The Great, season 2, is improbable and ribald, with its mangled view of Russian history and its dumpster fire attitude toward the human race in general. Mixed in with the coarse vulgarity of its comedy are gems of wisdom about governing, love, equality, and women’s rights.
In season 2, Catherine (Elle Fanning) takes the crown from Peter (Nicholas Hoult) and attempts to bring Russia into a period of enlightenment. The transition is anything but smooth. Instead of killing Peter, Catherine held him prisoner in the palace.
Catherine was pregnant for the first part of the season. Peter claimed to love her and insisted she loved him. She denied this verbally but acted otherwise physically. By the end of the season she had given birth to a son and the status of the love affair between this couple had gone through a number of phases.
Important people from season 1 were still in the story. Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow) was often the only sane voice in the palace. She loved and tried to protect both Peter and Catherine from each other and from the schemers all around them who wanted to seize power.
Orlo (Sacha Dhawan) was still dispensing advice, the Archbishop (Adam Godley) still had a personal grip on the wishes of God, and General Velementov (Douglas Hodge) worried about the Ottoman threat amassing on the border. Marial (Phoebe Fox) remained Catherine’s good friend, and Grigor (Gwilym Lee) remained a loyal friend to Peter.
Catherine struggled getting people to change, to educate women, to convince people to rely on science and reason. She invited scientists from other countries to come, held science fairs and promoted invention and the arts. Voltaire spoke about the need to find a cure for syphilis. Reform was an uphill battle, especially when she tried to free the serfs and bring equality to the masses. Much of this series is not fact. However, Catherine’s liberal attitude and her wish to modernize Russian were true.
We had to wait most of the season for Catherine’s mother (Gillian Anderson) to appear. She had an agenda of her own involving Catherine’s sisters that was a problem for the budding Empress. Mother was none to shy around Peter. Or figs.
In 10 hour long episodes, there are many subplots, many characters, endless sex, plots, wars, and discussions about food. If you enjoyed season 1, you will enjoy season 2 as well.
The costumes, the sets, and the outstanding acting from the entire cast elevate this comedy to something more than endless sex jokes. However, the series does deserve its MA rating.