The couple that rules an empire together...stays together? That's the question (sort of) at the heart of The Great Season 3, the Hulu historical dramedy that focuses on a fictionalized version of the reign of Catherine the Great. The series, which hails from Oscar-winner Tony McNamara (The Favourite), is offbeat, irreverent, hilarious, and largely historically inaccurate, a tale that nevertheless manages a surprisingly deft exploration of the roles of women in power and the compromises they must often make to stay there.
In this version of the story, Elle Fanning stars as Empress Catherine the Great, the longest-reigning female monarch in Russian history, while Nicholas Hoult plays her charming, occasionally violent husband, Peter III. Season 2 saw Catherine finally take the Russian throne for her own. However, she ran into plenty of problems trying to "enlighten" a country that isn't necessarily eager to embrace new ways of thinking and living. And, of course, there's Peter, who Catherine just can't seem to shake — either politically or from her own heart; even though she overthrew his government, he killed her mother, and she very recently tried to stab him, ultimately taking out one of his many body doubles instead.
(Yes, the real Peter III died pretty early on in Catherine's reign from mysterious circumstances that may or may not have involved his captors trying to smother him with a mattress and/or strangle him with a scarf, but just trust, you won't mind ignoring history in this specific instance.)
Season 3 will apparently see Catherine and Peter finally make a genuine effort to make their marriage work, despite their mutual betrayals and failings. (After all, they do share a son and a country and generally seem to care for one another almost in spite of themselves.) The trailer for the new season shows us the pair in something that looks a lot like the Imperial Russian version of couples counseling, as they talk about their feelings and perform trust exercises.
Unfortunately for Catherine, the citizens of Russia don't seem particularly interested in her modern ideas about concepts like democracy and equality, with many beginning to openly question whether she might be a witch. (And making an extremely creepy voodoo doll in her honor.) And for all his seemingly good intentions, seems to be chafing in his new secondary role, which gives him little to do besides hunt and argue with hallucinations of his dead father, Peter the Great.
The official description tells us a bit more about what to expect from Season 3.
Season 3 of “The Great” sees Catherine (Elle Fanning) and Peter (Nicholas Hoult) attempt to make their marriage work after some seemingly insurmountable problems. Peter witnessed his own attempted murder at Catherine’s hands and she also imprisoned all of his friends. On top of this, Peter is at a loose end playing First Husband to Catherine’s reign, so he busies himself with fathering, hunting and salty culinary ventures. But they’re not enough to keep him contented as visions of his late father (played by Jason Isaacs), get in his head about his failures as Peter the Great’s son. Catherine the Great starts making a name for herself beyond her borders and inspired by a visit from the US ambassador, sets up a conference where peasants, nobles and merchants can all give their input on developing a new Russia. She learns that even the best political leaders sometimes need to make compromises in order to progress.
Alongside Fanning and Hoult, the series also stars Phoebe Fox, Adam Godley, Gwilym Lee, Charity Wakefield, Douglas Hodge, Sacha Dhawan, Bayo Gbadamosi, and Belinda Bromilow.
All ten episodes of The Great Season 3 will arrive on Hulu on Friday, May 12.