The Great (Hulu) Season 3 Review – Funny, morbid, and delightful as ever

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Episode Guide

The Bullet or the Bear -| Review Score – 4/5
Choose Your Weapon -|Review Score – 5/5
You the People -|Review Score – 4.5/5
Stag -|Review Score – 4/5
Sweden -|Review Score – 4/5
Ice -|Review Score – 4/5
Fun -|Review Score – 5/5
Peter and the Wolf -|Review Score – 4/5
Destiny -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Once Upon a Time -|Review Score – 5/5

 

In Season 1 of The Great, Tony McNamara’s gleefully morbid tale of 18th-century Russia, Catherine (Elle Fanning) arrives in Russia with naive ideals of how a country is to be run. In season 3 of the anti-historical dark comedy, the empress is pressed to grow beyond her innocent nature and face challenges like none before.

The premier challenge: that pesky love she can’t help but feel for the husband she fails to kill, Peter the Third (Nicholas Hoult). With Peter still alive, Catherine finds her authority suddenly and dangerously compromised, yet the couple insists that they can make it work between themselves. Love conquers all, yes?

But it becomes more and more difficult to puzzle out whether Peter and Catherine can ever move forward when all of their desires and motives clash–and one of them has the power to enforce theirs over the others’. This struggle with Peter makes up the heart of The Great’s third season. That is, Catherine’s stumbling journey to regain control: over her marriage, over Russia, over her court, over her enemies…and over her allies.

I’m well used to the way The Great keeps us on our toes with its various unexpected alliances, and that’s to say I’m a huge fan. The dark comedy continually finds new ways to uproot established relationships and supplant them with new ones–somehow managing to make such extreme changes feel like the most natural thing in the world.

Series favorites return, including Marial (Phoebe Fox); Archie (Adam Godley); Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow); Orlo (Sacha Dhawan); Georgina (Charity Wakefield); Grigor (Gwilym Lee); and Velementov (Douglas Hodge).

However, these characters may not be who we always thought they were. Sides and motives are called constantly into question. And as always, everyone in court seems to be working in their own interests–leading to some fascinating flips in the script. 

Twists and turns in alliances are all part of a thrillingly dark struggle Catherine must undertake–to learn how to trust in herself above all others so she can be the strong and confident empress her people need her to be. It’s a difficult task, especially when you’re so young; you have a country positioned against you at every turn; and you’re in love with a truly complicated man.

Catherine is pushed around a lot this season for these reasons, but Fanning pushes herself further to give the performance of a lifetime. She’s chilling–until she’s warm and charismatic. She’s able to make herself small–then proceed to fill a role that’s larger than life.

Funny, morbid and delightful as ever, The Great Season 3 takes as much delight in its cruelties as its triumphs. But it holds at its centre an emotional poignancy. Catherine’s challenges are more engaging and with higher stakes than we’ve seen before, as she desperately hangs on to her tentative place in Russia. Her arc this season is one of making the hard choices in life under intense pressure–and showing us what it means to be truly great.


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  • Verdict - 9/10
    9/10
9/10

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