Personally, I know nothing about this period of history, but Helen Mirren is always superb, and as for Jason Clarke (as Grigory Potemkin), well, let’s see if I can now forgive him for Terminator Genisys…
Catherine has seized power, and become Empress of Russia, by marrying into the right circles and deposing hubby Peter III, who wasn’t the most well-loved individual, but then she hardly endears herself to anyone, since as soon as she’s in the job, she announces wanting to abolish slavery, even though a lot of the Russians have slaves, themselves. Yep, Russia isn’t quite ready for her type of rule, yet.
She also has a lot of family strife in that, her new other half, Grigory Orlov (Richard Roxburgh), wants to be recognised in public, but she’d rather keep him out of the public eye. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of “How’s your father” going on, between random people, and I understand from the billing that, at some point beyond the first episode I’ve seen, that she and Grigory Potemkin will be soon riding the hobby horse…
Elsewhere, she’s at odds with her son, and that overall, this first episode does take a bit of time to get used to it, especially when I’m unfamiliar with what happened back then. It certainly looks superb, but I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t wholly follow what was going on throughout, and I do need to look up more about the history behind this, but whilst I’m watching this four-part series, I don’t want to come across spoilers in the meantime, so will check that afterwards, but I did note – spoiler-free – that Catherine was born in Prussia, which is now a part of Poland.
I got a D in GCSE Geography, so please don’t call for my head!
In addition, the dialogue isn’t always 100% clear, and on the preview version I’m watching, there are no subtitles. Thankfully, though, no-one attempts cod-Russian (or otherwise) accents, and so, Helen delivers her cut-glass English accent as always, as if she was playing our own Queen, again.
Oh, and it’s got some cool gore in it, with the first episode featuring something I don’t want to spoil in advance, but I’ll say you certainly can’t spot the join in what is real and what is fake. And I watched it several times… just to check, of course 😀
And I can say this spoiler-free: At the start of episode 2 part 2, someone begins a sentence: “Brothers and sisters!”, and I wanted to add, “# Pump up the volume… #”
And in episode 3, mention is made of Crimea. I expected them to break into Justin Timberlake’s # Cry Me A River! # (ahem)
Episode 4 also included the words “baggy trousers”. Is someone making this show just for me to pick up the musical references? 😀
Overall, although some ten-part series can go on way too long, this is just four episodes, and it does feel like there could be more to tell. I know they’re mostly concentrating on Catherine and Potemkin, but another couple of episodes with more story would’ve been great to flesh things out.
And in the end, no, I haven’t forgiven Jason Clarke, but Helen Mirren effortlessly carries this through and, in fact, she’s a Powerhouse!
UPDATE: And now the first episode has already been broadcast, I will mention something about that in a non-spoilery manner, but I’ll still hide it behind a spoiler header just in case you don’t even want to read this before watching it:
Overall score: 7.5/10
The series will air weekly, but fans of Ms Mirren will be pleased to learn that the whole series is available to stream from day one.
Director: Philip Martin
Producers: Jules Hussey, David M Thompson
Writer: Nigel Williams
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Catherine the Great: Helen Mirren
Minister Panin: Rory Kinnear
Grigory Potemkin: Jason Clarke
Grigory Orlov: Richard Roxburgh
Princess Natalia: Georgina Beedle
Peter Zavadovsky: Thomas Doherty
Alexander Mamonov: Andrew Rothney
Princess Sophia: Antonia Clarke
Count Andrei Razumovsky: Phil Dunster
Valerian Zubov: Adam El Hagar
Lieutenant Mirovich: Lucas Englander
Alexander Bezborodko: James Northcote
Emelyan Pugachev: Paul Kaye
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.