The Great
The series' title card
Also known as
  • The Great: An Occasionally True Story (seasons 1–3)
  • The Great: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story (season 2)
Created byTony McNamara
Music byNathan Barr
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes30
Executive producers
  • Tony McNamara
  • Elle Fanning
  • Nicholas Hoult
  • Marian Macgowan
  • Mark Winemaker
  • Brittany Kahan Ward
  • Doug Mankoff
  • Andrew Spaulding
  • Josh Kesselman
  • Ron West
  • Matt Shakman
  • Dean O'Toole
  • Nick O'Hagan (pilot only)
Running time50–61 minutes
Production companies
  • Thruline Entertainment
  • Echo Lake Entertainment
  • Lewellen Pictures
  • Macgowan Films
  • Piggy Ate Roast Beef Productions
  • Civic Center Media
  • MRC Television
Original release
ReleaseMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15) –
May 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)

The Great (titled onscreen as The Great: An Occasionally True Story and in one episode as The Great: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story) is an alternate historical and satirical comedy-drama television series very loosely based on the rise to power of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. The series stars Elle Fanning as Catherine and Nicholas Hoult as Emperor Peter III and Peter's body double Yemelyan Pugachev.

The Great was created, and is mostly written, by Australian playwright and screenwriter Tony McNamara, based on his 2008 play of the same name.[1] The series does not aim for historical accuracy, and was described by Hulu as "anti-historical".[2]

All ten episodes of the first season were released on Hulu on May 15, 2020.[3] In July 2020, it was renewed for a second season which premiered on November 19, 2021.[4][5] In January 2022, the series was renewed for a third season which premiered on May 12, 2023.[6][7] The first season received mostly positive reviews, while the second and third seasons received critical acclaim, with particular praise for its directing, writing, humor, costumes, and cast performances (particularly those of Fanning and Hoult). It has received numerous accolades, including seven Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, with both Fanning and Hoult being nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress and Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, respectively, in 2022. In August 2023, Hulu announced the series's third season had been its last.[8]


The Great is a historical and satirical black comedy-drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia's history. The series is highly fictionalized and portrays Catherine in her youth and marriage to Emperor Peter III of Russia, focusing on the plot to kill her depraved and dangerous husband.

Cast and characters

  = Main cast (credited)
  = Recurring cast (3+)
  = Guest cast (1–2)
Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3
Main cast
Elle Fanning Catherine the Great Main
Nicholas Hoult Peter III of Russia Main
Yemelyan Pugachev Does not appear Recurring
Phoebe Fox Marial Brezhnev Main
Sacha Dhawan Count Orlo Main Main[a]
Charity Wakefield Georgina Dymov Main
Gwilym Lee Grigor Dymov Main
Adam Godley Archbishop "Archie" Samsa Main
Douglas Hodge General Velementov Main
Belinda Bromilow Elizabeth Main
Bayo Gbadamosi Arkady Main
Sebastian de Souza Leo Voronsky Main Does not appear
Florence Keith-Roach Tatyana Recurring Main
Danusia Samal Lady Antonia Svenska Recurring Main Does not appear
Freddie Fox King Hugo of Sweden Guest Recurring Main
Grace Molony Queen Agnes of Sweden Guest Recurring Main
Recurring cast
Louis Hynes Vlad Recurring Does not appear
Jamie Demetriou Doctor Chekov Recurring Does not appear
Christophe Tek Tartar Nick Recurring Does not appear
Charlie Price Ivan Recurring Does not appear
Alistair Green Count Smolny Recurring
Abraham Popoola Alexei Rostov Recurring Does not appear
Stewart Scudamore Tolsten Recurring Does not appear
Christianne Oliveira Countess Belanova Recurring
Blake Harrison Colonel Svenska Recurring Does not appear
Kemi-Bo Jacobs Marina Recurring Does not appear
Dustin Demri-Burns Voltaire Guest Recurring
Tristan Beint Lieutenant Bukharin Guest Does not appear
Soldier Alexi Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Ashwin Bolar Doctor Smirnov Guest Recurring Guest
Keon Martial-Phillip Russian POW Guest Does not appear
Soldier Vasily Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Guard Does not appear Guest
Julian Barratt Dr. Vinodel Does not appear Recurring
Jane Mahady Katya Velcra Does not appear Recurring
Anthony Welsh Father Basil Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Ali Ariaie Raskolvy Does not appear Recurring
Ramon Tikaram Uncle Varnya Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Timothy Walker Soldier Emile Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Eloise Webb Sylvana Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Kiki May Nadia Does not appear Recurring Guest
Gethin Alderman Jean Pierre Does not appear Recurring Guest
Sam Coulson Pugachev / Peter double Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Danielle Galligan Yula Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Minnie Gale Fedora Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Richard Pyros Count Raskolnikov Guest Does not appear Recurring
Henry Meredith Maxim Does not appear Guest Recurring
Emily Coates Petra Does not appear Recurring
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd Grigory Petrov Does not appear Recurring
Special guests[b]
Gillian Anderson Joanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp Does not appear Guest Does not appear
Jason Isaacs Peter the Great Does not appear Guest
  1. ^ Dhawan appears in only one episode of season 3 although credited with the main cast.
  2. ^ The following list of guest stars appear in 1-2 episodes per season although credited with the main cast.


Series overview

SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
110May 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
210November 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
310May 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)

