The Great (TV series)

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The Great
The series' title card
The series' title card
Also known as
  • The Great: An Occasionally True Story (season 1)
  • The Great: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story (season 2)
Genre
Created byTony McNamara
Starring
Music byNathan Barr
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Australia
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes20
Production
Executive producers
  • Tony McNamara
  • Elle Fanning
  • Marian Macgowan
  • Brittany Kahan Ward
  • Doug Mankoff
  • Andrew Spaulding
  • Josh Kesselman
  • Ron West
  • Matt Shakman
Producers
  • Nick O'Hagan (pilot only)
  • Dean O'Toole
Running time50-61 minutes
Production companies
  • Thruline Entertainment
  • Echo Lake Entertainment
  • Lewellen Pictures
  • Macgowan Films
  • Piggy Ate Roast Beef Productions
  • Civic Center Media
  • MRC Television
DistributorParamount Global Distribution Group[1]
Release
Original networkHulu
Original releaseMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15) –
present (present)

The Great (titled onscreen as The Great: An Occasionally True Story and later as The Great: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story) is an American historical and satirical black comedy-drama television series described by its commissioner Hulu as "anti-historical"[2] loosely based on the rise to power of Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia. All ten episodes of the first season were released on Hulu on May 15, 2020.[3] The series stars Elle Fanning as Empress Catherine II and Nicholas Hoult as the Emperor Peter III.

In July 2020, Hulu renewed the series for a second season which premiered on November 19, 2021.[4][5] In January 2022, the series was renewed for a third season.[6]

Premise[edit]

The Great is a historical and satirical black comedy-drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia's history. The series is fictionalized and portrays Catherine in her youth and marriage to Emperor Peter III of Russia, focusing on the plot to kill her depraved and dangerous husband.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Recurring[edit]

Episodes[edit]

Series overview[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
110May 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
210November 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)

