The Great (2020– )

TVSeries


The Great (TV Series 2020– )

A royal woman living in rural Russia during the 18th century is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor.
UK
Australia
IMDb   8.1 /10
Metacritic   74 %
TheMovieDb    8.1 /10
RottenTomatoes
FilmAffinity   7.2 /10
Creators
Creator Tony McNamara
Information
Release Date2020-05-15
Runtime45min
GenreBiography, Comedy, Drama, History
Content RatingTV-MA (TV-MA)
AwardsNominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 8 wins & 24 nominations.
CompanyThruline Entertainment, Echo Lake Entertainment, Macgowan Films
CountryUK, Australia
LanguageEnglish
Catherine 11 episodes, 2020
Peter 11 episodes, 2020
Marial 10 episodes, 2020
Orlo 10 episodes, 2020
Georgina 10 episodes, 2020
Grigor / ... 10 episodes, 2020
Archbishop 10 episodes, 2020
Velementov 10 episodes, 2020
Aunt Elizabeth 10 episodes, 2020
Arkady 10 episodes, 2020
Florence Keith-Roach
Florence Keith-Roach
Tatyana 10 episodes, 2020
Lady Antonia Svenska 9 episodes, 2020
Leo 8 episodes, 2020
Vlad 6 episodes, 2020

The Great (TV series)

The Great is a 2020 American comedy-drama television series described by its commissioner Hulu as 'anti-historical' loosely based on the rise to power of Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia. All 10 episodes of the first season were released on Hulu on May 15, 2020. 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 is set to premiere on November 19, 2021.


Premise

The Great is a satirical, comedic 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 with Emperor Peter III (amalgamated with Peter II) focusing on the plot to kill her depraved and dangerous husband.


Cast and characters

Main

  • Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great
  • Nicholas Hoult as Peter III of Russia
  • Phoebe Fox as Marial
  • Sacha Dhawan as Count Orlo
  • Charity Wakefield as Georgina Dymova
  • Gwilym Lee as Grigor Dymov
  • Adam Godley as Archbishop "Archie"
  • Douglas Hodge as General Velementov
  • Belinda Bromilow as Aunt Elizabeth
  • Bayo Gbadamosi as Arkady
  • Florence Keith-Roach as Tatyana
  • Danusia Samal as Lady Antonia Svenska
  • Sebastian de Souza as Leo Voronsky

Recurring

  • Louis Hynes as Vlad
  • Freddie Fox as King Hugo of Sweden
  • Jamie Demetriou as Doctor Chekov
  • Christophe Tek as Tartar Nick
  • Charlie Price as Ivan
  • Alistair Green as Count Smolny
  • Abraham Popoola as Alexei Rostov
  • James Smith as Count Gorky
  • Stewart Scudamore as Tolsten
  • Phill Webster as a palace guard
  • Adam Darlington as head footman
  • Dustin Demri-Burns as Voltaire
  • Christianne Oliveira as Countess Belanova

Episodes

Series overview

SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
110May 15, 2020
210November 19, 2021

Season 1 (2020)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
11"The Great"Matt ShakmanWritten for Television by : Tony McNamaraMay 15, 2020
In the eighteenth century, a young and naïve Catherine marries the Peter III of Russia. Her ambitions and optimism shatter as she finds out about Peter's unserious, cruel and spiteful nature, and that he only married her for an heir. Catherine finds an unexpected friend in her maid, Marial. When Catherine discovers that women are not educated in Russia, she succeeds in securing funds with the permission of Peter to establish a school. But Peter burns the school as soon as he learns that the school was meant for girls. When Peter shoots the bear gifted to Catherine during a ball, she slaps him in front of everyone. Peter punches her in seclusion and warns her. Catherine, now being nothing more than a prisoner, decides to evade the castle with the help of Marial, but fails as Peter finds out. Disheartened, Catherine is about to slit her wrist when Marial informs her about a rule in Russia; if there is not an heir to an emperor, the throne will ultimately be given to the empress. Delighted, Catherine throws away the knife.
22"A Fake Beard"Colin BuckseyTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020
As Catherine and Marial struggle to devise the murder of Peter, the latter suggests to use Orlo, a member of Peter's inner circle, by seducing him. Matters do not go as planned as Catherine fails to seduce Orlo and straightforwardly spills out her plan to him. When Peter apologises to Catherine for his prior behaviour, she declines. Meanwhile, Orlo endeavours in retaining the civilians' free will as Count Rostov is repulsive of having his beard shaved off in accordance with an edict. Catherine is being despised by the ladies at the court which, along with Catherine's lack of submission, enrages Peter who decides to kill her in a carriage accident. Archie warns her and she pretends to be affectionate and submissive to Peter, making him change his decision. She also learns about Peter's mother who was harsh towards him. As Catherine forces Orlo to cooperate with her for the sake of the country, he refuses but assures his confidence. When depraved Peter coerces Orlo to shave Rostov's beard, Orlo agrees to join forces with Catherine.
33"And You Sir, Are No Peter the Great"Bert & BertieTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020
Catherine and Orlo prepare manifestos for their new era when Peter brings a 'lover' for Catherine, Leo Voronsky, but she is reluctant to the notion. Orlo suspects Leo to be a spy for Peter, which Catherine declines to believe. Catherine asks Leo not to consummate and to pretend that they had a lovely night. The next day, Catherine assures Peter that she and Leo had a great night and he could let him go but Peter beats Leo up for not convincing her to keep him for long. Orlo and Marial suggest Catherine to leverage Ivan, Peter's half-brother, against him. Catherine succeeds in locating Ivan out with the help of Aunt Elizabeth, who is hidden in a secret room in the castle. Meanwhile, Peter is humiliated by his comrades for his lack of strategizing abilities. 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 when an officer mocks him. Encouraged by Catherine to bring forth his real emotions, he instead stabs the officer. Delighted, Peter allows Catherine to have a lover of her own choice, but Catherine, now taking an interest in Leo, lies to the latter that Peter did not let him go but she accepts him as her lover. As a result, she begins a passionate relationship with him.
44"Moscow Mule"Bert & BertieTess MorrisMay 15, 2020
Catherine and Leo pursue their love affair. News breaks about the patriarch, Bishop Ivan Illyich, leader of the Russian Orthodox church 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 is made aware of the horse-relations rumour Lady Svenska started and tries to make amends for political purposes. During the bishop selection, one bishop renounces Peter and dies. Meanwhile, Catherine devises to gain the other ladies' admiration through gifting faberge eggs. Lady Svenska invites Catherine to a tea with the rest of the ladies in which they push, kick, and belittle her. Peter instructs Archie to receive a vision from God to decide on who the new bishop shall be. He consumes psychedelic mushrooms and Catherine stumbles upon him as he is hallucinating. He believes her to be an angel and she tells him that he is the rightful bishop. At the party to celebrate Archie's new title, Catherine and Marial stage a slapping as a lesson to the other ladies, as advised by Marial herself and Aunt Elizabeth.
55"War and Vomit"Ben ChessellJames WoodMay 15, 2020
Catherine and Elizabeth visit the Russian front in the midst of the war with Sweden. Appalled with the horrors she witnessed there, Catherine becomes determined to gain the throne in a nonviolent manner. Catherine attempts to convince Peter to withdraw the military, though she is unsuccessful. Peter instead heads off to eat dinner, and is soon joined by Grigor. Grigor poisons Peter's borscht with arsenic, unable to bear Peter’s affair with Georgina any longer. This causes Peter to become gravely ill, and leaves Catherine next in line for the throne. However, Catherine's claim to the throne is threatened by the existence of Ivan and her lack of supporters. A search for Ivan ensues, resulting in Elizabeth murdering Ivan to secure Catherine's claim. Catherine's newfound belief causes tension between her, Marial, and Orlo, who both try to convince her that as Empress, she must engage in bloodshed. As Catherine and Marial squabble over whether or not to kill Peter, he awakens, miraculously cured.
66"Parachute"Ben ChessellTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020
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. Vlad teaches Peter about parachutes. Archie discourages Peter's pursuit of the arts and sciences and threatens Catherine, who retaliates. Orlo becomes lost in the woods and encounters soldiers. Archie puts a crow in Peter's room to scare him, angering Peter. Catherine asks Peter to reinstate Marial as a lady of the court and Peter refuses, revealing the reason of her demotion: her father committed necrophilia with Peter's mother's corpse. Catherine changes her plans for better Russia. Peter uses the parachute on a 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
An optimistic Catherine is disappointed when a smallpox outbreak causes Peter to revert to his old ways. Spending more time with Peter causes Catherine's relationship with Leo to suffer. Georgina feels that she is losing Peter's favor.
88"Meatballs at the Dacha"Colin BuckseyTeleplay by : Tony McNamara
Story by : Amelia Roper and Tony McNamara
May 15, 2020
Catherine and Peter travel to meet the King and Queen of Sweden for peace talks. Leo prepares to return home, but is stopped by Marial who reveals Catherine's coup plans to him.
99"Love Hurts"Geeta PatelTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020
1010"The Beaver's Nose"Geeta PatelTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020