Season 1 (2020)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
11"The Great"Matt ShakmanWritten for Television by : Tony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
In the eighteenth century, young, educated and highly optimistic German noblewoman Catherine marries Emperor Peter of Russia. Her ambitions and optimism shatter as she discovers Peter's frivolous, cruel, and spiteful nature, and realizes that in Russia citizens are mistreated, women are not educated and religion influences most government decisions. Catherine finds an unexpected friend in her maid, Marial, a former noblewoman demoted to serfdom. She also discovers that Peter's longtime mistress, Georgina, is also the wife of his best friend, Grigor, who admits to Catherine that the arrangement is painful but he loves Peter and his wife. Catherine obtains Peter's permission to establish a school, but he burns it down after learning that it is intended for girls. When Peter shoots the bear he gave to Catherine during a party, she slaps him in front of everyone and he responds by punching and threatening her later in private. Catherine, now little more than a prisoner, decides to escape with the help of Marial, but Peter finds out and nearly drowns her as punishment. Disheartened, Catherine is about to slit her wrists when Marial informs her about a law in Russia: if an emperor dies without an heir, the throne will pass to the empress. Catherine begins to plot to overthrow her husband.
22"A Fake Beard"Colin BuckseyTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
As Catherine and Marial seek to arrange Peter's death, Marial suggests seducing Orlo, a member of Peter's inner circle. Catherine fails to seduce Orlo and tells her plan to him. Peter apologizes to Catherine for his prior behavior and suggests providing her with a lover, but Catherine reacts negatively. Orlo tries to help Count Rostov, who has been commanded to shave off his beard in accordance with law. An enraged Peter decides to kill Catherine in a carriage accident. Archie (the archbishop) warns her and she feigns affection and submissiveness, causing Peter to reconsider. She learns about Peter's mother, who is kept mummified in a glass case since he refuses to bury her, and her harshness towards him. Catherine fails to persuade Orlo to cooperate, but he keeps her secret. When Peter forces Orlo to shave Rostov's beard, Orlo switches allegiances and agrees to support Catherine's plans.
33"And You Sir, Are No Peter the Great"Bert & BertieTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Orlo prepare for their new era, whilst Peter offers a lover to Catherine, Leo Voronsky, the sterile son of a legendary charming and promiscuous man. Orlo suspects Leo is spying for Peter. Catherine asks Leo to pretend he has slept with her. The next day, she assures Peter that she and Leo had a great night and asks him to let Leo go. Unconvinced, Peter beats Leo for not convincing her to keep him, leading Catherine to insist she wants Leo to stay. Orlo and Marial suggest using Ivan, Peter's half-brother, against him. Catherine locates Ivan, who is hidden in a secret room in the castle with the help of Aunt Elizabeth. Catherine embarrasses Lady Svenska at ladies' tea in retaliation for beating Marial, causing the ladies to turn on her. When Peter gives a speech about the greatness of his father, he gets emotional and an officer mocks him. Encouraged by Catherine to show his real emotions, he stabs the officer. Peter encourages Catherine to take a lover of her own choice, but Catherine accepts Leo and begins a passionate relationship with him.
44"Moscow Mule"Bert & BertieTess MorrisMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Leo pursue their love affair. News arrives that the patriarch, the Russian Orthodox church leader, has passed and Peter must choose a new one by the following day. Catherine, Marial, and Orlo continue to plan for their new era, aiming to appoint the liberal Bishop Tarcinkus as the new church leader, believing he will support Catherine. Catherine learns that Lady Svenska is spreading false rumours about her having had sex with a horse, and tries to make amends for political reasons, but is rejected. One bishop renounces Peter and commits self-immolation during the selection of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'. Catherine tries to gain the other ladies' admiration by gifting Fabergé eggs, but Georgina advises her not to come begging this way. Lady Svenska invites Catherine to a tea, at which the ladies push, kick, and belittle her. Peter instructs Archie to receive a vision from God to decide on the new bishop. He consumes psychedelic mushrooms in the forest and Catherine stumbles upon him as he hallucinates. He believes her to be an angel and she tells him that he is the rightful bishop. At the celebration for Archie becoming the new patriarch, Catherine gossips with the court ladies about Leo, as they had previously requested, and pretends to harshly discipline Marial for mentioning the horse rumor.
55"War and Vomit"Ben ChessellJames WoodMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Elizabeth visit the Russian front amid the war with Sweden. Appalled by the horrors she witnesses, Catherine becomes determined to gain the throne in a nonviolent manner. She fails to convince Peter to withdraw the military. Grigor, who has long sublimated his jealousy and anger toward Peter for having sex with his wife, impulsively poisons Peter's borscht with arsenic. Peter falls gravely ill, leaving Catherine next in line for the throne, but her claim is threatened by the existence of Ivan and the sudden prospect of becoming Empress causes Catherine to appear incompetent and unprepared for power. Elizabeth murders Ivan to prevent a civil war should Peter die. Catherine's newfound pacifism causes tension between her, Marial, and Orlo, who try to convince her that she must engage in bloodshed as Empress. As Catherine and Marial squabble over whether or not to kill Peter, he awakens, having recovered.
66"Parachute"Ben ChessellTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Peter feels inspired to better himself after his brush with death. Elizabeth encourages Peter to sire an heir, leading him to seek out Catherine. As Peter has become more tender and open to change, they become more intimate, putting a strain on her relationship with Leo. Catherine uses Peter's newfound interest in her to encourage him to bring arts and sciences to Russia. She becomes convinced she can change Russia for the better by influencing Peter. Archie discourages Peter's pursuit of learning and threatens Catherine, who threatens him in return. Orlo becomes lost in the woods and encounters Russian and Swedish soldiers. Archie puts a raven in Peter's room to scare him, angering Peter. Catherine asks Peter to reinstate Marial as a lady of the court. Peter refuses, revealing the reason for her demotion: as part of an ill-advised joke, her father committed necrophilia with Peter's mother's corpse. Instead, Catherine gives her back her dog, Bilini, and Peter promptly uses it for a test of a parachute. Catherine celebrates this demonstration of science with hope for the future.
77"A Pox on Hope"Colin BuckseyTony McNamara and Gretel VellaMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Thanks to Catherine, the Russian court is excitedly absorbing culture. Catherine believes she can change Russia by influencing Peter instead of killing him, and gives him a printing press. Despite Archie's opposition, Peter likes the press's ability to print cartoons and allows it to stay. To thank Catherine, he performs cunnilingus on her and she reaches orgasm, which troubles her as she is in love with Leo. Peter brags to Leo about the encounter, and a jealous Leo gets drunk and distributes cartoons depicting Catherine having sex with a horse. Georgina feels that she is losing Peter's favor. Marial is about to have sex with the servant Vlad when she discovers evidence of smallpox on his back. She and Catherine attempt to help him, but Dr. Chekov is indifferent and plans to burn Vlad and other serfs who have been affected by an outbreak. Catherine pushes for inoculation, but the court and Peter are against her. Peter is furious when she inoculates herself before the entire court to convince them of its efficacy. He bans the practice and locks her away until it is certain that she has not been infected. Catherine emerges from her apartments and witnesses, from a distance, the serfs being burned.
88"Meatballs at the Dacha"Colin BuckseyTeleplay by : Tony McNamara
Story by : Amelia Roper and Tony McNamara
May 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Catherine and Peter travel to meet the King and Queen of Sweden for peace talks. Peter tries to make amends with Catherine by giving her a large diamond, but she remains angry with him over the deaths of the serfs, including Vlad. En route to Sweden, Catherine tries to get Velementov to join the coup, but he is only interested in seducing her. Peter and Catherine share a moment of closeness before the peace talks begin. Peter initially gets on well with the Swedish king, Hugo, finding him a kindred spirit, but becomes enraged when Hugo demands the return of St. Petersburg. Catherine steps in, claiming to have heard the Emperor talking in his sleep, and presents an acceptable compromise. Troubled by the distance between himself and Catherine, Leo prepares to return home, but is stopped by Marial who reveals Catherine's plans to him. Catherine and Peter return to Moscow in triumph. Peter thanks Catherine for helping him, revealing he knows he doesn't talk in his sleep. Catherine and Leo are reunited and he enthusiastically joins the coup.
99"Love Hurts"Geeta PatelTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Orlo, Marial, Velementov, and Leo set out to bring more aristocrats to Catherine's side, with mixed results. Velementov and Leo are forced to kill Count Gorky after he refuses to join the coup. Elizabeth's suspicions are aroused, as Gorky had been Peter the Great's best friend. Peter becomes convinced there is a threat to his life and surrounds Catherine and himself with guards everywhere they go. The entire court, apart from Elizabeth, Georgina, and Grigor, are subjected to torture. Catherine, determined to show the court that she is not in league with Peter, undergoes torture herself. She and the other conspirators succeed in keeping the coup a secret. Grigor confronts Peter and admits he resents Peter's affair with Georgina. Peter agrees to end the relationship and reveals he's fallen in love with Catherine. Rostov, who was forced to shave his beard and lost the love of his wife as a result, returns only to face ridicule from Peter and Grigor. After a tryst with Marial, who is desperate to become a noble again, Rostov breaks into the room where Peter is hiding with Catherine, intending to kill him. Peter, Grigor, and Georgina fight Rostov off and kill him. At a dinner with the Russian court, who are all recovering from a day of torture, Catherine gives a passionate speech that unites them in devotion to her. Afterwards, Peter tells Catherine he loves her. She returns to her apartments and discovers she is pregnant.
1010"The Beaver's Nose"Geeta PatelTony McNamaraMay 15, 2020 (2020-05-15)
Shocked at the revelation that she is pregnant by Peter, Catherine wakes on her 21st birthday determined to enact the coup. Peter prepares a special cake and other gifts for her, then plans to kill Leo, believing this will cause her to transfer her affection to him. Catherine sends Velementov to gather the military leaders to support her and sends Orlo to kill Archie, while promising Marial that Archie will not be harmed. Leo goes hunting with Grigor and Peter and they attempt to kill him, but are unsuccessful. Catherine prepares to kill her husband during a birthday lunch, but is halted when he reveals her gift: the philosopher Voltaire, whom Catherine idolizes. She finds herself unable to kill Peter in front of Voltaire. Peter claims that Leo has abandoned her, but Catherine realizes her lover is either dead or in danger and attacks Peter, who believes her assault to have arisen out of passion for him and locks her in the room. Orlo fails to kill Archie and is injured. Marial, frustrated that Catherine has not killed Peter, becomes convinced the coup will fail and discovers Orlo attacking Archie. Furious that she's been betrayed, she is persuaded by Archie to reveal Catherine's betrayal to Peter. In exchange for becoming a lady again, Marial shows Peter Catherine's plans for overthrowing him and reveals that she's pregnant. Heartbroken, Peter confronts Catherine, who suggests he abdicate. He shows her that Leo is his prisoner and threatens to kill him unless she calls off the coup. Catherine goes to Velementov to stop the uprising, determined to save Leo, but he tells her she has filled Russia with hope for a new future, which is more important. Catherine goes to see Leo and explains what has happened. He expresses regret but understands her choice. Catherine kisses him goodbye, then signals Velementov, who fires his pistol to restart the coup.

