Royals behaving badly: how to watch The Great season three in Australia

With the coronation of King Charles III just around the corner at the time of writing, there’s no better moment to note the return of an acclaimed series that deals with a troubled, controversy-wracked noble dynasty that in no way, shape, or form resembles the British monarchy. Strap in, pre-revolutionary Russia fans, as The Great season 3 hits Stan on May 13.

Creator Tony McNamara’s gleefully anachronistic historical satire may fudge the details, but by centering the story on Elle Fanning’s Catherine (the “great” of the title) it gives us a fresh angle on what could have been a rote costume drama. Married to self-obsessed Russian Emperor Peter III (the brilliant Nicholas Hoult) for political reasons, the young Catherine must navigate the intricacies of the Russian court, pitting her education and progressive views against the moribund traditions and callous cruelty thereof.

If you’re a fan of The Favourite, which McNamara also wrote, you have a fair idea of The Great’s flavour: lots of sex, violence, pitch-black humour, and extravagance as ridiculously rich and powerful people act in the most appalling ways, all anchored by a fantastic performance by Fanning as the only sane person in the entire country.

Last season left us in an interesting place, with Catherine now on the throne while Peter plotted a coup, only for things to really heat up with Catherine learning that Peter had bedded and then accidentally killed her mother (Gillian Anderson). Having understandably tried to murder Peter after this revelation, Catherine’s grasp on power is a lot shakier going into the third season.

History heads will of course know how it all (roughly) plays out, but for now it looks like civil war is on the cards. At the bare minimum we can expect plenty of deception, double-crossing, and dirty dealing as estranged royals battle for control of the empire—which again, bears no similarity at all to the current state of the British monarchy.