Season 1 (2020)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
11"The Great"Matt ShakmanWritten for Television by : Tony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
In the eighteenth century, a young and naïve Catherine marries Peter III of Russia. Her ambitions and optimism shatter as she discovers Peter's frivolous, cruel, and spiteful nature, and realises he only married her for an heir. Catherine finds an unexpected friend in her maid, Marial, a former noblewoman demoted to serfdom. When Catherine discovers that women are not educated in Russia, she obtains Peter's permission to establish a school, but he burns it down after learning that it is intended for girls. When Peter shoots the bear he gave to Catherine during a ball, she slaps him in front of everyone and he responds by punching and threatening her later in private. Catherine, now little more than a prisoner, decides to escape with the help of Marial, but Peter finds out. Disheartened, Catherine is about to slit her wrists when Marial informs her about a law in Russia: if an emperor dies without an heir, the throne will pass to the empress. Catherine begins to plot to overthrow her husband.
22"A Fake Beard"Colin BuckseyTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
As Catherine and Marial seek to arrange Peter's death, Marial suggests seducing Orlo, a member of Peter's inner circle. Catherine fails to seduce Orlo and tells her plan to him. Peter apologises to Catherine for his prior behaviour, while Orlo tries to help Count Rostov, who has been commanded to shave off his beard in accordance with law. The court ladies despise Catherine, and an enraged Peter decides to kill her in a carriage accident. Archie (the archbishop) warns her and she feigns affection and submissiveness, causing Peter to reconsider. She learns about Peter's mother and her harshness towards him. Catherine fails to persuade Orlo to cooperate, but he keeps her secret. When Peter coerces Orlo into shaving Rostov's beard, Orlo switches allegiances and agrees to support Catherine's plans.
33"And You Sir, Are No Peter the Great"Bert & BertieTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Orlo prepare manifestos for their new era, whilst Peter brings a 'lover' for Catherine, Leo Voronsky. Orlo suspects Leo is spying for Peter. Catherine asks Leo to pretend he has slept with her. The next day, she assures Peter that she and Leo had a great night and asks him to could Leo go. Instead, Peter beats Leo for not convincing her to keep him. Orlo and Marial suggest using Ivan, Peter's half-brother, against him. Catherine locates Ivan, who is hidden in a secret room in the castle with the help of Aunt Elizabeth. Catherine embarrasses Lady Svenska at ladies' tea in retaliation for hurting Marial, causing the ladies to turn on her. When Peter gives a speech about the remarkability of his father, he gets emotional and an officer mocks him. Encouraged by Catherine to show his real emotions, he stabs the officer. Peter encourages Catherine to take a lover of her own choice, but Catherine accepts Leo and begins a passionate relationship with him.
44"Moscow Mule"Bert & BertieTess MorrisMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Leo pursue their love affair. News arrives that the patriarch, Bishop Ivan Illyich, the Russian Orthodox church leader, has passed and Peter must choose a new one by the following day. Catherine, Marial, and Orlo continue to plan for their new era, aiming to appoint Bishop Tarcinkus as the new church leader. Catherine learns that Lady Svenska is spreading false rumours about her, and tries to make amends for political reasons. One bishop renounces Peter and commits self-immolation during the selection of the patriarch. Catherine tries to gain the other ladies' admiration by gifting Fabergé eggs. Lady Svenska invites Catherine to a tea, at which the ladies push, kick, and belittle her. Peter instructs Archie to receive a vision from God to decide on the new bishop. He consumes psychedelic mushrooms in the forest and Catherine stumbles upon him as he hallucinates. He believes her to be an angel and she tells him that he is the rightful bishop. To celebrate Archie's new title, Catherine and Marial stage a slapping as a lesson to the other ladies.
55"War and Vomit"Ben ChessellJames WoodMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Elizabeth visit the Russian front amid the war with Sweden. Appalled by the horrors she witnesses, Catherine becomes determined to gain the throne in a nonviolent manner. She fails to convince Peter to withdraw the military. His friend Grigor, whose wife Georgina is Peter's long-time mistress, poisons Peter's borscht with arsenic in an attempt to kill Peter and stop the affair. Peter falls gravely ill, leaving Catherine next in line for the throne, but her claim is threatened by the existence of Ivan. Aunt Elizabeth murders Ivan to secure Catherine's claim. Catherine's newfound pacifism causes tension between her, Marial, and Orlo, who try to convince her that she must engage in bloodshed as Empress. As Catherine and Marial squabble over whether or not to kill Peter, he awakens, miraculously cured.
66"Parachute"Ben ChessellTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Peter feels inspired to better himself after his brush with death. Elizabeth encourages Peter to sire an heir, leading him to seek out Catherine. They become more intimate, putting a strain on her relationship with Leo. Catherine uses Peter's newfound interest in her to encourage him to bring arts and sciences to Russia. Archie discourages Peter's pursuit of learning and threatens Catherine, who retaliates. Orlo becomes lost in the woods and encounters soldiers. Archie puts a raven in Peter's room to scare him, angering Peter. Catherine asks Peter to reinstate Marial as a lady of the court. Peter refuses, revealing the reason for her demotion: her father committed necrophilia with Peter's mother's corpse. Catherine changes her plans for better Russia, while Peter uses a parachute, about which he has just learned, on Marial's dog. Catherine celebrates this demonstration of science with hope for the future.
