Heads It’s Me – | Review Score – 4/5
Dickhead – | Review Score – 4/5
Alone at Last – | Review Score – 4.5/5
The Devil’s Lunch – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Animal Instincts – | Review Score – 4.5/5
A Simple Jape – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Stapler – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Five Days – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Walnut Season – | Review Score – 4/5
Wedding – | Review Score – 5/5
Hulu’s original series The Great is unlike any other period drama I’ve seen. As expected, it delivers on eye-catching costumes, and it showcases quirks and factoids of its particular time.
But this Russian-setting series uniquely dramatizes events inspired by (though not closely following) true history: It takes sordid tales surrounding Catherine the Great’s reign and spins them into comedic delights.
In one of the very first scenes, for example, children kick around a disembodied head (a result from the coup of season 1). The Great uses the scene more so to commentate on Catherine’s amusing ineptness at inspiring her youngest subjects than to showcase the morbid realities of war.
By no means can you lift most of the circumstances in this show and place them into our present-day society to get the same lessons. That would be almost inappropriate, but part of the charm of The Great is that it doesn’t care for propriety. It uses absolutely insane situations to make simple statements. It utilizes the extremely morbid not only for humour’s sake, but also to comment on what it means to be human and part of something greater than oneself.
This season keeps the overarching plot fairly simple, but ties in several storylines. Following season 1, Catherine’s focus is on taking and maintaining power. This turns out to be more difficult than anyone expected. Allies have differing opinions; war threatens the country; people challenge her rule and consistently oppose her ideas.
Mishaps after mishaps form an intricate arc in which Catherine must decide: Is Russia even worth the trouble?
But more so than these challenges, season 2 focuses on the character development that results from them.
Witnessing Catherine and Peter adapt to new situations and grow in their relationship to each other is captivating, though at times painful. And supporting characters have their own compelling subplots—particularly Grigor, Marial, and Elizabeth—although Archie’s main arc felt somewhat forced, and Orlo’s simply fizzled out.
The whole cast excels in their respective roles, but Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult particularly shine as the leads. While not historically accurate, I hope they don’t kill off Peter any time soon. The show just wouldn’t be the same without the boyish charm Hoult lends to his character.
If you enjoyed season 1 of The Great, season 2 is well worth the watch. While it doesn’t quite deliver on the high stakes present in the previous season, it twists alliances and evolves the character dynamics to a completely new level.
Season 2 of The Great isn’t just about power dynamics and throne-taking; it’s an enthralling exploration of the complicated relationship between love and hatred.
By the end, it may not seem like the show has gained much ground since the coup of season 1 but it has gained a fresh perspective and a completely new playing field—and that will make all the difference going into season 3.
Verdict - 8/10