Elle Fanning & Nicholas Hoult Shine In This ‘Occasionally Accurate’ Historical Drama
Binged Bridgerton in one day and have taken to reading Julia Quinn’s original novels for a preview of the next series? Maybe you’ve found yourself using documentaries on the Royal Family to fill the void left by The Crown? In any case, it’s high time you found a new period drama to lose yourself in!
Luckily, Hulu and Channel 4 have come to the rescue, bringing viewers a fantastic twist on the period genre with The Great – an ‘occasionally true’ story, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult.
Set in 18th century Russia, The Great sees Empress Catherine II arrive in the country to marry Emperor Peter III, with naive expectations that the two of them will share a long, successful marriage and rule Russia together in a life of happiness and harmony. However, she very quickly realises that her new husband isn’t exactly the harmonious type.
With her eyes opened to Emperor Peter’s lifestyle of drunkenness, debauchery and killing for fun, Catherine sets about planning a coup with the help of her sardonic maid, Marial and Orlov, a perpetually nervous political advisor in her husband’s court, in the hope of bringing about the end of her husband’s reign and building ‘a greater Russia’.
While the story itself, largely following this political tug-of-war throughout, sounds a little too heavy for casual viewing, The Great toes the line between drama and comedy brilliantly. Each episode does, of course, have its serious moments – viewers are sure to find themselves empathising frequently with the programme’s less tyrannical characters – but each instalment is equally peppered with fantastically witty and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny moments.
Both Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult put in fantastic performances as the unhappy couple. Fanning oozes charm and charisma as feisty Empress Catherine, playing both her carefree facade and her quietly scheming and determined side in spectacular fashion. Nicholas Hoult, meanwhile, plays the ruthless and narcissistic Emperor Peter with so much childlike ignorance and joviality that viewers will repeatedly find themselves almost disappointed upon remembering that the plot revolves around his murder.
While The Great certainly looks every inch the classic period drama, it’s refreshingly off-colour, with a somewhat trigger-happy attitude to sex and violence – presumably reflective of the way that the real Emperor Peter III ran his court at the time. Viewers looking for a cosy, rose-tinted romance or a graceful coming-of-age tale will find themselves very quickly disappointed, but anyone else is in for a treat.
The quality of the series has recently been deservedly recognised with three Golden Globes nominations – Best Actor (Nicholas Hoult), Best Actress (Elle Fanning) and Best Television Series in the musical or comedy genre, making it one of the top five most-nominated overall!
The Great is a consistently exhilarating, often shocking and gleefully tongue-in-cheek take on the genre, brilliantly written by Tony McNamara, expertly performed by the cast and lovingly put-together by everyone else involved. It’s available to stream in full via Hulu and, for those in the UK, is currently airing at 9pm each Sunday on Channel 4 – it’s already been confirmed for a second season, too.
In the words of Emperor Peter, ‘Huzzah’!!