77"A Pox on Hope"Colin BuckseyTony McNamara and Gretel VellaMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Thanks to Catherine, the Russian court is excitedly absorbing culture. Catherine believes she can change Russia by influencing Peter instead of killing him, and gives him a printing press. Despite Archie's opposition, Peter likes the press's ability to print cartoons and allows it to stay. To thank Catherine, he performs cunnilingus on her and she reaches orgasm, which troubles her as she prefers Leo. Peter discusses this with Leo, who is frustrated that Catherine is becoming closer to her husband. He gets drunk and distributes cartoons depicting Catherine having sex with a horse. Georgina feels that she is losing Peter's favor. Marial is about to have sex with the servant Vlad when she discovers evidence of smallpox on his back. She and Catherine attempt to help him, but Dr. Chekov is indifferent and plans to burn Vlad and other serfs who have been affected by an outbreak. Catherine pushes for inoculation, but the court and Peter are against her. Peter is furious when she inoculates herself before the entire court to convince them of its efficacy. He bans the practice and locks her away until it is certain that she has not been infected. Catherine emerges from her apartments and witnesses, from a distance, the serfs being burned.
88"Meatballs at the Dacha"Colin BuckseyTeleplay by : Tony McNamara
Story by : Amelia Roper and Tony McNamara
May 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Peter travel to meet the King and Queen of Sweden for peace talks. Peter tries to make amends with Catherine by giving her a large diamond, but she remains angry with him over the deaths of the serfs. En route to Sweden, Catherine tries to get Velementov to join the coup, but he is only interested in seducing her. Peter and Catherine share a moment of closeness before the peace talks begin. Peter initially gets on well with the Swedish king, Hugo, finding him a kindred spirit, but becomes enraged when Hugo demands the return of St. Petersburg. Catherine steps in, claiming to have heard the Emperor talking in his sleep, and presents an acceptable compromise. Troubled by the distance between himself and Catherine, Leo prepares to return home, but is stopped by Marial who reveals Catherine's plans to him. Catherine and Peter return to Moscow in triumph. Peter thanks Catherine for helping him, revealing he knows he doesn't talk in his sleep. Catherine and Leo are reunited and he enthusiastically joins the coup.
99"Love Hurts"Geeta PatelTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Orlo, Marial, Velementov, and Leo set out to bring more aristocrats to Catherine's side, with mixed results. Velementov and Leo are forced to kill Count Gorky after he refuses to join the coup. Elizabeth's suspicions are aroused, as Gorky had been Peter the Great's best friend. Peter becomes convinced there is a threat to his life and surrounds Catherine and himself with guards everywhere they go. The entire court, apart from Elizabeth, Georgina, and Grigor, are subjected to torture. Catherine, determined to show the court that she is not in league with Peter, undergoes torture herself. She and the other conspirators succeed in keeping the coup a secret. Grigor confronts Peter and admits he resents Peter's affair with Georgina. Peter agrees to end the relationship and reveals he's fallen in love with Catherine. Rostov, who was forced to shave his beard and lost the love of his wife as a result, returns only to face ridicule from Peter and Grigor. After a tryst with Marial, who is desperate to become a noble again, Rostov breaks into the room where Peter is hiding with Catherine, intending to kill him. Peter, Grigor, and Georgina fight Rostov off and kill him. At a dinner with the Russian court, who are all recovering from a day of torture, Catherine gives a passionate speech that unites them in devotion to her. Afterwards, Peter tells Catherine he loves her. She returns to her apartments and discovers she is pregnant.
1010"The Beaver's Nose"Geeta PatelTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Shocked at the revelation that she is pregnant by Peter, Catherine wakes on her 21st birthday determined to enact the coup. Peter prepares a special cake and other gifts for her, then plans to kill Leo, believing this will cause her to transfer her affection to him. Catherine sends Velementov to gather the military leaders to support her and sends Orlo to kill Archie, while promising Marial that Archie will not be harmed. Leo goes hunting with Grigor and Peter and they attempt to kill him, but are unsuccessful. Catherine prepares to kill her husband during a birthday lunch, but is halted when he reveals her gift: the philosopher Voltaire, whom Catherine idolizes. She finds herself unable to kill Peter in front of Voltaire. Peter claims that Leo has abandoned her, but Catherine realises her lover is either dead or in danger and attacks Peter, who believes her assault to have arisen out of passion for him and locks her in the room. Orlo fails to kill Archie and is injured. Marial, frustrated that Catherine has not killed Peter, becomes convinced the coup will fail and discovers Orlo attacking Archie. Furious that she's been betrayed, she is persuaded by Archie to reveal Catherine's betrayal to Peter. In exchange for becoming a lady again, Marial shows Peter Catherine's plans for overthrowing him and reveals that she's pregnant. Heartbroken, Peter confronts Catherine, who suggests he abdicate. He shows her that Leo is his prisoner and threatens to kill him unless she calls off the coup. Catherine goes to Velementov to stop the uprising, determined to save Leo, but he tells her she has filled Russia with hope for a new future, which is more important. Catherine goes to see Leo and explains what has happened. He expresses regret but understands her choice. Catherine kisses him goodbye, then signals Velementov, who fires his pistol to restart the coup.