Season 2 (2021)

No. in
Title [9]Directed byWritten byOriginal release date [10]
111"Heads, It's Me"Colin BuckseyTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
It has been four months since the coup began. Leo is presumed dead, but Catherine continues to hope he is alive as his body has not been found. A standoff has occurred in the palace with Catherine's forces in one wing and Peter's in another. Catherine attempts to smoke out Peter using Molotov cocktails, but Peter, Grigor, and Georgina flee to his country villa. Starving and without provisions, Peter sends for his chef, Jean-Pierre, and Catherine's troops follow and surround the villa. A stalemate ensues, broken only when Catherine has Jean-Pierre prepare a feast to torment Peter. He surrenders and agrees to transfer power to Catherine, asking only that he be placed under house arrest and have a meal with Catherine and their unborn child every day. After his abdication is signed, he gives Catherine a bag containing Leo's severed head. Later, Peter reveals to Grigor and Georgina that he has a plan to retake the country.
122"Dickhead"Colin BuckseyTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine brings Peter, Grigor, and Georgina back to the palace. She reconciles with Marial, promoting her back to her status as a noblewoman, and strikes a bargain with Archie, who has given instructions to turn religious Russians against her if he is killed. She launches her long-awaited girls' school, met with resistance from Lady Svenska and the court ladies. Prior to her coronation, Catherine she meets the nobles of her empire, many of whom disrespect her and repeat the rumour that she had sex with a horse. One, Tarzinsky, threatens Catherine with violence but is cowed by Archie's presence. The only visitor who positively interacts with Catherine is Father Basil, a country priest and Leo's cousin, who gives her Leo's letters. Catherine is crowned and begins her rule. Her first decree proclaims religious freedom in Russia, provoking Archie's ire, and she begins to groom Father Basil as Archie's replacement. Peter plans to wait for Catherine to fail and make her fall in love with him. Grigor and Arkady plot against Catherine. On Aunt Elizabeth's advice, Peter asks Catherine what she would change about him and agrees to curb his propensity for violence. He subsequently becomes enraged at Tarzinsky for calling him a "dickhead" and stabs him to death in the palace courtyard.
133"Alone at Last"Zetna FuentesTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine awakes from a nightmare about Leo. She punishes Peter for killing Tarzinsky by locking him in his rooms, despite his pleas to go truffle hunting with his new dog, an activity he remembers bonding with his father over in childhood. Desperate to leave Russia, Georgina convinces Catherine to exile her and Grigor to France. Trying to avoid dreaming about Leo, Catherine takes drugs to stay awake and, in a manic state, appoints Father Basil Archbishop of Russia. Pressured by his intimidating uncle Vanya, Orlo takes advantage of Catherine's intoxication to convince her to build a road in his impoverished home state. To further punish Peter, Catherine has the mummified body of his dead mother brought into his room, keeping him locked inside. Recalling her harsh treatment of him as a child, he breaks her glass coffin and accidentally destroys her corpse. After a confrontation with Catherine where he angers her by casually mentioning Leo's death, Peter escapes to the woods to go truffle hunting. He is caught by Velementov, who reminds Peter that he, not Peter's father, took him truffle hunting as a child. Peter begins to come to terms with his parents' neglect and abuse. Catherine takes Peter's dog into the woods, determined to find and destroy the first truffle of the season to spite him, and accidentally comes across the clearing where she said goodbye to Leo. Consoled by Marial and Elizabeth, she allows herself to admit that she could not have saved him. Grigor, feeling that Peter needs him, stops the carriage en route to Paris and returns to the palace without Georgina.
144"The Devil's Lunch"Zetna FuentesTami SagherNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Velementov insists that Russia should go to war with the Ottoman empire, but Catherine is reluctant to start a war over nothing. Sundak, an Ottoman ambassador and an old friend of Peter's, comes to meet Catherine, who has a dim view of the Ottomans' misogynistic culture. She arranges the room to imply she has an all-female council of close advisors, but he is unruffled by the implied insult. Velementov begins an affair with Lady Svenska, who is secretly spying for Peter, and lets slip that war with the Ottomans is a possibility. Catherine and Peter each try to win Sundak to their respective causes, which is complicated by Peter's jealousy of Catherine's interest in the handsome Sundak. Meanwhile, Archie attempts unsuccessfully to ingratiate himself with Catherine on Marial's advice, and Marial begins an affair with a depressed Grigor. Peter attempts to undermine Catherine and Sundak's relationship by throwing a raucous party, but Catherine outwits him by taking over the party and impressing Sundak on a hunting trip the next day. Sundak leaves after a peace agreement has been reached, but Arkady and Tatyana, on orders from Peter, intercept Sundak's carriage and assassinate him. Catherine cuts short a tryst with a guard when she discovers lice in his beard, and relents when Elizabeth suggests taking advantage of Peter's skills in cunnilingus.
155"Animal Instincts"Matthew MooreTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine regrets her sexual encounter with Peter, but he is thrilled that she shows signs of returning his affection, to Elizabeth's delight and Grigor's frustration. Elizabeth counsels him to make himself a mystery to Catherine, and he successfully intrigues her by playing hard to get. The court is thrown into alarm when a crocodile mysteriously begins roaming the palace and attacks Elizabeth, wounding her leg and eating her pet mouse. Catherine dismisses the superstitious nobles who believe it to be a demon or a supernatural omen, but becomes frustrated when Father Basil tells the court that the creature may indeed be a sign from God. Archie announces that as Patriarch, only he can discover the meaning of the "omen", and Catherine realizes that he has planted the creature himself. He threatens to proclaim that the crocodile is a sign that God condemns her reign unless she agrees to revoke religious freedom and remove Father Basil from power. Catherine asks Peter, an excellent hunter, to search the Palace for the animal with her, but he ignores an opportunity to kill it, in order to spend more time with her. Catherine agrees to Archie's demand, and he takes her to "meet God" through the use of psychedelic mushrooms. Although the two see different visions, they recognize their mutual hope for a better Russia. Meanwhile, Marial encounters an elderly serf, "Shakey", who she shared rooms with during her time as a servant. Learning that Shakey has been declared too old to work, Marial takes her on as a maid. Catherine captures the crocodile using opium-laced mice, but when she presents the captured animal to the court, the nobles panic when it starts to wake up and stab it to death. That evening, she agrees to dance with Peter, sharing a romantic moment with him that she abruptly stops, uncomfortable with her growing interest in him.
166"A Simple Jape"Matthew MooreTony McNamara & Gretel VellaNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
