What do you get when you put together history, wit, whimsy, and drama, wrap it all together and slather it in sex? A show that absolutely fucks.
It’s no secret that The Great on Hulu is one of the best dramedies to come out since we’ve been stuck in this never-ending pandemilovato, but viewers are in for a diabolically delicious treat when season 2 drops November 19. The Favourite scribe Tony McNamara has returned to give us ten episodes that are somehow even better than the first set, whisking us back into the world of eighteenth-century Russia where Katherine has claimed her seat as Empress and faces the challenges, joys, and heartbreaks that come with ruling an empire.
Beginning just a few months after the end of last season, Katherine and her military general, Velementov, are stone’s throw away from taking the throne, killing Peter, and succeeding in one of the greatest coups in history (Republicans, please sit down). But it’s the decision to not kill Peter that sends the entire season into the chaotic but hilarious frenzy that ensues and allows us to witness Nicholas Hoult in some of his best work, even when he’s playing a slightly “uglier” decoy version of himself that, honestly, is still extremely attractive. There is no making that man ugly, no matter how big a set of teeth you give him.
This season, Katherine has to deal with the realities of being a ruler, whereas she spent the first season planning and idealizing a world where she was empress. Yes, she got the crown, but heavy is the head that wears it, and that idealizing only makes it heavier. Throughout the season the pregnant monarch struggles to convince the court to love her because she wants them to read, instead of party; the Ottomans are pillaging villages and encroaching on her border, but she wants to fight with love, not war; she kept Peter alive because she could not bear to kill him, but his friends consistently try to plot ways to get him back on the seat of power. It’s a lot for a new empress to handle!
But, man, it is fun watching her try. The only thing more fun is getting to watch Elle Fanning absolutely kill it again this season, playing a nail-sucking, dirt-eating pregnant woman with a brain full of ideas and a heart full of hope on how to fix a broken country. As Katherine copes with the loss of her first love, Leo, Fanning’s portrayal of a grief-struck girl searching for ways to numb the anger and pain tore me to pieces. That grief is just one of the many themes tackled this season, all of them done poignantly. The concept of being someone who idealizes too much, as shown in Katherine. How to deal with loneliness, and the relationships you have with others, as shown by Peter. And the idea of perfection, and the expectations to be perfect are brought to you by your family, namely your mother, as shown by Katherine’s mother, Joanna, played by the formidable Gillian Anderson. Mommy? Sorry.
Watching Phoebe Fox as Mariel as she returns to aristocracy and snipes at bitches who mocked her while she is a serf is cathartic. Seeing Ollo (Sacha Dhawan) explore his sexuality, and the way the show handles sexual curiosity with no shame, is beautiful. And getting to watch Adam Godley slowly unravel from the Katherine-hating man into a God-doubting, sex crazed Archie is one of the juciest plots of the season, with Godley giving a masterful performance alongside his counterparts. Though at times it felt like the story is all over the place in the early part of the season, it comes together so cohesively that I forgive the mess that it almost is. After all, staging a coup and trying to improve all of Russia is bound to be at least a little messy.
With fantastic performances across the board and whimsical twists on historical inventions and people–seeing the molotov cocktail be invented and Voltaire’s return as a sassy, French bitch absolutely killed me-The Great continues to be unapologetically horny and hilarious, while also being heartfelt and dramatic. These are the best kinds of shows, the ones that blend genres to give you something that should be confusing but ultimately turns out surprisingly satisfying in the greatest of ways. This second season is a formidable encore, and when it ends it will have you standing on your feet, throwing down a glass, and cheering for yet another. Huzzah!
Season 2 of The Great will premiere on Hulu November 19.
Photo: Gareth Gatrell/Hulu