It’s been roughly a week since The Crown’s fourth season started streaming on Netflix and I cannot stop thinking about it – it was outstanding television. The best season yet.
I haven’t talked much about my love for this show, but since it premiered in 2016, it has consistently been spectacular television.
For those of you who have never seen this show – The Crown is focused on HRH Queen Elizabeth II over the course of her sixty years as sovereign of the the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. While other royal family members have compelling storylines (this season particularly), the true focus always comes back to her. What makes this show unique is that each season spans a decade of her reign with the cast refreshing every two seasons.
From the get-go this show was an incredible concept. The Queen, and the royals in general, has always been fiercely private. We all ‘know’ The Queen in a formal setting, but we don’t really know Elizabeth – the person. I’d argue that this is historical-fiction at it’s best, but it’s weird to call this ‘history’ when the person is still alive, well, and could also be watching this for all we know. It’s also an odd show in the fact that we “know what happens”. It’s hard to ‘spoil’ the show when the key events are things that are well known. For example – We know her father, King George VI, dies in 1952 and she becomes Queen at only 26. However, what we don’t know is how she felt about it and it is in this area that creator Peter Morgan created something special.
Season four – focusing in on 1977 to 1990 – was his best yet.
Let’s set the stage: I have a very specific choice set up to watch this show. Ideally, it’s raining. I want that British grey outside to set the mood. I need a piping hot cup of tea – preferably Twinnings Earl Grey. The show has to be on my TV, leaving my laptop screen open and ready to go on google, because I need the ability to do a deep dive into the history of any scene that catches my curiosity. When I dove in on Sunday, I had everything set up (including the rain!) to really enjoy this show.
It was also the day after HRH The Prince of Wales 72nd Birthday! So Happy Birthday Charlie – we all celebrated by airing out all your personal drama from your 30s for the world to see! Hope you enjoyed your cake with a side of a new wave of interest in the Diana & Camilla drama and a whole lot of judgement on your character 🙂
I’m getting ahead of myself. The easiest way of talking about this season is to divide into to two sections: Drama with Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher and Drama with Charles-Diana-Camilla.
Let’s start with Maggie.
ICYMI – The Queen’s relationship with her Prime Minsters is how this show started. Peter Morgan’s The Audience was a smash hit, and it was from this that he developed The Crown. This clip from the 2017 Mirvish Production is essentially what you saw in ’48:1′.
While The Queen’s relationship with each of the Prime Minsters is interesting – none is more so than that of The Queen and Thatcher.
As a historical figure Margaret Thatcher is an incredible character on her own. As Britain’s first female Prime Minster, she left her mark as a polarizing conservative. There have been countless stories told about her, including The Iron Lady, for which icon Meryl Streep won her 3rd Oscar. Yet … I think Gillian Anderson (who I loved in Sex Education) did it better.
The relationship between Thatcher and The Queen is a fascinating relationship for so many reasons. In many ways, these two women are equals. Both powerful, they take their jobs very seriously and they used to dealing with idiotic men. They are similar in age (Thatcher is six months older) and both love a handbag. Yet – it was the clashes that made this relationship legendary and some of the best moments of the show.
‘The Balmoral Test’, ‘Fagan’, and ‘ ’48:1’ – which was the South Africa sanctions battle – were all fantastic episodes because they put this relatioship front and centre.
I also loved ‘Fagan’ and ’48:1′ for their ability to both be set in the 1980s, and also squarely in the 2020 zeitgeist.
IMO – ’48:1′ is another reminder that systemic racism exists and has existed for generations. Throughout the show, The Queen often comes across as someone cold, uncaring, and unwilling to get involved – but while this probably revisionist history, I was very glad to see her fight this fight. It makes Thatcher look like a terrible person and The Queen look like she has a heart. While we often see characters throughout this series – like the Duke of Edinburgh – as racists, colonial figures – it’s interesting to see The Queen positioned as someone who cares deeply about her Black citizens. Again, is this true? Who knows. But perhaps naively, I hope it is. I’m curious about her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Again, I hope she despises Trump and other racists, but who knows.