In the middle of a tryst, Peter and Catherine argue when he accuses her of using him for sex and she refuses to say that she loves him. After being confronted by pupils at her girls' school who think she is not changing the system quickly enough, Catherine resolves to free all serfs. Orlo cautions patience, but the impatient Catherine decides to play a "jape" on the court to prove her point. She disguises Shakey as a member of the aristocracy at a party, and introduces her as "Lady Anastasia". Lady Svenska is fooled and charmed by the old woman, but horrified when Catherine announces Shakey's true identity. Father Basil takes his leave of Archie, condemning his political gamesmanship in a passionate speech. Archie suddenly kisses Basil, an act that leaves him shaken and confused. Grigor forces Orlo to give him Catherine's plans for liberating serfs, and uses them to turn the nobles against Catherine. This goads Catherine into proclaiming immediate freedom for the serfs, and Peter takes advantage of the situation to urge the nobles to call for Catherine's abdication. He plans to escape his rooms with the help of a body double, Pugachev, and take Catherine hostage. The palace serfs rebel against the nobles, and in the resulting chaos, Marial discovers that Lady Svenska has murdered Shakey. Catherine's advisors call on her to put an end to the violence, but she cannot bring herself to fire on her own people and orders them out of the room. Peter bursts into Catherine's office with a gun, but when he finds her weeping alone at her failure, he comforts her and willingly returns to his captivity. Catherine reluctantly orders Velementov to subdue the rebellion. After the violence is over, Marial shoots Svenska in the head, in revenge for Shakey's murder.
177"Stapler"Ally PankiwTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine hosts a science contest for new inventions. Marial hopes this will snap her out of her negative existential mood. Peter decides that he does not wish to be Emperor and plans to support Catherine, enraging and confusing Grigor. Peter offers to help Catherine with the science contest by attempting to create an invention to enter. Peter and his followers kidnap a scientist en route and steal his invention, a cold box. Catherine feels disillusioned with her supporters and team when they abandoned her side during the serf rebellion. Archie struggles over his recent kiss with Basil and confesses these feelings to Marial. Grigor conspires to force Catherine to abdicate to Peter. Catherine's mother, Princess Joanna, arrives to visit. While excited, Catherine feels belittled by the updates on her siblings' successful marriages and faces disapproval from her mother for her coup and keeping Peter alive. Joanna continues to disapprove and accurately read and dress down the members of court for attempting to take advantage of Catherine's naive optimism. Orlo steals money from the treasury to support his family in their home region. Aunt Elizabeth warns Peter that he must gain Joanna's approval, but he dismisses her concerns. Catherine immediately susses out that Peter has kidnapped the scientist from Norway but goes along with the plan to win the science contest. Joanna is fascinated and horrified by Peter when they meet but then lightly seduces him and informs Catherine she is aware the cold box/fridge is missing. A serf approaches Catherine with a new idea for an invention for the science contest, a rollercoaster, which Joanna disapproves of.
188"Seven Days"Ally PankiwTony McNamaraNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Joanna has an allergic reaction to peanuts brought from the Americas, causing Catherine to feel immense guilt. Joanna gives Catherine a list of individuals she feels should be killed for Catherine to succeed, including Aunt Elizabeth and Marial. Later, Joanna tries to seduce Peter, arguing that it is not cheating as they are family and would simply be making each other happy. Elizabeth again warns Peter not to have sex with Joanna. After a medical exam, Elizabeth pronounces that Catherine's baby will be born in 7 days. The court begins preparations involving rituals for Peter and Catherine. Because of this, Catherine tries to run the country while on forced bed rest. Peter is taken into the woods to dig graves for his wife and child ceremoniously should they die in childbirth. Catherine is inspired by hearing from the noble ladies to change laws regarding women when the Ottoman Empire sends word they are open to diplomatic talks, which turns out to be an assassination attempt. Joanna tries to seduce Peter again, and her long game is revealed: she wants Peter to take power again to reinstate her plan for another daughter to marry the French monarch, while Catherine would simply continue as queen consort and raise the baby as heir to Russia. Catherine is disillusioned with her mother. Joanna finally seduces Peter as he gives in to her advances; during their sexual encounter, Joanna falls out of the window and dies. Elizabeth, Peter and Marial hide the body and make it appear that she left suddenly. Peter and Catherine reconcile and Peter hides Joanna's death from Catherine as she goes into labor.
199"Walnut Season"Colin BuckseyTony McNamara & Gretel VellaNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)
Catherine gives birth to her son Paul. 6 weeks later, Peter is avoiding Catherine and Russia has gone to war with the Ottoman Empire. King Hugo of Sweden and his wife arrive after being run out of Sweden as democracy takes hold. Grigor's wife returns to court and tries to ingratiate herself with Catherine and win Grigor back. Marial's father dies, leaving her future in jeopardy as her nephew Maxim arrives to claim the family inheritance. King Hugo attempts to convince Catherine to lend him the Russian army to retake Sweden, but she is preoccupied; King Hugo then develops a plan to overthrow Catherine so that Peter gives him the army. Peter accidentally informs Elizabeth that his mother drowned her son; Elizabeth kidnaps Paul and goes to her country estate. Catherine and Peter travel there to retrieve Paul and Peter continues to avoid telling her the truth about her mother. Archie struggles with his sexual feelings while Marial tries to find a husband. Elizabeth appears to have a psychotic break over her grief for her son, calling Paul by her son's name "Igor". Catherine and Peter convince Elizabeth to return to court with them; Catherine confesses her feelings for Peter and they reconcile. Marial decides to marry her nephew to keep her estate and continues her affair with Grigor. Archie reveals that Orlo stole money from the treasury; Orlo leaves the court in disgrace. Grigor accidentally confesses to Marial about Peter's part in Joanna's death.
2010"Wedding"Colin BuckseyTony McNamara & Fiona SeresNovember 19, 2021 (2021-11-19)

Marial plans her wedding as the Ottomans agree to meet Catherine. Despite Grigor's pleading, Marial tells Catherine that Peter had sex with and then accidentally killed her mother. Devastated, Catherine goes to the front to meet with the Ottomans. She expresses her anger at Elizabeth for keeping Peter's secrets and Velamentov for pushing for war (Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774)). Grigor realizes that Catherine now knows what happened to Joanna and warns Peter, who plans to flee with Paul, but finds he cannot take his son from his mother. Catherine and Peter each ruminate on their present predicament - to kill the other and have the throne for themselves or forgive each other.