Season 2

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed byWritten byOriginal release date 
111"Heads It's Me"TBATBANovember 19, 2021
122"Dickhead"TBATBANovember 19, 2021
133"Alone at Last"TBATBANovember 19, 2021

Production

Development

The series is based upon Tony McNamara's play revolving around Catherine the Great, which premiered at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2008. 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." The series was initially pitched as having six seasons, having planned to introduce key historical figures in Catherine's life as the series continued.

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. On November 20, 2018, it was reported that Matt Shakman was directing the pilot. 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.

Casting

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. In January 2020, Sebastian De Souza, Adam Godley, and Douglas Hodge were added to the cast. On May 14, 2021, Gillian Anderson was cast in a guest starring role as Johanna, Catherine's mother.

Filming

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 Italy. 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. Filming for season two began on November 4, 2020 and ended on July 17, 2021.


Release

The series premiered in the United States on May 15, 2020. The second season is scheduled to premiere on November 19, 2021. In Australia, all episodes were released on Stan on May 16. The series airs on Channel 4 and StarzPlay in the UK. 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.


Historical accuracy

Hulu has described The Great as 'anti-historical' and the series' title sequences declare it to be an 'occasionally true story'. 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."


Reception

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season 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." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 33 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominee(s)ResultRef.
2020Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Directing for a Comedy SeriesMatt Shakman (for "The Great")Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy SeriesTony McNamara (for "The Great")Nominated
TCA AwardsOutstanding New ProgramThe GreatNominated
Individual Achievement in ComedyElle FanningNominated
2021American Society of Cinematographers AwardsOutstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Motion Picture, Miniseries or Pilot Made for TelevisionAnette Haellmigk (for "The Great")Nominated
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts International AwardsBest Comedy SeriesThe GreatNominated
British Academy Television Craft AwardsBest Make-Up & Hair DesignLouise Coles, Sarah Nuth, Lorraine Glynn and Erin AyanianNominated
Casting Society of AmericaTelevision Pilot and First Season – ComedyRose WicksteedWon
Critics' Choice Television AwardsBest Actor in a Comedy SeriesNicholas HoultNominated
Golden Globe AwardsBest Television Series – Musical or ComedyThe GreatNominated
Best Actor – Television Series Musical or ComedyNicholas HoultNominated
Best Actress – Television Series Musical or ComedyElle FanningNominated
Gotham Independent Film AwardsBreakthrough Series – Long FormTony McNamara, Marian Macgowan, Mark Winemaker, Elle Fanning, Brittany Kahan Ward, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Josh Kesselman, Ron West and Matt ShakmanNominated
Independent Spirit AwardsBest Female Performance in a New Scripted SeriesElle FanningNominated
MTV Movie & TV AwardsBest VillainNicholas HoultNominated
Satellite AwardsBest Actor in a Musical or Comedy SeriesNominated
Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy SeriesElle FanningWon
Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy SeriesBelinda 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 WakefieldNominated
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy SeriesNicholas HoultNominated
Writers Guild of America AwardsComedy SeriesVanessa Alexander, Tony McNamara, Tess Morris, Amelia Roper, Gretel Vella and James WoodNominated
New SeriesNominated
Episodic ComedyTony McNamara (for "The Great")Won