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The Great Season 2 - What We Know So Far

This article contains spoilers for season 1 of The Great.

The Great, Hulu's "occasionally true" historical comedy about Catherine the Great, surprised and delighted streaming service subscribers when it was released in May 2020, many of whom weren't expecting such a tartly funny and eminently watchable period piece. With a Rotten Tomatoes critical score of 88% "Fresh" and an audience score of 83%, the show is beloved by critics and fans alike. And as a result, Hulu quickly renewed it for season 2 in July 2020.

The Great isn't really about Catherine the Great, who ruled as the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. It's about creator (and Oscar-nominated The Favourite screenwriter) Tony McNamara's re-imagined version of a young Catherine the Great, charismatically embodied by Elle Fanning.

In season 1, Catherine, a wide-eyed outsider, arrives at the royal palace after marrying Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) and quickly finds that it's not what she expected. Peter is a spoiled brat who treats her cruelly, and has little interest in governing. While she's quickly disgusted by him, she's also enticed by the privileges that come with wealth and power. So when she learns of a rule of succession which states that the empress becomes the ruler in the event of the emperor's death (with no heir), she begins plotting her husband's demise.

Season 1 ends with Catherine attempting and failing to kill Peter, who has actually fallen in love with her. He learns of her plan, and that she's pregnant with his heir. They agree to try to coexist as emperor and empress for the good of their baby and their country, in exchange for Catherine abandoning the coup attempt and sacrificing her lover Leo Voronsky (Sebastian de Souza).

Season 2 will pick up from there, and audiences are understandably excited to see more. Here's what else we know so far about The Great season 2.

When is the release date for The Great season 2?

Hulu has not set a release date for season 2 of The Great — however we know that it will not be back by May 15, which was the date on which the show initially premiered in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has surely pushed the timeline for season 2 into unknown territory, complicated by lockdowns in the U.K., where the show is primarily filmed. 

The show reportedly went into production in November 2020, according to productionlist.com, and is still presently shooting, per Town & Country. According to a February 2021 interview with Elle Fanning on The Wrap, six episodes of season 2 had been written by that point, a number which surely has increased by now. But if the show is currently only about halfway through filming, it probably won't be ready to stream until the fall at the earliest or sometime next year.

Who will be in the cast of season 2 of The Great?

Shout "Huzzah!" at the prospect of your favorite characters from The Great making a return for season 2. The majority of The Great's season 1 cast is expected to appear on screen yet again. Golden Globe-nominated stars Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult are confirmed to return, with the latter dropping out of a role in the upcoming seventh Mission: Impossible movie due to scheduling conflicts with The Great, according to Variety.

Other cast members expected to return include Phoebe Fox as Catherine's maid and confidante Marial, Sacha Dhawan as Orlov, Catherine's right-hand man in coup-plotting, and Belinda Bromilow as the eccentric Aunt Elizabeth. Not expected to return is Sebastian de Souza as Leo Voronsky, the nobleman with whom Catherine was having an affair, as his death was implied in the season 1 finale. We didn't see it on screen, though, so he might show up again.

No new cast members or guest stars have been announced for season 2 yet.

What will be the plot of season 2 of The Great?

Catherine reigned for 30 years, so there's absolutely no shortage of material for the show to draw from. "We initially pitched six seasons," executive producer Marian Macgowan told Decider. "So we believe there's sufficient material to take us through until she is an old woman."

That being said, season 2 will pick up shortly after where season 1 left off. Enough time will have passed that Catherine is starting to show, going off the first-look season 2 image shared on the show's official Instagram account that shows her with a big, pregnant belly. That must be what Fanning was talking about when she told The Wrap Catherine would be more "parental" this season.

"It's been fun to explore Catherine even further," Fanning said. "She's been taken more out of her comfort zone and into this parental, I think I would say. This season is very parental and learning to be a mother and mother to a country in that sense. There's some themes there. But we have some wild things planned. It's going to be cool."

In an interview with Deadline, Fanning also said Catherine's changing and challenging relationship with Peter would be a big part of season 2. "Catherine, I feel, has a real soft spot for [Peter], which gets to be explored," she said. "Their relationship gets way more twisted. So we have a lot working together."