A few weeks ago, I began seeing ads for Hulu’s newest show, The Great, and became instantly interested. The show stars Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult as the dysfunctional royal couple Catherine (pre-the Great) and Russian Emperor Peter III, and they are surrounded by incredible supporting actors and actresses that play their various serfs, advisors, and court “friends”. This show is devilishly funny with humor ranging from complete vulgarity to Austen-esque highbrow wit. While it is not a perfect show, it is a hit for Hulu.
The performances of all the actors and actresses in the show are phenomenal. The leads, Fanning and Hoult, carry the show on their backs while completely delivering their best in every scene they are in. The supporting cast is also great, particularly Phoebe Fox (lady of the court-turned-serf Murial), Adam Godly (Archbishop of Eastern Orthodox Church), and Belinda Bromilow (kooky Aunt Elizabeth). There were very few performances that annoyed me and the ones that did, Sacha Dhawan as advisor Orlov, I mostly credit the poor writing for the character.
Despite a few gaffs with certain characters, the writing on the show is impeccable, particularly in the first half of the season. That said, towards the second half of the season, the writing became a little bit more aggravating to listen to and the direction some of the characters went either didn’t make a lot of sense in context to their previous arcs or simply just became unlikable.
The comedy in this show is definitely not for everyone. There is A LOT of humor revolving around sex and is the basis of a lot of character arcs and plot points. This show does manage to bring a Jane Austen wit to these scenes, however, and makes for an odd, yet hilarious mix of highbrow vulgarity. Along with this odd comedy style, is very fast paced and quick-witted dialogue that anchors this show in the historical period piece style the show was aiming for.
The Great is a hilarious retelling of the rise of Catherine the Great but does begin to stumble towards the end of its premiere season. Hopefully, Hulu will pick it up for a second season and regain their footing in the future endeavors of Catherine.