Season 2 (2021)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title [8]Directed byWritten byOriginal release date [9]
111"Heads, It's Me"Colin BuckseyTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
It has been four months since the coup began. Leo is presumed dead. A standoff has occurred in the palace with Catherine's forces in one wing and Peter's in another. Catherine attempts to smoke out Peter using Molotov cocktails, but Peter, Grigor, and Georgina flee to his country villa. Peter sends for his chef, Jean-Pierre, and Catherine's troops follow and surround the villa. A stalemate ensues, broken only when Catherine has Jean-Pierre prepare a feast to torment Peter. He surrenders and agrees to transfer power to Catherine, asking only that he be placed under house arrest and have a meal with Catherine and their unborn child every day. After his abdication is signed, he gives Catherine a bag containing Leo's severed head. Later, Peter reveals to Grigor and Georgina that he has a plan to retake the country.
122"Dickhead"Colin BuckseyTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine brings Peter, Grigor, and Georgina back to the palace. She reconciles with Marial, promoting her back to her status as a noblewoman, and strikes a bargain with Archie, who has given instructions to turn religious Russians against her if he is killed. She launches her long-awaited girls' school, met with resistance from Lady Svenska and the court ladies. Prior to her coronation, Catherine she meets the nobles of her empire, many of whom disrespect her and repeat the rumour that she had sex with a horse. One, Tarzinsky, threatens Catherine with violence but is cowed by Archie's presence. The only visitor who positively interacts with Catherine is Father Basil, a country priest and Leo's cousin, who gives her Leo's letters. Catherine is crowned and begins her rule. Her first decree proclaims religious freedom in Russia, provoking Archie's ire, and she begins to groom Father Basil as Archie's replacement. Peter plans to wait for Catherine to fail and make her fall in love with him. Grigor and Arkady plot against Catherine. On Aunt Elizabeth's advice, Peter asks Catherine what she would change about him and agrees to curb his propensity for violence. He subsequently becomes enraged at Tarzinsky for calling him a "dickhead" and stabs him to death in the palace courtyard.
133"Alone at Last"Zetna FuentesTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine awakes from a nightmare about Leo. She punishes Peter for killing Tarzinsky by locking him in his rooms, despite his pleas to go truffle hunting, an activity he remembers bonding with his father over in childhood. Desperate to leave Russia, Georgina convinces Catherine to exile her and Grigor to France. Trying to avoid dreaming about Leo, Catherine takes drugs to stay awake and, in a manic state, appoints Father Basil Archbishop of Russia. Pressured by his intimidating uncle Vanya, Orlo takes advantage of Catherine's intoxication to convince her to build a road in his impoverished home state. Peter, locked in a room with the mummified body of his dead mother, recalls her harsh treatment of him as a child, breaks her glass coffin and accidentally destroys her corpse. After a confrontation with Catherine where he angers her by casually mentioning Leo's death, Peter escapes to the woods to go truffle hunting. He is caught by Velementov, who reminds Peter that he, not Peter's father, took him truffle hunting as a child. Peter begins to come to terms with his parents' neglect and abuse. Catherine takes Peter's dog into the woods, and accidentally comes across the clearing where she said goodbye to Leo. Consoled by Marial and Elizabeth, she allows herself to admit that she could not have saved him. Grigor, feeling that Peter needs him, stops the carriage enroute to Paris and returns to the palace without Georgina.
144"The Devil's Lunch"Zetna FuentesTami SagherNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine grows increasingly sexually frustrated as her pregnancy continues. Peter gains Catherine's reluctant permission to throw a baby shower for their unborn son Paul, intending to remind the court how fun his reign was. Velementov insists that Russia should go to war with the Ottoman empire, but Catherine is reluctant to start a war over nothing. Sundak, an Ottoman ambassador and an old friend of Peter's, comes to meet Catherine, who has a dim view of the Ottomans' misogynistic culture. She arranges the room to imply she has an all-female counsel of close advisors, but he is unruffled by the implied insult. Velementov begins an affair with Lady Svenska, who is secretly spying for Peter, and lets slip that war with the Ottomans is a possibility. Catherine and Peter try to win Sundak to their cause, which is complicated by Peter's jealousy of Catherine's interest in the handsome Sundak. Meanwhile, Archie attempts unsuccessfully to ingratiate himself with Catherine on Marial's advice, and Marial begins an affair with a depressed Grigor. Peter attempts to undermine Catherine and Sendak's relationship by throwing a raucous party, but Catherine outwits him by taking over the party and impressing Sundak on a hunting trip the next day. Sundak leaves after a peace agreement has been reached, but Arkady and Tatyana, believing it will advance Peter's cause, intercept Sundak's carriage and kill him. After a failed attempt to have sex with a guard, Catherine is manipulated by Elizabeth into taking advantage of Peter's skills in cunnilingus.
