Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
The Great – Hulu Originals
Season 1 (2020) & Season 2 (2021)
The Great shares the complex story of Catherine The Great (Elle Fanning) and her rise to power in 18th Century Russia by actually overthrowing her own husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult), the son of Peter the Great, to bring Russia into the renaissance with science, art and equality for women.
In Season 1, Catherine (who was German) goes to Russia to marry Peter due to an arranged marriage by her mother and Peter’s father (Peter The Great), which made her Empress and heir to the throne if anything happened to young Emperor Peter. Catherine quickly realized that Peter was a self-centered brat and decided that she must save Russia from Peter.
Catherine began to look for those that she could recruit, first was her handmade Marial (Phoebe Fox). Next was a member of the court and palace intellectual Count Orlo (Sacha Dhawan) and an unhappy military general, Velementov (Douglas Hodge) as well as support from her sterile lover Leo (Sebastian Souza) who was gifted to her by Peter when he noticed that Catherine seemed unhappy and was not interested in intimacy with him.
While Catherine was plotting the coup, Peter’s best friend Grigor (Gwilym Lee) was beginning to find it unbearable that Peter was continually having sex with his wife Georgina, and in a moment of despair, added arsenic to his food in an attempt to poison Peter. Unfortunately for Grigor, Peter lived and blamed the meal staff for his poisoning, killing all of them.
Peter had a new outlook on life after his poisoning causing Catherine to feel optimistic about peaceful coexistence with Peter and their increasing chemistry, ultimately leading to Catherine becoming pregnant. This fact, along with Peter taking Leo hostage, caused Catherine to be even more committed to the coup and planned it to take place on her birthday, but Marial betrayed Catherine to Peter thinking it was the only way to save both of them.
In Season 2, Catherine continued her coup and after 4 months began making ground to win her war with Peter. Peter was caught in his deep love for Catherine and respect for her impressive, relentless battle against him in her effort to rule Russia. Peter eventually gave in and agreed to live under house arrest at the palace while waiting for their son Paul to be born. A short time later Catherine got a surprise visit from her mother, who was disappointed in her efforts and intended to do her best to undermine Catherine’s goals in transforming Russia.
Catherine continued running the country throughout her pregnancy and started to develop a strong bond with Peter’s Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow), who had been devoted to Peter her entire life but decided to eventually join Catherine in her efforts to rule Russia for the sake of its people. Once Paul was born, Aunt Elizabeth took on a primary role in his care while Catherine and Peter attempted to avoid their growing feelings for each other.
Taglined as “*an occasionally true story”, The Great offers a spirited look into history with razor sharp wit and likable hedonism and debauchery from an extremely talented cast. I think a TV-MA rating seems light for this series as it contains extremely mature adult content ranging from frequent crude sexual innuendo to simulated sex acts and nudity, lots of cursing, physical assaults, and grotesque images (all of which are often sources of dark humor)