What is it with Hulu. Every few years it gives us a smart, beautifully constructed mini-series. In 2020 Dahvi Waller gave us the nine episode “Mrs. America” which kept us riveted for all of it’s two months running time. Just the right length. We loved it. We did not get tired of it. Unfortunately, the seemingly unkillable “The Handmaid’s Tale”, created by Bruce Miller is far more typical of our favorite streamer.
“Mrs. America” vs “Handmaids Tale”.
Again, it’s initial 10 episodes from 2017 were perfection. Breaking boundaries. And it should have ended there. Instead, Miller brought it back for season two in 2018 (13 episodes), season three in 2019 (another 13 episodes) and season four in 2021 (10 episodes). By then you found yourself wishing that Offred would either be killed or forced to go to Canada – for many of us the distinction is redundant! Characters like Serena Joy had changed so much from season one that it made no sense. I stopped watching.
Enlightened Despots from the eighteenth century.
Now comes the delicious, intelligent, funny and very sexy “The Great” or more precisely “The Great: An Occasionally True Story”. And then “The Great: An Almost Entirely Untrue Story”. It’s all about the rise to power of Catherine The Great, Empress of All Russia. Elle Fanning is marvelous as the young Catherine. And Nicholas Hoult is even better as her depraved, sadistic, sexually voracious yet still not unsympathetic husband the Emperor Peter III.
The delightful knowingness of a well-appointed anachronism.
Created by Tony McNamara (“The Favorite”), it is filled with historical errors and anachronisms. However, these are not mistakes. They jump out at you with a delicious knowingness that makes us appreciate our Enlightened Despots.
Maybe it was the fact that I binge-watched all ten episodes over the course of two nights, but by the final chapter I was ready for the series to end. Peter abdicates the throne in favor of Catherine. I was satiated. I had a wonderful time in the company of these blissfully depraved characters. I was ready to move on. I go to the bathroom leaving the TV on and when I come back there are Catherine and Peter seemingly having the exact same conversation they had in episode one. Yes, this was episode one alright but episode one season two. Enough already! And there is a third season on the way!