Catherine meets with the Sultan Mustafa III and attempts to reason with him, but he responds by stabbing her in the hand. She in turn kills him, then flees with Elizabeth. Peter's supporters try to stage another coup, meanwhile Catherine's supporters argue about the best path forward. Archie ultimately decides to support Catherine as he believes she will help Russia prosper. At Marial and Maxim's wedding, Catherine confronts Peter, but then appears to forgive him and tells him to meet her in his rooms. Later, Velementov arrives at the wedding and arrests several nobles on Catherine's orders, including Marial, Grigor, and others, but not Georgina. Catherine enters Peter's apartments and stabs Peter, then sobs over his body, before realizing when Peter enters that she has stabbed his double, Pugachev. Catherine embraces Peter, relieved, and they uneasily look at each other.

Season 3 (2023)

No. in
Title [11]Directed byWritten by [12]Original release date [13]
211"The Bullet or the Bear"Matthew MooreTony McNamaraMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
Peter and Catherine deal with the fallout from the previous night- Catherine is wracked with guilt over stabbing Pugachev. In contrast, Peter deals with balancing his love for Catherine with his desire to continue doing whatever he wants. Orlo is furious that Peter is still alive, and disavows Catherine. Catherine is determined to play the game of politics better, enlisting Elizabeth and Archie to tutor her, and agreeing to follow their lead in schemes. Peter helps his friends escape their death sentences, but feeling torn, returns them to the palace. Georgina worries about her position and why she was not captured, and declares her loyalty to Catherine. To test this, following Archie and Elizabeth's lead, Catherine orders her to be the first one to fire a shot at the prisoners. George shoots Tatyana, shocking the court. Catherine brokers deals with all the prisoners, allowing them to return to court while pledging their loyalty to her. Catherine tells Marial that they are no longer friends after her betrayal, her betrayal being that she had the choice to tell her about Catherine’s mom straight away or not at all, but chose to wait when it was convenient for her. While in the woods, Catherine unknowingly shoots and kills Orlo in the forehead. Bears then eat Orlo's body.
222"Choose Your Weapon"Matthew MooreTony McNamaraMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
The British ambassador to Russia offers Menorca to Catherine in exchange for 10,000 troops to fight the Americans in North America. Meanwhile, the new American ambassador charms Catherine with his talk of democracy, driving Peter to outbursts of jealousy. Marial is distressed that she and Catherine are no longer friends, but attempts to reconcile. Maxim, Marial's young husband, is upset that Grigor and Marial are blatantly flaunting their affair in public, and challenges Grigor to a duel. At the duel, Grigor chooses a second, a young boy the same age as Maxim, who Maxim shoots and kills, winning the duel. Hugo is upset that Catherine may side with the Americans while Agnes plots to enlist General Velementov to help them retake Sweden. Catherine agrees to the British ambassador's request but secretly plots to delay sending the troops long enough for it to not matter in the war, thereby not angering the British empire while supporting the Americans. Catherine and the American ambassador have sex on her desk and later, tells Peter about it. Peter fights the American ambassador, but ultimately lets it go as he has cheated on Catherine a lot of times in the past.
233"You The People"Sheree FolksonTony McNamaraMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
Catherine organizes a conference called the Nakaz to hear the voices of the Russian people. She aims to outlaw murder, but faces resistance from nobles, merchants, and scared peasants. Peter plans to kill a man named Simitz who sexually assaulted him, Grigor and Georgina in their childhood. At the Nakaz, some support Catherine while others oppose her. Catherine tries to prevent the murder by confronting Simitz and appealing to Peter. Ultimately, Peter spares Simitz's life but warns him to stay away. Elizabeth poisons a rich merchant and manipulates him into supporting Catherine out of fear; Archie convinces the peasants to side with Catherine through religious intimidation. Marial's servant leads her to Pugachev, who is wounded. Peter, still struggling with his violent tendencies, rejects Georgina's advances and remains faithful to Catherine. Catherine realizes that Archie and Elizabeth's methods aren't aligned with her vision of leadership. Velementov starts spitting up blood and starts thinking he's dying; when Catherine learns of this, she requests him to meet Dr.Vinodel and gives his position as head of the army to Petrov. The episode ends with George, Peter, and Grigor killing Simitz, and Catherine, aware of the act, decides not to confront Peter but simply goes to sleep.
244"Stag"Sheree FolksonTony McNamara & Fiona SeresMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
In this episode, Peter plans to participate in a ritual where he must shoot a stag without harming baby Paul, who will be tied to the animal. Catherine cancels the stag ritual and Paul's ordination when she learns his first word is "pussy", fearing he will become like Peter. This decision jeopardizes the legitimacy of the Russian throne, which relies on hereditary succession. Catherine and Peter seek marriage counseling and attempt to work through their conflicts. Meanwhile, Agnes continues to influence Velementov, while Georgina discusses ideas for Russia's future with Katya. Marial implores Catherine not to give in to the ordination; Catherine bonds with Marial and they become friends again. She is later thrilled to hear that Paul's second word is "books". Eventually, Catherine sticks to her decision not to ordain Paul but allows the Stag ceremony. Peter is given a sedative by Elizabeth to be given to Catherine so that they can proceed with the ordination secretly, however, Peter can't go through with it due to his concerns for Paul's safety. The stag ritual takes place, and Archie informs Pugachev that he must act against the empress as God's calling.
255"Sweden"Jaffar MahmoodTony McNamara & Ava PickettMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
Pugachev, under Archie's guidance, incites crowds against Catherine, pretending to be Peter. They burn down towns and disrespect Catherine by destroying dolls of her. Marial confronts Archie about his involvement, and he reveals his plan to make Catherine desperate and then save her from Pugachev to regain her favor and prioritize the church. Catherine and Elizabeth suspect Pugachev has a mystery employer behind his rebellion and enlist Velementov to stop him. Agnes takes advantage of the situation to lure Velementov away, delaying his plan. Hugo manipulates Peter's insecurities and urges him to become a military leader to impress his father's ghost. Peter proposes taking back Sweden with Velementov's help to prove himself, and he steals Catherine's army for the invasion without her knowledge. Grigor, who is opposed to the idea, is left behind.
266"Ice"Jaffar MahmoodTony McNamaraMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
Peter and Velementov's troops prepare to take back Sweden. Catherine and Grigor find and confront him, but Peter decided to attack Sweden anyway. However, during the conversation, in the middle of a frozen lake, Peter falls through the ice and dies. Hugo persuades Velementov to continue with the plan despite the risks. Archie and Pugachev discuss their strategy, but Elizabeth figures out Archie's plan. Marial worries about the situation getting out of hand and decides to kill Pugachev. Catherine and Grigor return to the palace in denial and grief respectively, and hold a breakfast; Catherine wants to conceal Peter's death from the nobles still denying that Peter is dead, while Grigor wants to let everyone know the truth. Pugachev sends a letter, claiming he's ready to surrender. George learns about Peter's death from Grigor and though shocked, keeps it a secret from others.
277"Fun"Matthew MooreTony McNamaraMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
Georgina convinces Catherine to hold a festival to make the goal of enlightenment more appealing to the people. Petrov informs Catherine about Pugachev's whereabouts, and Archie and Petrov argue over whether to negotiate or kill him. Marial and Maxim decide to kill Pugachev at one of his gatherings. Moved by his speech, Marial decides not to kill him, so Maxim shoots him. He quickly departs, believing he's killed Pugachev, but Pugachev regains consciousness with a bullet wound in his right shoulder. Catherine, in denial and suppressing her grief, behaves erratically. Elizabeth starts feeling cold and grows colder throughout the day, and decides to meditate and find out what happened. George convinces Katya to stage her treasonous play lampooning Catherine at the festival, which leads to Katya's banishment to Siberia. Afterward, George spreads a rumor about Peter's death. Catherine is reassured when Maxim claims to have killed Pugachev, telling herself and the court that Pugachev is the one who died and not Peter. Elizabeth realizes that the real Peter is dead during her meditation. When Grigor is not able to hold it together anymore and informs the court, Catherine finally accepts the truth, leading to her emotional breakdown.
288"Peter and the Wolf"Matthew MooreTony McNamara & Ava PickettMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
Elizabeth and Petrov attempt to retrieve Peter's body from the lake. As they wait for the ice to melt, Elizabeth shares her pain and grief with Petrov. She has a spiritual encounter with a wolf, believing it to be Peter's spirit, and bids him farewell. Velementov plans an invasion of Sweden, but Hugo wants to establish a new nation without violence. Elizabeth and Petrov find Velementov and Hugo and make them return to Russia with the army. Back at the palace, a still-grieving Catherine, wearing Peter's clothes, introduces divorce through the Nakaz, but faces unintended consequences and struggles with guilt over her words to Peter. Marial confronts Catherine about shutting down the divorce office; Catherine finally reopens it with stricter rules and new regulations. Maxim informs Catherine that Pugachev is still alive and rallying supporters. Catherine picks up Paul for the first time since Peter's death, and Grigor deals with his grief by hunting with Maxim and Arkady. Marial tries to win Grigor back and asks him to divorce George, but he seeks comfort from Catherine over their shared grief. Catherine asks Grigor for a favor, and he agrees. The next day, Grigor takes Paul to the forest to keep him safe, while Catherine handles guns in her room.
299"Destiny"Tricia BrockTony McNamara & Fiona SeresMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)
A still-grieving Catherine starts playing a dangerous version of Russian Roulette everyday, reflecting on her destiny to rule. Her attempts to stop Pugachev are unsuccessful as his loyal supporters protect him. Elizabeth talks to Catherine about Paul’s ordainment, but Catherine is keeping Paul hidden and safe, worried about his future. Marial and George both try to win back Grigor's affections, but he remains indifferent. Tatyana and Arkady join Pugachev; Arkady knows it’s not really Peter, but Tatyana starts convincing herself otherwise. Velementov learns his disease is curable from Dr.Vinodel and regrets his treason. Agnes and Hugo offer their services to Russia through Elizabeth and she asks them to search for Paul, who is hidden by Grigor. Petrov and Velementov propose separate plans to capture Pugachev. Catherine accepts Velementov's plan, but continues with Petrov as head of the army. After talking with Marial, Catherine attends one of Pugachev's rallies for herself to understand his influence over the people. Meanwhile, Archie has a secret plan in motion to negotiate the surrender of Pugachev.
3010"Once Upon a Time"Tricia BrockTony McNamaraMay 12, 2023 (2023-05-12)

