The Great: Season 1 Reviews

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May 21, 2020
McNamara -- along with Fanning and Hoult, whose fine-tuned performances turn Peter and Catherine's contentious relationship into a complex frenemy-ship -- focuses on how power, and the comfort that comes with it, can corrupt them both.
May 18, 2020
Hulu's new show wants to portray an ultracompetent female ruler. But it fails to capture the real genius of Catherine the Great.
May 16, 2020
Elle Fanning burns brightly in headlining The Great. Her performance is everything a viewer wants from an empress in ascent: confident, sharp, funny and luminous.
May 16, 2020
Much of this played for black comedy, but it just ain't funny...
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
May 15, 2020
"The Great" is an engaging historical satire that resonates thanks to its vision of courtly debauchery and the tremendous acting by Fanning, Hoult and the rest of the cast.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
May 15, 2020
At 10 parts, The Great is probably too long and it indulges in grotesque scenes that certainly have a point - the chasm between life at a royal court and ordinary life - but can seem like overload.
Top Critic
May 15, 2020
The most pleasant surprise here is Fanning, a skilled dramatic actor who hasn't had many chances to show her comedy chops over the course of her career.
May 15, 2020
Above all there is Fanning, a porcelain figurine come to complicated life, who grounds the series even as she seems to float through it.
May 15, 2020
Sure, it's a hoot. But it's also compelling. McNamara's writing is rich and delicious. You kind of expect it to be funny, but it's actually hilariously funny.
May 15, 2020
But there's another kind of historical comedy here. Catherine is the new, struggling to be born; Peter is the old, fighting against change. The problem of emergent modernity has never been so funny.
May 14, 2020
Yet in a sense, the same way "Hamilton" put a fresh spin on early American politics, "The Great" helps our understanding of dusty old figures by placing them in an engaging, present day context.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
May 14, 2020
There's a singular darkness to The Great that will startle viewers... There are moments of terror and horror, too, and an enthusiastically cavalier approach to historical detail that adds to a sense of heightened reality.
May 14, 2020
"The Great" grows tediously and even torturously long - which may be its cruelest joke of all, as its appreciable style and sass surrender to repetitious rounds of palace intrigue.
May 14, 2020
Reality is rarely as funny as this sparkling period satire, set in mid-18th century Russia amid a sneaky coup d'état that plays out like a Scooby gang caper (with wigs).
May 13, 2020
At its best, The Great plays like the slickest of TikTok historical summaries, distilling the story of a young woman radicalized by cruelty into a snappy, vibrant female protagonist for the modern reader.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
May 13, 2020
It's probably best to think of the series as a collection of very dark comic sketches. Some miss to the point of being deeply uncomfortable to sit through... And the ones that hit are explosively funny.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
May 13, 2020
Aside from the issues of its length, though, The Great pulls off the trick of its own internal contradictions. It is fun, somehow, which is extra impressive amid so much torture and death and critique of aristocratic privilege.
May 13, 2020
Playing Catherine, Ms. Fanning is delightful, preposterously modern and ironical. And so are several other folk who populate the show's Winter Palace-cum-"Animal House," notably Mr. Hoult and the wonderfully dry Phoebe Fox.
May 13, 2020
As with McNamara's justly celebrated screenplay for The Favourite, it's the emotional honesty of The Great that allows the comedy to land so viciously.
May 12, 2020
It isn't quite the perfectly paced masterpiece that movie was; some episodes drag, including a smallpox romp that's more tiresome than timely. Still, its witty dialogue and lively performances yield a sharp, fun dramedy.
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