The Great, Season One (2020) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

This "sometimes based on a true story" fictionalized account of Catherine the Great of Russia is profane, vulgar, and yes, also hilarious.

Young, idealistic and starry-eyed Catherine (Elle Fanning) arrives in Russia with grand ideas about how she can change life for the surfs, cause her husband to fall desperately in love with her, and experience marriage in all its wonders. An idealist to the hilt, she does not expect brutality, animal violence, and a husband who... well, is a complete and utter idiot. Peter (Nicholas Holt) loves to shoot things, get women into bed, and discuss politics while doing indelicate things, and that's about all that occupies the space between his ears. Deep in despair, Catherine considers slitting her wrists.

Then a noblewoman-turned-servant (because she back talked once too often) plants an idea in her head: first, let's get a bucket, since you're going to leave a bloody mess all over the carpet. And second, why not kill Emperor Peter instead? The idea, after all, has merit. Catherine can see the beauty of it. But to stage a proper coup, and bring all her grand ideas into fruition, she need allies and... well, she's worthless at it. All the women at court hate her. Most of the men are lustful after her, but she has no interest in them. And her husband just might get the same idea and get around to it before she does!

My thoughts on this series are as follows: it's gorgeous to look at, with luxurious fabrics, costumes, decor, and crowns. It has an equally magnificent cast, and enough tongue-in-cheek cleverness to choke a horse. The music is terrific, the jokes are well-played and... it's absolutely bawdy from start to finish. Worse, it's explicit. And being the buttoned up prude I am (and proud) I cringed a lot, between the poetic dialogue punctuated by frequent f-words to the cringe sex scenes (which are... honestly, meant to be cringe). It is funny, it can sometimes be downright cruel, people sensitive to animal abuse won't like various scenes, and I'm just sorry that most adult entertainment now has to be rated MA, because cleaned up, I would love this. Not cleaned up, well... I can't exactly recommend it to family and friends, and spent a fair amount of time staring at the ceiling.

Sexual Content
Each episode has at least two graphic sex scenes, oftentimes clothed and sometimes not; tons of references to bestiality (an entire episode revolves around a nasty rumor that Catherine had sex with a horse, which her husband finds hilarious; we later see a cartoon of it), casual sexual encounters, names for various body parts, references to the king's fondness for his large manhood, people teasing other people about being celibate or a virgin, etc. Dialogue plays over sexual scenes, such as the emperor trying to impregnate his wife while talking to people. There's sometimes back nudity. A man starts having sex with a dried up corpse. Catherine tries without success to seduce someone, and winds up with a lover (sanctioned by her husband, who just wants her to stop moping around).
 
Language:
Hundreds of f-words, abuses of Jesus' name, uses of s**t, pr*ck, ass, scatological references, and c*nt.
 
Violence:
For the court's entertainment, they chase a dog and a raccoon into a log. The log shakes and loud squeals fill the air, before the dog comes out covered in blood. Everyone except Catherine cheers. Peter shoots the bear he gave his wife dead (it cries out and falls). We see dismembered men on battlefields, ripped apart by cannon fire. Peter punches his wife in the stomach hard enough to wind her, just to get her to know who is boss. A man poisons another man's soup.

Other:
Catherine takes advantage of a cleric's drug-induced visions to plant an idea in his mind.