‘The Great’ Season 1 Summary & Ending, Explained – A Progressive Farce


The Great is a farcical drama that tries to be funny. It is progressive but after a few episodes, stops progressing. It stops, makes jokes, and looks at the viewers to laugh, and when they don’t, it repeats the joke again to bore you further. Peter, the Great, the antagonist of the series has the same trait, he forces his courtesans to laugh at his stale, dull jokes. I think the creators mixed the character of the plot with the character in the plot.

Loosely based on the historical life of Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia, The Great incorporates 10 visually bright episodes created by Tony McNamara. It famously stars Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult in the leading roles as Empress and Emperor of Russia. The story is pretty simple. A complex narrative ruins the joke or makes it too intelligent to understand, but with The Great neither the joke is funny nor intelligent. It is forced.

‘The Great’ Season 1 Summary

Set during 17th century Russia, the plot follows Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning), a German adolescent girl who is married to a Russian Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult). Before the marriage, Catherine was living in a shell of her own dreamy world, thinking her husband would make love to her and adore her. When she arrived in the kingdom, Peter was not a prince in shining armor. Instead, he was a patriarchal baffoon who only knows how to smash glasses, and loudly chanting, “Huzzah.

Catherine and Peter are two totally different individuals. she believes in love, he believes only in physical need, she believes in manners, he is an animal, she believes in reading, he does not read at all. When Catherine tries to set up a school for girls, Peter burns it down and quotes, “Women are for seeding, not reading.”

The conflict is quickly set, Peter is not fit to rule and Catherine should be the next Empress. The straightforward plot is an exploration of Catherine’s struggle to rule but the only conflict in her way is her battle with her own emotions. She develops feelings firstly for Peter and then for a lover, Leo Voronsky whom  Peter hires for his own wife, to keep her entertained and loved. Farcical enough, but so is the entire story.

The Great had a great start. It was innocent, visually pleasant, and funny with screw-ball comical characters. What it failed to incorporate were new layers, jokes, and subplots. Even some minor episodic plots used in the series were not in motion with the tone of the series. These included War, Women, and Science. A major flaw of the entire narrative was the lack of its goal, each episode ran on a different rhythm which was not pursuing or exploring the larger goal of the series, that is, Catherine’s pursuit to become the ruler. Even Catherine was not sure enough which made the protagonist dull and boring, mostly. After the first two episodes, the jokes became stale due and repetition. The character of Peter or Catherine was not charming enough to tickle the audience with repetitive jokes. The series had set its heart right, it was progressive but it stopped progressing and started lingering on the same problems and issues, making it a laborious job for the audience to stream further.

Major Spoilers Ahead

‘The Great’ Ending Explained

On her birthday, Catherine decides to finish off Peter and take charge of Russia. She plans to ignite a rebellion with the help of a maid, a bureaucrat, and a drunk, hence, a trio of underdogs. However, she fails to execute the task and is later threatened by Peter to give up or get ready to see her lover, Leo, get slewed. Catherine is pregnant with Leo’s child in her belly and is once again moved by affection rather than the cause but later in the episode understands that Russia is greater than the individual love itself. Catherine makes the hard choice and the rebellion by Peter own’s army throws him out of the throne. Catherine, The Great now rules the kingdom, and history is fulfilled.

The Great Season 1, is nothing great and could be easily missed. If you are a fan of Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, you can still give it a try. However, it is not binge-worthy content. It doesn’t grab your attention after a few episodes. The only good thing about it is its farcical elements that include over-charged characters, treatment with women, and the state of affairs in Russia. And yes, also if you want to understand the significance of “Huzzah.” Not gonna explain that.

The Great Season 1, is streaming on Hulu.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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