Review: Hulu’s ‘The Great’ begs you to love and hate it, but mostly love – The Diamondback

Posted: May 30, 2020 at 6:44 am


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The Great is now streaming on Hulu. (Photo via YouTube)

Hulus new satirical drama series The Great constantly skates fine lines, balancing extreme ridiculousness and irreparable violence and begging you to both love and hate it. Created by Tony McNamara, the series displays the occasionally true story of Catherine the Greats rise to power in 18th-century Russia.

I decided I liked The Great right after watching the first episode, which cant be said of all well-loved TV series. How many times has someone said to you, Just get past the first few episodes? But The Great won me over immediately, despite the fact that my attention span has been reduced to the length of a TikTok these days.

The plot is loosely built around Catherine the Greats coup against her husband, then-Emperor Peter III, who, historically, was a pretty bad leader. Months after Peter III took the throne, Catherine who was more progressive than Peter deposed him, ultimately becoming the longest-ruling female leader Russia has ever seen.

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In her first TV lead, Elle Fanning charms as 19-year-old Catherine, and shes easy to root for. Her subtle yet intelligent lines make the show feel relevant and modern. Equally as charming, Nicholas Hoults portrayal of Peter makes you hope the coup doesnt happen too quickly in the show.

Peters character could have easily been based purely in satire and at first, it largely is but Hoult gives the role a certain complexity and helps to prevent the 10 episodes from feeling repetitive.

There are moments you forget about The Greats satirical nature. Youre waiting for the show to take it too far, and in some scenes its only moments away from irredeemably tipping the scale of comedy and absurdity to violence and disgust such as when Peter finds out Catherine plans to teach women to read and decides to punish her for it. But, it never spills over the edges too far in favor of one or the other.

As the show skates between modernity and historical accuracy, its hard to ignore the questions of diversity. Though The Great seems to largely ignore the structures of race and sexuality of the time in terms of casting, there are few people of color in the shows producing and directing roles, which is disappointing considering Hulu was given a Best Workplaces award for diversity in 2019.

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Beyond the plot, The Great also shines in its set and costume design. 18th-century Russia holds a distinct elegance in my mind, thanks to watching Anastasia as a kid. The Great doesnt shy away from using vivid pinks, blues and yellows to create a comparably elegant backdrop for an occasionally bloody plot.

The shows humor is, at times, too obvious, and other times, subtly brilliant. For every moment you roll your eyes, theres another to make you want to rewatch a scene just to hear the joke. In the first episode, Catherines servant is questioning why she thinks shes destined for greatness, asking Why did He make you a woman, then? Fanning replies, For comedy, I guess.

Theres a certain self-awareness to the show it doesnt take itself too seriously. But beyond the pink wigs, exaggerated actions, murder plots, love triangles and backstabbing tea sessions, there is something to be learned and inspired from Catherines confidence and leadership. At times, the writing takes you outside yourself, and both Fanning and Hoult deliver the words in a way that pulls you in.

And Ill admit, there is something satisfying about watching Catherine plot to oust someone who represents all the bad traits a leader could possibly have especially because you know shell be successful.

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Review: Hulu's 'The Great' begs you to love and hate it, but mostly love - The Diamondback

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May 30th, 2020 at 6:44 am

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