‘The Great’ Is History for These Trump-ed Up Times

The Hulu series wears dark shades of the current U.S. presidency.

Jeremy Helligar
4 min readJun 4, 2020

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Elle Fanning as Catherine and Nicholas Hoult as Peter III in The Great (Photo: Hulu)

The Great is supposed to be a comedic re-imagining of the rise of Russia’s Catherine the Great, but as I watched the 10-part Hulu miniseries, I kept forgetting I wasn’t watching the current U.S. Presidential administration unfold in 18th-century Russia.

There’s the vain, arrogant, self-centered emperor, Peter III. He wears strange-looking hairpieces and rules recklessly and capriciously. Peter is convinced his subjects adore him and think he’s doing an excellent job as emperor. That empowers him and fuels him as effectively as the jumbo breakfasts he scarfs down in a number of scenes. He’s so the type of guy who would brag about grabbing women by the pussy.

Anyone who has been paying attention to American politics during the last four years will recognize him immediately. The biggest difference is that as played by The Favourite’s Nicholas Hoult, who deserves an Emmy nomination for his efforts, he’s brutal but so charming and goofily endearing you almost hope his inevitable downfall will be a gentle one.

When his sweet, unassuming Aunt Elizabeth (who in actual Russian history was Peter’s ruthless predecessor at the top) finds out about the coup his wife, the foreign-born (in Germany, rather than Slovenia) empress Catherine (Elle Fanning), has been plotting, she promises her silence in exchange for one request: “Please don’t kill him.” I have to admit, as horrified as I was by Peter’s sociopathic behavior throughout the 10 episodes, I was actually kind of relieved when Catherine assured Elizabeth she wouldn’t.

Poor Catherine. That’s one miserable bride. She must tolerate her husband’s indifference and infidelity, because, well, what else can she do? She’s dewy and naive in the beginning, but as the series progresses, she gains a steely confidence and begins orchestrating her husband’s demise. If only a certain first lady were so clever.

She’s dewy and naive in the beginning, but as the series progresses, she gains a steely confidence and begins orchestrating her husband’s demise. If only a certain first…

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Jeremy Helligar

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj