Great Expectations (2023) Season 1 Review – Knight gives the classic coming-of-age storyline a contemporary feel

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 4/5


The coming-of-age show on Hulu, created by Steven Knight, is loosely based on Charles Dickens’ highly renowned novel Great Expectations. The story centers on Pip, an orphan with lofty aspirations who spends the majority of his youth working as a blacksmith’s help. Once Miss Havisham takes him to a new world brimming with opportunities, every aspect of his life is flipped upside down.

Pip attempts to blend in with London’s upper class. In an effort to wed Estella, the woman he adores, we see him clash with Miss Havisham. Pip is pushed to make a number of crucial decisions because of the challenges that Jaggers, Compeyson, and Drummle put in his path. Pip is forced to navigate this new world while carrying a heavy load of expectation on his shoulders.

Steven Knight’s writing immediately immerses you in the world he creates and captures your interest from the first episode. Although I applaud them for keeping the series to a total of six episodes and for not letting it drag on, extra episodes could have made this less erratic. The ending feels somewhat rushed, given there are simply too many events happening at once.

The novel-to-screen adaptation features a unique style and tone that’s synonymous with Knight’s filmography. According to Knight, Dickens wouldn’t have been able to write explicitly regarding topics like sexuality, crime, and disobedience against the monarchy and the government at the time because it is more unfiltered and raw. Knight goes on to say that, in most of his books, Dickens makes references but is unable to enter those gloomy areas, so Knight made an effort to do that. By removing the narrative from its original setting, Knight gives it a more contemporary and approachable feel, and although the story takes place in the past, the themes still apply to the present.

Having said that, the storyline has been altered in some significant ways. Dickens is renowned for the tragic, grim undertones in his works, and this feature gives his works a realistic and deep feel. However, the season ends on a hopeful note, which significantly dilutes the original piece’s essence.

Every character in the show is intricately broken down, giving them room to grow. The majority of the characters have redeeming qualities, including Miss Havisham who can be sympathized with in light of her tragic past, explaining why she acts the way she does.

The show’s brilliant recreation of Victorian-era London, the prison, Mrs. Havisham’s estate, and other 19th-century settings are really well-done. The adaptation’s cinematography additionally does an excellent job of capturing the chilly and unsettling elements of the plot while giving it an artistic feel.

The actors here certainly excel in their respective roles. In particular, Olivia Coleman stands out with her depiction of Mrs. Havisham, which exudes a creepier, predatory feel than is typical. The performance of Pip by Fionn Whitehead is also an absolute treat. Hayley Squires’ portrayal of Sara, Pip’s sister, and Joe’s spouse, present every nuance of Knight’s interpretation and her character shows us the hardships and disappointments that drained women of that time.

Overall, Great Expectations proves to be a successful adaptation that conceptually and visually adapts the dark and gloomy contents of Dickens’ book to screen and updates it for a modern audience. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, and it does fall short of accurately capturing the complexity, nuance, and depth of Dickens’ novel. However, if you can go in with an open mind, Knight’s version is certainly worth a watch.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

1 thought on “Great Expectations (2023) Season 1 Review – Knight gives the classic coming-of-age storyline a contemporary feel”

  1. Its dreadful the characters are unrecognizable from the novel and worst of all its boring and irritating and I’m a big Dickens fan.

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