155"Animal Instincts"Matthew MooreTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine regrets her sexual encounter with Peter, but he is thrilled that she shows signs of returning his affection, to Elizabeth's delight and Grigor's frustration. Elizabeth counsels him to make himself a mystery to Catherine, and he successfully intrigues her by playing hard to get. The court is thrown into alarm when a crocodile mysteriously begins roaming the palace and attacks Elizabeth, wounding her leg and eating her pet mouse. Catherine dismisses the superstitious nobles who believe it to be a demon or a supernatural omen, but becomes frustrated when Father Basil tells the court that the creature may indeed be a sign from God. Archie announces that as Patriarch, only he can discover the meaning of the "omen", and Catherine realizes that he has planted the creature himself. He threatens to proclaim that the crocodile is a sign that God condemns her reign unless she agrees to revoke religious freedom and remove Father Basil from power. Catherine asks Peter, an excellent hunter, to search the Palace for the animal with her, but he ignores an opportunity to kill it, in order to spend more time with her. Catherine agrees to Archie's demand, and he takes her to "meet God" through the use of psychedelic mushrooms. Although the two see different visions, they recognize their mutual hope for a better Russia. Meanwhile, Marial encounters an elderly serf, "Shakey", who she shared rooms with during her time as a servant. Learning that Shakey has been declared too old to work, Marial takes her on as a maid. Catherine captures the crocodile using opium-laced mice, but when she presents the captured animal to the court, the nobles panic when it starts to wake up and stab it to death. That evening, she agrees to dance with Peter, sharing a romantic moment with him that she abruptly stops, uncomfortable with her growing interest in him.
166"A Simple Jape"Matthew MooreTony McNamara & Gretel VellaNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
In the middle of a tryst, Peter and Catherine argue when he accuses her of using him for sex and she refuses to say that she loves him. After being confronted by pupils at her girls' school who think she is not changing the system quickly enough, Catherine resolves to free all serfs. Orlo cautions patience, but the impatient Catherine decides to play a "jape" on the court to prove her point. She disguises Shakey as a member of the aristocracy at a party, and introduces her as "Lady Anastasia". Lady Svenska is fooled and charmed by the old woman, but horrified when Catherine announces Shakey's true identity. Father Basil takes his leave of Archie, condemning his political gamesmanship in a passionate speech. Archie suddenly kisses Basil, an act that leaves him shaken and confused. Grigor forces Orlo to give him Catherine's plans for liberating serfs, and uses them to turn the nobles against Catherine. This goads Catherine into proclaiming immediate freedom for the serfs, and Peter takes advantage of the situation to urge the nobles to call for Catherine's abdication. He plans to escape his rooms with the help of a body double, Pugachev, and take Catherine hostage. The palace serfs rebel against the nobles, and in the resulting chaos, Marial discovers that Lady Svenska has murdered Shakey. Catherine's advisors call on her to put an end to the violence, but she cannot bring herself to fire on her own people and orders them out of the room. Peter bursts into Catherine's office with a gun, but when he finds her weeping alone at her failure, he comforts her and willingly returns to his captivity. Catherine reluctantly orders Velementov to subdue the rebellion. After the violence is over, Marial shoots Svenska in the head, in revenge for Shakey's murder.
177"Stapler"Ally PankiwTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine hosts a science contest for new inventions. Marial hopes this will snap her out of her negative existential mood. Peter decides that he does not want to be Emperor and plans to support Catherine, enraging and confusing Grigor. Peter tells Catherine he does not wish to be Emperor and offers to help with the science contest by attempting to create an invention to enter. Peter and his followers kidnap a scientist enroute and steal his invention, a cold box. Catherine feels disillusioned with her supporters and team when they abandoned her side during the serf rebellion. Archie struggles over his recent kiss with Basil and confesses these feelings to Marial. Grigor conspires to force Catherine to abdicate to Peter. Catherine's mother, Princess Joanna, arrives to visit. While excited, Catherine feels belittled by the updates on her siblings' successful marriages and faces disapproval from her mother for her coup and keeping Peter alive. Joanna continues to disapprove and accurately read and dress down the members of court for attempting to take advantage of Catherine's naive optimism. Orlo steals money from the treasury to support his family in their home region. Aunt Elizabeth warns Peter that he must gain Joanna's approval, but he dismisses her concerns. Catherine immediately susses out that Peter has kidnapped the scientist from Norway but goes along with the plan to win the science contest. Joanna is fascinated and horrified by Peter when they meet but then lightly seduces him and informs Catherine she is aware the cold box/fridge is missing. A serf approaches Catherine with a new idea for an invention for the science contest, a rollercoaster, which Joanna disapproves of.
