The Great: season three of the raucous comedy-drama set in imperial Russia

“For those yet to fall for its ample charms, ‘The Great’ plays hard and fast with the rise of Catherine the Great, Empress of all Russia,” said Rebecca Nicholson in The Guardian.

“Newcomers should not start with season three”, however, but go back to the start to see “how everybody got to their positions”. It’s worth the effort: “every episode romps along at speed, fuelled mostly by those twin engines of every good story, sex and death”.

In the first two seasons, Catherine (Elle Fanning) and her husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult) had “an on/off relationship”; but they begin this season “very much together”, to the bitterness of their acolytes. As ever in “The Great”, no character is safe from the chop, which keeps things lively. But “nestled in among all the killing and sex” is a “sneaky cerebral streak”; plus plenty of humour and silliness. In sum, it is a “rich treat” of a series.

The first two seasons have ended up on Channel 4, but for now this one is only on Lionsgate+, said Hugo Rifkind in The Times. “Wait if you must, but I wouldn’t.” Yes, the plot is far from historically accurate, but the revisionism is “part of the fun”, and the performances are wonderful. Hoult, for instance, brings “the same vibe you might expect if Hugh Grant were starring in a whimsical romantic comedy about Pol Pot”.

“This is history at its most horrible – and most enjoyable,” agreed Nick Hilton in The Independent. “If it does run out of momentum before Catherine can reach old age and infirmity (and the horse sex rumours), then it will still have been quite the ride to get there.”