Pugachev is captured and interrogated by Catherine, after which Archie manipulates Maxim to shoot him dead without Catherine's knowledge. The royal astronomer, Nikolai Shostakich, informs Catherine that a comet which only comes once in 75 years will pass through Russia in the next few days. Petrov brings Catherine Pugachev's body and the rebellion starts getting out of hand. Elizabeth encourages Catherine to take control of the situation, otherwise Elizabeth may be tempted to step in and take the monarchy. While playing Russian Roulette, an intruder tries to kill Catherine, and she uses the gun to shoot him instead; this epiphany allows her to come out of her daze and grief. George, after talking to Hugo, steals Paul from Grigor and has him ordained by Archie. She plans to marry Paul to gain power, only to be interrupted by Grigor who rescues Paul and chooses Marial over George; however Marial is conflicted over her loyalties.

Marial ultimately chooses Catherine over Archie and gives her the letters between Pugachev and Archie. Catherine devises a plan with Marial's help and enlists Archie, Maxim, Marial, Petrov and Velementov to spread different rumors about Peter and Pugachev's deaths and her own identity, attack Pugachev's base and win back the people by telling them that the comet is a sign from God. This allows her to manage any story she needs at any time and take control of the situation. Elizabeth, impressed with Catherine's idea, stands down. Catherine deals with Archie's betrayal by ordering him buried alive and then to cut off his head, but later, Marial manages to revive Archie. In the end, Catherine sports a new haircut and performs a celebratory dance with a newfound confidence, while the comet passes over Russia.



The series is based upon Tony McNamara's play revolving around Catherine the Great, which premiered at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2008.[14] McNamara also wrote a film adaption of the play, "It had been a play and a film, and I was always struggling with the fact it was such a massive story for a film. I wanted to tell it as a story that goes for years and years."[15][16] The series was initially pitched as having six seasons, having planned to introduce key historical figures in Catherine's life as the series continued.[17]

On August 24, 2018, it was announced that Hulu was close to giving a pilot order to a miniseries about Catherine the Great. The series was written by Tony McNamara who also served as an executive producer alongside Elle Fanning and Marian Macgowan. Production companies involved with the pilot consist of Media Rights Capital, Echo Lake Entertainment, and Thruline Entertainment.[18] On November 20, 2018, it was reported that Matt Shakman was directing the pilot.[19] On February 11, 2019, it was announced during the Television Critics Association's annual winter press tour that Hulu had given the production a series order.[20] On July 2, 2020, Hulu renewed the series for a second season.[4] On January 11, 2022, Hulu renewed the series for a 10-episode third and final season.[6]


Alongside the initial pilot announcement, it was confirmed that Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult had been cast in the pilot's lead roles as Catherine the Great and her husband Peter III of Russia, respectively. In November 2018, it was announced that Phoebe Fox, Sacha Dhawan, Charity Wakefield, and Gwilym Lee had joined the cast of the pilot.[19][21][22] In January 2020, Sebastian De Souza, Adam Godley, and Douglas Hodge were added to the cast.[23] On May 14, 2021, Gillian Anderson was cast in a guest starring role as Johanna, Catherine's mother.[24]