188"Seven Days"Ally PankiwTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Joanna has an allergic reaction to peanuts brought from the Americas, causing Catherine to feel immense guilt. Joanna gives Catherine a list of individuals she feels should be killed for Catherine to succeed, including Aunt Elizabeth and Marial. Later, Joanna tries to seduce Peter, arguing that it is not cheating as they are family and would simply be making each other happy. Elizabeth again warns Peter not to have sex with Joanna. After a medical exam, Elizabeth pronounces that Catherine's baby will be born in 7 days. The court begins preparations involving rituals for Peter and Catherine. Because of this, Catherine tries to run the country while on forced bed rest. Peter is taken into the woods to dig graves for his wife and child ceremoniously should they die in childbirth. Catherine is inspired by hearing from the noble ladies to change laws regarding women when the Ottoman Empire sends word they are open to diplomatic talks, which turns out to be an assassination attempt. Joanna tries to seduce Peter again, and her long game is revealed: she wants Peter to take power again to reinstate her plan for another daughter to marry the French monarch, while Catherine would simply continue as queen consort and raise the baby as heir to Russia. Catherine is disillusioned with her mother. Joanna finally seduces Peter as he gives in to her advances; during their sexual encounter, Joanna falls out of the window and dies. Elizabeth, Peter and Marial hide the body and make it appear that she left suddenly. Peter and Catherine reconcile and Peter hides Joanna's death from Catherine as she goes into labor.
199"Walnut Season"Colin BuckseyTony McNamara & Gretel VellaNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine gives birth to Paul I of Russia. 6 weeks later, Peter is avoiding Catherine and Russia has gone to war with the Ottoman Empire. King Hugo of Sweden and his wife arrive after being run out of Sweden as democracy takes hold. Grigor's wife returns to court and tries to ingratiate herself with Catherine and win Grigor back. Marial's father dies, leaving her future in jeopardy as her nephew Maxim arrives to claim the family inheritance. King Hugo attempts to convince Catherine to lend him the Russian army to retake Sweden, but she is preoccupied; King Hugo then develops a plan to overthrow Catherine so that Peter gives him the army. Peter accidentally informs Elizabeth that his mother drowned her son; Elizabeth kidnaps Paul and goes to her country estate. Catherine and Peter travel there to retrieve Paul and Peter continues to avoid telling her the truth about her mother. Archie struggles with his sexual feelings while Marial tries to find a husband. Elizabeth appears to have a psychotic break over her grief for her son, calling Paul by her son's name "Igor". Catherine and Peter convince Elizabeth to return to court with them; Catherine confesses her feelings for Peter and they reconcile. Marial decides to marry her nephew to keep her estate and continues her affair with Grigor. Archie reveals that Orlo stole money from the treasury; Orlo leaves the court in disgrace. Grigor accidentally confesses to Marial about Peter's part in Joanna's death.
2010"Wedding"Colin BuckseyTony McNamara & Fiona SeresNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Marial plans her wedding as the Ottomans agree to meet Catherine. Marial confesses that Peter had sex with and then accidentally killed Joanna, and Catherine's world is shattered. Catherine goes to the front for the war. She is angry at Elizabeth and yells at Velamentov that he wants a war. Grigor reasons out that Marial informed Catherine about Joanna's death. Peter and his supporters plot how to get him out of the mess they find themselves in. Catherine and Peter ruminate on their present predicament - to kill the other and have the throne for themselves or forgive. Catherine enacts her plan to meet with the sultan - she ends up killing him and has her hand stabbed; she and Elizabeth flee. Peter's supporters try to stage another coup, meanwhile Catherine's supporters argue about the best path forward. Peter attempts to flee with Paul but returns to leave the baby. King Hugo tries to convince Peter to kill Catherine. Elizabeth and Catherine argue about Peter's actions and Catherine's philosophy. Archie ultimately decides to support Catherine as he believes she brings hope to Russia. At Marial and Maxim's wedding, tensions run high as both Peter and Catherine arrive and confront one another. Velamentov arrives at the wedding and arrests several nobles on Catherine's orders, including Marial, Grigor, and others, but not Georgina. Catherine enters Peter's apartments and stabs who she thinks is Peter, only realizing later that it was his double, Pugachev, when the actual Peter enters the room. Catherine and Peter uneasily look at each other.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The series is based upon Tony McNamara's play revolving around Catherine the Great, which premiered at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2008.[10] McNamara also wrote a film adaption of the play, "It had been a play and a film, and I was always struggling with the fact it was such a massive story for a film. I wanted to tell it as a story that goes for years and years."[11][12] The series was initially pitched as having six seasons, having planned to introduce key historical figures in Catherine's life as the series continued.[13]

