champagne together. Egon, Leontine’s commoner friend, and suspicions Leontine’s (real name: Ava) loyalty have changed. She confirms her suspicions and admits she was wrong about Empress and Emperor. Egon disagrees. Egon asks her to pick between the cause that will rise and the royalty who will die.
Franz sees Elisabeth, Max, and Max get out of the wagon together. He reprimands Elisabeth because he doesn’t trust Max. Elisabeth observes blood under her dress and looks on in contemplation.
The makers seem to have decided to keep the episodes short. The episodes are not slowed down by unnecessary exposition. Even though the stories aren’t very exciting, Elisabeth is animated as she takes her first steps toward becoming Empress. Particularly Episode 4 went by quickly. We avoid the usual buildup and the time with Alexander’s partner, Maria.
The Hunt explores the psychological state of its characters and their changing personalities in the simplest of ways.
The Empress is adamant about resisting the somber tone of period dramas while keeping the best parts, like gorgeous visuals and drool-worthy costume designs. Episode 3 4 was a powerful episode, except for the CGI boar. Many things going on behind the Emperor’s Back have tremendous potential. Max’s ambitions may be too great to ignore for too long. Our troubled protagonist is not looking good right now.