Hulu’s The Great is teeming with witty characters with even cleverer commentary. These individuals possess snappy quips and master plans, which are a significant reason why this historical comedy-drama is so beloved by its fans. While there is certainly no shortage of intelligence in this series, some characters naturally bring better strategic plays than others.
While the story centers on Elle Fanning’s portrayal of Catherine the Great, she is by no means the only master planner of the show. From Catherine’s closest allies to her greatest enemies, there is plenty of maniacal inspiration to go around. The Great is a non-stop tango for the Russian throne, and it’s thrilling to watch these intelligent characters one-up each other. Although each person has something to offer the series, there are some whose brains are undoubtedly some of the largest in the palace.
Velementov may not seem like the brightest bulb in The Great, but his intelligence comes in the form of battle strategy. No one in this series can manipulate an army quite like he can.
Unfortunately, his vices often overshadow his brighter moments. Velementov’s rampant alcoholism distracts him from contributing properly to Catherine’s reign. Furthermore, he typically would rather lust after women than think of the good of Russia. Even so, he still provides valuable insight into the Russian people when he doesn’t have a drink in his hand. The Great may boast more outwardly intelligent characters, but regardless, Velementov’s strategizing mind is a valuable asset to any kingdom.
9 Queen Agnes
As a Queen who has been driven out of her own country, Agnes frequently uses her cunning persona to look out for herself and her Swedish husband. While her circumstances tend to leave her powerless, Agnes uses the subtle art of manipulation to nudge people in her favor.
This is especially clear in The Great’s Season 3 when she seduces Velementov to show her battle strategies. She later coerces him into advocating for Sweden itself, so much so that he is willing to take it back to restore his glory. Agnes also uses her silver tongue to get her partner, King Hugo, to behave. Despite being an outcast in a foreign land, Agnes’ wit manages to preserve her life as well as the life of her foolish husband.
8 Grigory Petrov
Although Grigory Petrov makes his debut in Season 3 of The Great, he has already cemented himself as one of the more calculative players in the series. He has a particularly blunt nature, and he isn’t afraid to tell anyone what he’s thinking, including Catherine herself.
Besides giving his empress a piece of his mind, Grigory provides detailed insights when he takes over as the head of Russia’s army. While much of his advice is ignored by Catherine, he displays a thorough understanding of strategy and negotiations. This is especially clear when he suggests his ideas for taking down Pugachev, who has been impersonating Peter III. Although he’s had little time to make his mark in The Great, Grigory is definitely a brainy character to keep an eye on.
7 Katya Velcra
As Orlo’s ex-lover, it’s no surprise Katya Velcra appreciates intelligence. From her introduction in Season 2, Katya readily introduces progressive ideas that challenge the status quo. While she fully supports Orlo’s political agenda in earlier seasons, Katya continues to stand up for what she believes in during The Great’s third season.
Time and time again she publicly argues with Catherine for the good of Russia. She even crafts a satirical play critiquing her empress’ reign while introducing other themes about monarchy versus democracy. Despite only serving as a minor character in the series, Katya’s ideas and eloquence manage to challenge even the likes of Voltaire.
6 Georgina Dymov
What Georgina Dymov lacks in physical strength, she makes up for in perceptive manipulation tactics in The Great. Although she plays a relatively minor role in the show’s first two seasons, the true potential of her intelligence shines in Season 3.
Georgina has always been faithful to Peter, but once she realizes Catherine is here to stay as Russia’s ruler, she switches her strategy and loyalties in the name of self-preservation. She cleverly puts on an act of enlightenment, touting women’s rights and Catherine’s progressive ideas. Her scheme is so airtight, that she doesn’t even reveal her true intentions to her closest friends. Ultimately, Georgina has clawed her way up to prominence in The Great through her strategizing alone.
Marial is a quick-witted woman who has a unique circumstance in The Great. She has the perspective of living both as a lady of the court and as a servant. These combined experiences help her to further bend the people around her to her will.
Since she is used to acting for her self-preservation, Marial must always think one step ahead of everyone else, even her own allies. While she cares about her friendship with Catherine greatly, there are many times she does not divulge information to her for her own gain. This includes when she keeps Archie’s secret that he is involved in the Pugachev plot. Although this scheme greatly affects Catherine, Marial knows how to play her fellow Russians in order to keep her head above water.
4 Catherine II
Catherine may be a bleeding heart, but her natural intelligence shouldn’t be discounted. Despite being woefully ignorant of Russian customs, she quickly adapts to her surroundings and becomes a clever strategist in The Great.
Part of the fun of this series is watching Catherine transform into a sharp-tongued and wise ruler. In order to seize power from her husband Peter, she must use her witty philosophies and balance them with might and occasional brutality. Although she is eager to push forward with her progressive ideas and can sometimes get carried away, she finds ways to play the game and even manipulates Peter to her will.
Orlo may lack the braun to spar with his counterparts, but his aptitude for thinking outshines everyone in the palace. Serving as The Great’s primary bookworm, Orlo’s is a pivotal backbone to the main plot to overthrow Peter III.
Throughout Seasons 1 and 2, Catherine relies on Orlo for his studious nature and his thoughtful advice. He is by far the most well-read character in the series, and he uses his impressive knowledge to win arguments. As his development progresses, he becomes more forthright with his opinions. Without his constant strategizing in The Great, Catherine would not have been able to overthrow Peter and take the crown.
Russia’s Archbishop, better known as Archie, is one of the most manipulative characters in The Great. By using the power of religion and his own fake visions, he holds a tremendous amount of sway in Russia.
Archie has proven to be a continuous thorn in Catherine’s side, as he promotes his own self-interests under the guise of serving a higher power. Not only that, but his cleverness allows him to create underhanded plots to shift the power dynamic in his favor. This is most apparent in Season 3 when Archie convinces Pugachev to pretend to be Peter and slander Catherine. While his selfish schemes do not always work out, he is undoubtedly one of the best strategists in the series.
1 Aunt Elizabeth
In her initial appearance in The Great, Aunt Elizabeth seems like a spacey and lust-driven individual. Upon closer inspection though, this woman reveals herself to be the most cunning character in the entire series.
Aunt Elizabeth has a knack for twisting other people’s words against them, all with an air of positivity. She is able to double and even triple-cross her companions effortlessly. Catherine respects her intelligence and opinion the most out of all of her allies. She is even willing to let Elizabeth take the throne from her when her mental health becomes compromised. Even though Aunt Elizabeth is not destined to be the empress of Russia, anyone who watches The Great knows she is more than capable of bending an entire nation to her will.
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