On August 24, 2018, it was announced that Hulu was close to giving a pilot order to a miniseries about Catherine the Great. The series was written by Tony McNamara who also served as an executive producer alongside Elle Fanning and Marian Macgowan. Production companies involved with the pilot consist of Media Rights Capital, Echo Lake Entertainment, and Thruline Entertainment.[14] On November 20, 2018, it was reported that Matt Shakman was directing the pilot.[15] On February 11, 2019, it was announced during the Television Critics Association's annual winter press tour that Hulu had given the production a series order.[16] On July 2, 2020, Hulu renewed the series for a second season.[4] On January 11, 2022, Hulu renewed the series for a 10-episode third season.[6]

Casting[edit]

Alongside the initial pilot announcement, it was confirmed that Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult had been cast in the pilot's lead roles as Catherine the Great and her husband Peter III of Russia, respectively. In November 2018, it was announced that Phoebe Fox, Sacha Dhawan, Charity Wakefield, and Gwilym Lee had joined the cast of the pilot.[15][17][18] In January 2020, Sebastian De Souza, Adam Godley, and Douglas Hodge were added to the cast.[19] On May 14, 2021, Gillian Anderson was cast in a guest starring role as Johanna, Catherine's mother.[20]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography for the pilot episode had commenced by November 2018 in York, England with other filming locations expected to include Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Hever in Kent. The main filming locations were Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire and the Royal Palace of Caserta in southern Italy.[17][21][22][23][24][25] The loggia on the lake at Hever Castle doubled as the location for a Russo-Swedish peace conference. The fields of the St Clere Estate near Sevenoaks in Kent were used to stage battle scenes in episodes five and seven.[26] Filming for season two began on November 4, 2020[27] and ended on July 17, 2021; another location used was Hampton Court Palace.[28]