Principal photography for the pilot episode had commenced by November 2018 in York, England with other filming locations expected to include Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Hever in Kent. The main filming locations were Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire and the Royal Palace of Caserta in southern Italy.[21][25][26][27][28][29] The loggia on the lake at Hever Castle doubled as the location for a Russo-Swedish peace conference. St Clere Estate near Sevenoaks in Kent was used to stage battle scenes, palace gardens, hunting scenes, carriage routes, the Swedish border, the war-torn Russian village and the frozen lake among other scenes.[30] Filming for season two began on November 4, 2020[31] and ended on July 17, 2021; another location used was Hampton Court Palace.[32] Filming for season three began on July 12, 2022[33] and ended on December 6, 2022.[34]


Season 1

The series premiered in the United States on May 15, 2020.[3] In Australia, all episodes were released on Stan on May 16. The series airs on Channel 4 and StarzPlay in the UK. It was released on StarzPlay 18 June 2020 [35] and on Channel 4 on 3 January 2021.[36]

StarzPlay also distribute the series in Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Benelux, Latin America and Brazil. broadcasts the show in Russia, Sky in New Zealand, and Amazon Prime Video in Canada.[37]

Season 2

The second season premiered on November 19, 2021 in the US,[5] and on the same day in Canada, for Amazon Prime Video.[38]

In the UK Starzplay premiered the second season on 5 December 2021[39] and on Channel 4 on 27 July 2022.[40]

Season 3

The third season premiered on May 12, 2023, with all 10 episodes on Hulu.[7]

Historical accuracy

Hulu has described The Great as "anti-historical," and each episode's title sequence subtitled the series as an "occasionally true story"[2] until the second season finale, when it changed to "an almost entirely untrue story."[41] According to Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd, "McNamara had jotted down some names, relationships and a few historical bullet points, torn up the paper, and started writing. And so must the viewer abandon himself to what's on the plate without a care to learning anything useful or even true about Russia or any of the real people represented here."[42]

All the characters in the series, despite being Russian, speak with British accents. Peter III is inaccurately referred to as being the son of Peter the Great on numerous occasions; he was actually his grandson.[43] "Aunt" Elizabeth is modeled on Peter the Great's actual daughter, Empress Elizabeth, but this version is Peter's sister-in-law and lover, and has never ruled Russia. While Elizabeth did negotiate the marriage of her nephew Charles Peter Ulrich (later Peter III) to the future Catherine the Great,[44] as portrayed in the series, historically this was done while Elizabeth was ruling as sovereign Empress, and Peter only became Emperor after Elizabeth's death.[43] Unlike in the series, Elizabeth was not close or loving to Peter III[45] or to Catherine,[46] although she was desperate for Catherine to produce an heir. The young prince and possible claimant to the throne Ivan was secretly kept prisoner as a child during Peter III's reign, as portrayed on the series, having been imprisoned since infancy by Empress Elizabeth, who had taken the throne from him and his regent mother Anna Leopoldovna. Ivan was not killed by Elizabeth and did not die during Peter's reign, as portrayed in the series, but was killed during the second year of Catherine's reign by his guards to prevent an attempt to free him (as per Catherine's orders in case of such an attempt) when Ivan was twenty years old.[47] In addition, Ivan VI was not Peter III's half brother, but was his second cousin once removed, being a great-grandson of Peter the Great's half-brother Ivan V.

Catherine's negative reception upon her arrival in Russia more closely resembles that given to Marie Antoinette upon arriving in France. In reality, Catherine was something of a Russian nationalist before even arriving in Russia and rapidly became more popular than her husband.[48] In the series, Peter III is portrayed as a native-born Russian who is deeply connected to his country and its traditions, and opposition to Catherine's rule often centres around her being a German foreigner. In reality Peter III was German-born like Catherine was, always identified himself as German and not Russian, and refused to adopt the Russian language or culture even while living in Russia and serving as its emperor.[45] His overthrow was heavily due to the military and local nobility's support for Catherine's Russian patriotism as opposed to the pro-Prussian policy and attitude of Peter III.[49] Additionally, "Catherine" is portrayed as being her original name, when in fact it was her baptismal name after converting to Russian Orthodoxy; her original German Protestant name was Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg.

Most historically-based events are greatly compressed or transposed in the series' timeline, while others are greatly lengthened. In the series, Catherine meets and marries Peter when he is already Emperor and both are adults. Catherine begins the series around the age of 19 and does not overthrow Peter or give birth to her son Paul until she is 21. In reality, Catherine and Peter met as children and were married at the ages of 16 and 17 respectively, when Peter was heir apparent to the Russian throne.[50] Peter and Catherine lived as Grand Duke and Duchess of Russia for seven years before Peter became Emperor, and he was overthrown by Catherine after six months, while in the series Catherine does not commence her coup until roughly two years into the marriage. Catherine's son Paul was already eight years old when Peter became Emperor, and Peter was not caring or protective of the child, of whom he suspected he was not the father. As opposed to months of violent battle between loyalists and rebels as portrayed in the series, Catherine's coup against Peter took only about one day, had almost no armed opposition, and secured Peter's abdication mostly bloodlessly. As in the series, Peter was not sentenced to execution and was placed under house arrest, although not in the same residence as Catherine but at his estate in Ropsha. Instead of the long amount of time Peter remains alive following the coup in the series, the historical Peter died only six days after his overthrow. The circumstances of Peter III's death remain shrouded in mystery, with different accounts and theories alleging disease, accident, drunken brawl or deliberate assassination as the cause. This ambiguity and suspicion is alluded to in the third-season finale "Once Upon a Time", when Catherine orders for differing and contradictory explanations of Peter's death to be circulated.

Many events from later in the real Catherine's 34-year reign are refitted into her first year or two in power in the series, such as the Russian-Ottoman War of 1768 to 1774 and Russia's response to the American Revolution. As shown in the season three episode "Choose Your Weapon", Great Britain did attempt to bribe Catherine with the island of Menorca in exchange for Russian support against the American rebels, and Catherine was appealed to by a representative of the then-unrecognized United States (in the series called Mr. Glover, historically Francis Dana); Catherine did also express admiration for the principles of the United States Declaration of Independence. Russia and Sweden did fight numerous wars in the 17th and 18th centuries, including one during Catherine's reign from 1788 to 1790, and one under Empress Elizabeth's rule when Peter was heir to the throne from 1741 to 1743, but none during Peter III's brief reign. King Hugo and Queen Agnes of Sweden are fictional, but there were several real Swedish monarchs who experienced similar defeats and overthrows by democratizing movements in the 18th century, a period known as Sweden's Age of Liberty.

Other events in the series are deliberately anachronistic or combine elements liberally from the 17th to 19th century. Catherine claims at one point to have met René Descartes, who in reality died in 1650, almost 80 years before Catherine the Great was born; in another episode Catherine and her mother express disdain at Beethoven, who did not achieve fame until the 1790s, shortly before the real Catherine's death.

