‘The Great’ season 2 reviews: ‘Astoundingly good’ comedy returns with ‘magnificent’ performances

A year and a half after its huzzah-filled first season, Hulu’s history-spoofing, Russian royalty satire “The Great” has returned for its sophomore run. Elle Fanning stars at the title’s Catherine the Great, who at the end of the first season has initiated a coup against her misogynistic and vulgar husband Peter, played by Nicholas Hoult. Her success is complicated by her pregnancy with their child, though, and the second season finds them navigating their new power imbalance. All 10 episodes of the second season of “The Great” began streaming on Nov. 19.

After earning a pair of Emmy nominations for its first season, including one for series creator and writer Tony McNamara, “The Great” returns to, well, great reviews from critics. It currently has a Metacritic score of 84, which indicates “universal acclaim.” On Rotten Tomatoes, “The Great” season 2 reviews are raves and it merits a 100% fresh score.

SEE Elle Fanning is destined for SAG Awards ‘Great’-ness after last year’s snub

All of the critics praise how “The Great” for its “delicious balance of the elegant and the vulgar” and its “sparkling wit.” The new season is “astoundingly good,” with “artfully vulgar dialogue” and “exceptional banter.” The star of the show remains its “magnificent” performances. Fanning is “luminous” and “devastating,” and her “gravitas commands attention.” Hoult plays Peter’s mercurial moods “exquisitely,” while supporting player Belinda Bromilow is the “stealth season-two MVP,” Phoebe Fox is “terrific,” and guest-star Gillian Anderson “aces her latest imperious role.” Ultimately, the material and performances add up to a “titillating period piece with marvelous costuming to boot.”

“The Great” stars have already earned acclaim and awards recognition for their performances in the first season. The ensemble and Hoult earned SAG Awards nominations earlier this year; Hoult has also earned Critics Choice and Golden Globes nominations, while Fanning has earned citations from the Globes and the Television Critics Association. According to our current combined odds, “The Great” will build on its past success with nominations at SAG for Comedy Ensemble, Comedy Actor, and Comedy Actress.

WATCH ‘The Great’ Season 2 costume designer Sharon Long on handling Catherine’s pregnancy [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

See excerpts from some of the critics’ reviews below, and join the discussion on “The Great” and more with your fellow TV fans and industry insiders in our forums.

Allison Keene (Paste): “What makes the show so excellent is… that its characters constantly yearn and strive and lash out and cry with a mixture of humor and humanity unlike anything else on television… it manages to weave in an astonishing amount of pathos.”

Kathryn VanArendonk (Vulture): “What’s even more impressive is how well season two turns the doom into something poignant and delicate by the end… ‘The Great’ somehow pulls its lead characters into a place of implausible but fully convincing humanity. At the beginning of the season, it’s difficult to imagine taking any of them seriously. By the end, the idea that one of them might betray the other is honestly devastating.”

Saloni Gajjar (AV Club): “There are still plenty of thrilling zingers and visuals, but ‘The Great’ blossoms into a show with a big heart and, inevitably, heartbreak for its protagonists and viewers… Season two of ‘The Great’ thrives as a dark rom-com with grave consequences. Peter and Catherine are polar opposites, but the once vicious ruler is determined to change for his wife and soon-to-be-born infant.”

John Anderson (Wall Street Journal): Amusing, yes, and continues to be… while season 2 does feel a bit static––a successful formula inevitably becomes formulaic––he [Tony McNamara] does have many fertile places to go.”

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