Release[edit]

Season 1[edit]

The series premiered in the United States on May 15, 2020.[3]
In Australia, all episodes were released on Stan on May 16.
The series airs on Channel 4 and StarzPlay in the UK. It was released on StarzPlay 18 June 2020 [29] and on Channel 4 on 3 January 2021.[30]
StarzPlay also distribute the series in Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Benelux, Latin America and Brazil. More.tv broadcasts the show in Russia, Sky in New Zealand, and Amazon Prime Video in Canada.[31]

Season 2[edit]

The second season premiered on 19 November 2021 in the US,[5] and on the same day in Canada, for Amazon Prime Video.[32]

In the UK Starzplay premiered the second season on 5 December 2021 [33] and on Channel 4 on 27 July 2022.[34]

Historical accuracy[edit]

Hulu has described The Great as "anti-historical," and each episode's title sequence subtitled the series as an "occasionally true story"[2] until the second season finale, when it changed to "an almost entirely untrue story."[35] According to Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd, "McNamara had jotted down some names, relationships and a few historical bullet points, torn up the paper, and started writing. And so must the viewer abandon himself to what's on the plate without a care to learning anything useful or even true about Russia or any of the real people represented here."[36]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Critical reception for The Great
Season Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
1 88% (84 reviews)[37] 74 (33 reviews)[38]
2 100% (25 reviews)[39] 86 (7 reviews)[40]

Season 1[edit]

The first season received mostly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 88% based on 83 critic reviews, with an average critic rating of 7.51/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Great can't quite live up to its namesake, but delicious performances from Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult and a wicked sense of humor make it a pretty good watch."[37] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 33 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[38]

Season 2[edit]

The second season received critical acclaim. On Metacritic, the second season has a weighted average score of 86 out of 100 based on 7 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[40] On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a "Certified Fresh" 100% approval rating based on 24 reviews, with an average critic rating of 8.40/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Great continues its revisionist reign stronger than before thanks to its addictive wit and marvelous cast − huzzah!"[39]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Season 1[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2020 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series Matt Shakman (for "The Great") Nominated [41]
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Tony McNamara (for "The Great") Nominated
TCA Awards Outstanding New Program The Great Nominated [42]
Individual Achievement in Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
2021 American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Motion Picture, Miniseries or Pilot Made for Television Anette Haellmigk (for "The Great") Nominated [43]
Artios Awards Television Pilot and First Season – Comedy Rose Wicksteed Won [44]
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts International Awards Best Comedy Series The Great Nominated [45]
British Academy Television Craft Awards Best Make-Up & Hair Design Louise Coles, Sarah Nuth, Lorraine Glynn and Erin Ayanian Nominated [46]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated [47]
Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Great Nominated [48]
Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards Breakthrough Series – Long Form Tony McNamara, Marian Macgowan, Mark Winemaker, Elle Fanning, Brittany Kahan Ward, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Josh Kesselman, Ron West and Matt Shakman Nominated [49]
Independent Spirit Awards Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series Elle Fanning Nominated [50]
MTV Movie & TV Awards Best Villain Nicholas Hoult Nominated [51]
Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Series Nominated [52]
Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series Elle Fanning Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Belinda Bromilow, Sebastian de Souza, Sacha Dhawan, Elle Fanning, Phoebe Fox, Bayo Gbadamosi, Adam Godley, Douglas Hodge, Nicholas Hoult, Louis Hynes, Florence Keith-Roach, Gwilym Lee, Danusia Samal and Charity Wakefield Nominated [53]
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy Series Vanessa Alexander, Tony McNamara, Tess Morris, Amelia Roper, Gretel Vella and James Wood Nominated [54]
New Series Nominated
Episodic Comedy Tony McNamara (for "The Great") Won

Season 2[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2022 Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design for a One-Hour Period or Fantasy Single-Camera Series Francesca di Mottola (for "Dickhead", "Seven Days", "Wedding") Nominated [55]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Period Television Sharon Long (for "Seven Days") Won [56]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Comedy Series The Great Nominated [57]
Best Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Best Actress in a Comedy Series Elle Fanning Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Great Nominated [58]
Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards Best Actor in a Streaming Series, Comedy Nicholas Hoult Nominated [59]
Best Actress in a Streaming Series, Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated [60]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Elle Fanning Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Period Costumes Sharon Long, Viveene Campbell, Anna Cavalerie, and Bobbie Edwards (for "Seven Days") Won
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More) Francesca di Mottola, Emma Painter, and Monica Alberte (for "Wedding") Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Julian Barratt, Belinda Bromilow, Sacha Dhawan, Elle Fanning, Phoebe Fox, Bayo Gbadamosi, Adam Godley, Douglas Hodge, Nicholas Hoult, Florence Keith-Roach, Gwilym Lee, and Charity Wakefield Nominated [61]
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Elle Fanning Nominated
Set Decorators Society of America Awards Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a One Hour Period Series Monica Alberte and Francesca Di Mottola Nominated [62]
Writers Guild of America Awards Episodic Comedy Tony McNamara (for "Alone at Last") Won [63]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]