Hulu’s The Great is back for its long-awaited second season on Friday, November 19th! This sometimes-true story of Catherine the Great and her husband Peter III, Emperor of Russia, is a dark comedy with equal parts humor and wit.
Last season began with Catherine’s arranged marriage to Emperor Peter. She arrived fresh from Germany to a husband whose sole cares in life were to have a rip-roaring good time and let everyone else worry about the hard stuff. Catherine’s naiveite was her misstep in the beginning. She believed her husband was going to love her… silly girl. He was more concerned with bedding mistresses and shooting the Frenchies who they were at war with. Catherine made no headway with getting to know her husband, so she makes it her mission to become a true Russian and improve the country anyway she can. This leads to one of the funnier scenes in the season: Wherein Catherine brings macarons to feed the troops and boost morale! However, she has to pop them in their mouths …you know… because they no longer have any arms from battle. Did I mention this was a dark comedy?
Nicholas Hoult as Emperor Peter is my absolute favorite part of watching The Great. He’s a wickedly villainous little shit with the morals of a depraved child. That being said, he’s played in such a likeable way, your eyes are immediately drawn to him anytime he’s on screen. Hoult excels at the physical comedy, but is well adept at conveying Peter’s moods from sensitive to ruthless in a matter of seconds. This guy who has absolutely everything, all the power in the world, and Hoult actually makes you feel for him.
Elle Fanning as Catherine often plays sarcasm off Peter’s irreverent quips. She’s got strong opinions, optimism, and is able to comport herself in a way that always seems to elude Peter. Her level head and intelligence win her some followers at court, and as Season One comes to a close, we find she and Peter in almost reversed roles from the opening of the season. Catherine is pregnant, has sacrificed her lover Leo for Russia, and Peter has suddenly fallen madly in love with her. But Catherine doesn’t have time for love, she’s poised to make her move and usurp Peter’s rule by staging a coup.
The Season Two opener is absolutely worth the wait. We time hop four months into the future, and like the children they are, Catherine and Peter are occupying opposite sides of the palace with their respective factions and letting this coup kill everyone but them. Peter is holed up with his buddy Gregor and Gregor’s wife Georgina eating delicious cuisine from his fancy French chef. He’s biding his time, but Catherine is winning. She has them cornered. Peter may be a mad man, but he is absolutely certain that he wants Catherine and his child unharmed, so he steals away to visit her on her side of the palace to have a quick chat about their situation. Meanwhile, Catherine knows she’s got his number and unwittingly invents a Molotov cocktail to finally flush Peter out of his wing. Unfortunately for her, he’s gone and ruined the whole thing by stealing away to her rooms while the plan was enacted.
These two are absolute fire on screen as they embody the old trope of “I love you, but I also hate you, so let me hold this pointy dagger to your throat!” It seems the more Catherine outmaneuvers the man, the deeper he falls into the wicked yawning pit of love. The end of the episode is shockingly good and sets up the rest of the season as a dance between these two spouses while they grab for power and try to ignore the vexing sexual tension that somehow still exists between them.
I can’t wait to see where season two takes these lunatics who aspire to be… great.
Catch The Great on Hulu Friday November 17th