Most members of Peter and Catherine's court in the series have no direct historical counterparts.[51] Count Orlo's name suggests the historical Prince Grigory Orlov, who as in the series played a key role in Catherine's coup, had a love of culture and Enlightenment ideals, and promoted smallpox vaccination.[52] In reality, Orlov was a military officer and lover of Catherine's, and his death was due to prolonged illness and not shooting. Grigor Dymov also has no direct historical basis, though his first name and prominence in Peter and Catherine's court recall both Prince Orlov and Prince Grigory Potemkin. As portrayed, Catherine the Great was an ardent reader of Enlightenment-era philosophers such as Denis Diderot, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire; she did not have Voltaire live in her court, although the two corresponded for years,[53] and she did summon Diderot and Lemercier de La Rivière for brief visits,[54] as well as Rousseau, who declined.[47] As portrayed, Catherine was the first person in Russia to be inoculated for smallpox via variolation, although this was during her rule, not in defiance of any laws.[55] There was a ban on beards and on private use of the printing press in Russia before Catherine's reign, as portrayed. The Nakaz portrayed in season three is inspired by history, although it was not the name of the consultative body convened by Catherine (which was actually called the All-Russian Legislative Commission), but rather the proclamations that resulted from it ("Nakaz" being Russian for "Instruction").

The Cossack Pugachev, who led a revolt against Catherine's rule while claiming to be her deceased husband Peter III, is here portrayed as a royal lookalike in Peter's court. In reality Pugachev was the son of a Cossack landowner and a deserter from the Russian army before assuming Peter's identity, and his rebellion began eleven years after the real Peter III's death, not while Peter was still alive as in the series. The real Pugachev had no known connection to the imperial court or royal family, and he was only one of several people who claimed they were the deceased Peter III after his downfall, although Pugachev was certainly the most successful. His rebellion recruited tens of thousands of peasants and caused great distress for Catherine's reign, as portrayed; it did not succeed in capturing Moscow, as portrayed in the series, but did manage to briefly occupy the major city of Kazan.

The series repeatedly alludes to a longstanding legend that Catherine the Great died while engaging in bestiality with a horse. In the series this is transformed to a claim made repeatedly, though groundlessly, by Catherine's contemporaries that she had sexual intercourse with a horse before coming to Russia.


Critical response

Critical response of The Great
SeasonRotten TomatoesMetacritic
189% (87 reviews)[56]74 (33 reviews)[57]
2100% (34 reviews)[58]85 (9 reviews)[59]
3100% (16 reviews)[60]88 (8 reviews)[61]

Season 1

The first season received mostly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 89% based on 87 critic reviews, with an average critic rating of 7.50/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Great can't quite live up to its namesake, but delicious performances from Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult and a wicked sense of humor make it a pretty good watch."[56] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 33 reviews.[57]

Season 2

The second season received critical acclaim. On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100 based on 9 reviews.[59] On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an 100% approval rating based on 34 reviews, with an average critic rating of 8.20/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Great continues its revisionist reign stronger than before thanks to its addictive wit and marvelous cast − huzzah!"[58]

Season 3

The third season has received critical acclaim. On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 based on 8 reviews.[61] On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 100% based on 16 reviews, with an average critic rating of 8/10.[60]

Awards and nominations

Season 1

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2020 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series Matt Shakman (for "The Great") Nominated [62]
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Tony McNamara (for "The Great") Nominated
TCA Awards Outstanding New Program The Great Nominated [63]
Individual Achievement in Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
2021 American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Motion Picture, Miniseries or Pilot Made for Television Anette Haellmigk (for "The Great") Nominated [64]
Artios Awards Television Pilot and First Season – Comedy Rose Wicksteed Won [65]
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts International Awards Best Comedy Series The Great Nominated [66]
British Academy Television Craft Awards Best Make-Up & Hair Design Louise Coles, Sarah Nuth, Lorraine Glynn and Erin Ayanian Nominated [67]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated [68]
Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Great Nominated [69]
Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards Breakthrough Series – Long Form Tony McNamara, Marian Macgowan, Mark Winemaker, Elle Fanning, Brittany Kahan Ward, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Josh Kesselman, Ron West and Matt Shakman Nominated [70]
Independent Spirit Awards Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series Elle Fanning Nominated [71]
MTV Movie & TV Awards Best Villain Nicholas Hoult Nominated [72]
Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Series Nominated [73]
Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series Elle Fanning Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Belinda Bromilow, Sebastian de Souza, Sacha Dhawan, Elle Fanning, Phoebe Fox, Bayo Gbadamosi, Adam Godley, Douglas Hodge, Nicholas Hoult, Louis Hynes, Florence Keith-Roach, Gwilym Lee, Danusia Samal and Charity Wakefield Nominated [74]
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy Series Vanessa Alexander, Tony McNamara, Tess Morris, Amelia Roper, Gretel Vella and James Wood Nominated [75]
New Series Nominated
Episodic Comedy Tony McNamara (for "The Great") Won

Season 2

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2022 Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design for a One-Hour Period or Fantasy Single-Camera Series Francesca di Mottola (for "Dickhead", "Seven Days", "Wedding") Nominated [76]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Period Television Sharon Long (for "Seven Days") Won [77]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Comedy Series The Great Nominated [78]
Best Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Best Actress in a Comedy Series Elle Fanning Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Great Nominated [79]
Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Nicholas Hoult Nominated
Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards Best Actor in a Streaming Series, Comedy Nicholas Hoult Nominated [80]
Best Actress in a Streaming Series, Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nicholas Hoult Nominated [81]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Elle Fanning Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Period Costumes Sharon Long, Viveene Campbell, Anna Cavalerie, and Bobbie Edwards (for "Seven Days") Won
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More) Francesca di Mottola, Emma Painter, and Monica Alberte (for "Wedding") Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Julian Barratt, Belinda Bromilow, Sacha Dhawan, Elle Fanning, Phoebe Fox, Bayo Gbadamosi, Adam Godley, Douglas Hodge, Nicholas Hoult, Florence Keith-Roach, Gwilym Lee, and Charity Wakefield Nominated [82]
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Elle Fanning Nominated
Set Decorators Society of America Awards Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a One Hour Period Series Monica Alberte and Francesca Di Mottola Nominated [83]
Writers Guild of America Awards Episodic Comedy Tony McNamara (for "Alone at Last") Won [84]

Season 3

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2023 Golden Trailer Awards Best Comedy for a TV/Streaming Series (Trailer/Teaser/TV Spot) The Great (Silk Factory) Nominated [85]
Most Original TV Spot/Trailer/Teaser for a Series Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards Best Actor in a Streaming Series, Comedy Nicholas Hoult Nominated [86]
Best Writing in a Streaming Series, Comedy Tony McNamara (for "Choose Your Weapon") Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Period Costumes Sharon Long, Claire Tremlett, Basia Kuznar, Anna Lau (for "Choose Your Weapon") Won [87]
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design for a One-Hour Period Single-Camera Series Francesca di Mottola(for "You the People", "Fun", "Peter and the Wolf") Won [88]
British Academy Television Craft Awards Best Costume Design style="background: #9EFF9E; color: #000; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="yes table-yes2 notheme"|Won [89]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Period Television Sharon Long (for "Choose Your Weapon") Won [90]
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Elle Fanning Nominated [91]
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical Series Nominated [92]
Writers Guild of America Awards Episodic Comedy Tony McNamara (for "Ice") Nominated [93]

See also


  1. ^ McHenry, Jackson (May 15, 2020). "How The Great Very, Very Loosely Adapts Russian History". New York. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
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