Has there been a Little Women shaped hole in your heart for a while? Are you ready to watch some excellent period drama-comedy? Hulu’s new TV show The Great is here for you. Set in the mid-18th century, the Hulu original is ostensibly a Catherine the Great TV show, but uhhh, with quite a few artistic liberties thrown in.
The ten-episode series stars Elle Fanning (who was most recently in the Netflix film All The Bright Places) and Nicholas Hoult (of Skins and X-Men fame) as Catherine the Great and Peter III. While the IRL ruling couple had a pretty fraught relationship, it looks like The Great is kicking it off into absurdity. While Catherine the Great would eventually become Russia’s longest-reigning female leader, she’s had an idiot husband and a deeply patriarchal society to get through first.
When explaining to one of her confidantes in The Great‘s trailer that she feels like god put her on the earth for greatness, her friend replies, “Then why did he make you a woman?” Big old 18th-century mood. The official description series explains that to ascend to her power, “all she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military, and get the court onside.” From the trailer, it looks like the kind of show that a critic would call a ‘romp’, you feel? Think Marie-Antionette meets Gossip Girl.
If some of the comedy feels familiar to you, you’ll probably have recognised the style as Tony McNamara. He was the writer behind the 2018 Oscar-nominated film The Favourite and he created, wrote, and executive produced The Great. Hoult was also in The Favourite, so it’s something of a reunion.
The cast of The Great
Elle Fanning as Catherine The Great
A big departure from her work in the psychological horror film The Neon Demon, Fanning looks incredibly funny as Catherine the Great. This is definitely not a period drama for purists, btw. We get to watch the 22-year-old Fanning play Catherine from her optimistic innocence all the way to plotting-to-usurp (and possibly kill?!) her husband.
Nicholas Hoult as Peter III
Hoult is the idiotic counterbalance to Fanning’s modern and well-read Catherine. He’s a terrible leader and a dismissive husband, but behind the stupidity, he manages to play a character that we should all p much despise with a bit of humanity. The 30-year-old British actor has done a couple of period/historicals recently. His appearance in The Great follows one as the author J. R. R. Tolkien in the film Tolkien and it’s nice to see him in leading roles, though he’ll always be Tony in our hearts.
Sebastian De Souza as Leo
Sebastian De Souza is having a pretty great run of TV shows rn, you might recognise him from his role as Gareth, one of Marianne’s ill-fated college boyfriends in the Hulu’s hit show Normal People. He plays the queen’s official lover, because yes that’s a thing. Marriage was a weird time for royals back in the day.
Sacha Dhawan as Orlo
Sascha Dhawan’s most recently been on the small screen for his role in Doctor Who, the decade-spanning British sci-fi. His character Count Orlo is a timid consult in Peter’s inner circle, but he’s like.. lawful good compared to Peter’s chaotic evil.
What’s nice to note here is that, like a bunch of period dramas of late, casting has been colourblind, or colour-conscious. Especially since The Great takes a tonne of liberties with the plot, soundtrack and costumes, casting POC actors who nail the characters–even if they’re technically Russian–makes sense.
Phoebe Fox as Marial
Phoebe Fox plays Marial, Catherine’s closest confidante in the court and the classic maid-turned-best-friend trope. Like Fanning, Fox’s excellent comedic timing is on display in The Great.
What you need to know though, is that one of her most recent TV credits is the British show Curfew. The premise is uncanny you guys: a virus is overwhelming the earth and the government has put people into a compulsory lockdown. Anyone caught out is put into quarantine, or worse.
We really are living in a TV show. Just wish it wasn’t such an apocalyptic one.
If you’re putting this in your calendar but wanna watch something right now, a bunch of teen shows we’re binging at the moment include Never Have I Ever, Outer Banks, and Motherland: Fort Salem. That should be enough to avoid reading the news for at least one (1) weekend.
You can watch The Great in Australia on Stan on May 16.
Lead image via Hulu.