The ‘Fagan’ episode is another well-written take that makes Thatcher look like a terrible person and suggests The Queen might actually have a heart. Of any of the episodes this season, this one feels eerily zeitgeisty. The Covid-19 Pandemic has had vast economic impacts. I know a lot of people who have been out of work because of it. I’ve had a hard time finding work this year because of the pandemic and I went on CERB. I’ve talked to friends about this – but the process is extremely disheartening. On multiple occasions, I felt stupid, small, and extremely confused about what I had to do to find government support. I know I’m not alone. Watching Michael Fagan slip further and further into a depression over his fight to get government support was understandable. I watched this episode thinking – this is happening NOW to thousands of Canadians. In 1982, he broke in Buckingham Palace, but I don’t think it’s a strech to say that in 2020, he’d probably turn to Reddit and head down a very different, very damaging path like so many desperate people have. People need support. It was just a fantastic epsiode. Tom Power agrees.
While I’m sad to see this cast go, I’m actually very sad to see this relationship go. That last scene with the two of them, when The Queen gives Thatcher the Member of the Order of Merit (OM) was just outstanding. I don’t really know if I care about The Queen’s relationship with Blair or Cameron – but I’m sure Peter Morgan has something up his sleeve that will make us care.
Meanwhile. Charles + Diana… and Camilla.
I don’t even know where to start with these three. So perhaps I’ll rewind to season three.
In season three, The Crown did wonders for Prince Charles – they made him a tragic, complex and misunderstood young man. They let us fall in love with Camilla. They showed us how the Establishment did them wrong and manipulated them apart. I also think actor Josh O’Connor is very endearing and has the potential to be hot when not playing Charles. So I finished season three thinking, ‘Isn’t it nice – they are finally together’ and ‘Charles is not as bad as we think he is…’. Insert record scratch.
Season four undid all this positive PR, and have reignited the abhorrence to a ‘King Charles’.
First, what a creeper. I have this image in my head of Diana being an ‘adult’. My whole life, I’ve always just thought she was so sophisticated. I think my brain put her in her 30s-40s. I did not think of her as a young 20-something who died at 36. So seeing Charles, a 30-year-old, meet Diana, a 16-year-old, – was shocking. Add in the fact that he dated her sister – what a creeper. Totally inappropriate, predatory, and awful. Of course, this didn’t work out. But I put that blame onto Charles as the ‘adult’ in the situation. Just disgusting.
The whole thing from top to bottom was outrageous to me. The interview they did at their engagement was frankly a shitshow. It is so clear he has zero interest in her. His answer to the question about loving her was so awful, that I thought it had to be fake. Nope. I’d argue, it’s worse in real life.
Then after the wedding, to watch her be so in love with him, and then to watch him cheat on her – I hated it, which then made me hate him.
Add in Diana’s deteriorating mental health, her bulimia, and her loneliness – of course she found other people. She was so deeply unhappy – she just needed help. But Charles can only ever think of himself and his own wants and needs and an entitled brat, that he never helped her.
As the show progressed he became increasingly awful, conniving, and bitter. He basically led Diana into a trap in that last episode to get his way to be with Camilla. Kudos to Josh’s cheekbones, as you could see the anger and resentment bubbling in his face. It was so ugly. It just infuriates me how he treated her.
I think what is most astonishing is how Camilla was seemingly totally fine with this whole arrangement. I just wanted to scream at her – YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS LOSER! But nope. They stay to gether for years and they get married and she might be our queen one day. It’s truly wild.
I think what makes this even more wild is the fact William and Harry have lived through this. It makes SO much more sense now that Harry decided to formally leave the family. Who wants to be associated with this? I would want to be far away from this whole thing.
I also understand Emma Corrin”s comments in GQ about immediately leaving if she ends up at a party with William and Harry. Could you imagine that small talk …
Kudos to the three actors- Josh O’Connor, Emerald Fennell, and especially Emma. I cannot wait to see what projects these three take on after the crown. I think Josh and Emerald will both have fantastic careers – but it’s Emma who I think will absolutely soar.
With all the drama this season – I haven’t even talked about the IRA’s assassination of Mountbatten, Margaret discovering her cousins in the “The Hereditary Principle”, and the JOY that is sassy Princess Anne. This season had so many highlights. But if I’m going to deviate off the main path, I want to talk about how they handled Prince Andrew.
Simply, they handled it perfectly. It gives the audience such insight into the shitty behaviour the Queen’s “favourite” has displayed in recent years.
This time last year, Prince Andrew sat down for a train wreck interview with the BBC about his relationship with absolute-horrible-person Jeffery Epstein. It caused him to step back from his royal duties. It was alleged that because he was the favourite, his mom actually gave him permission to do that interview. Which – again, I now get. But honestly, well done Crown writers – way to show that he has always been an awful person.
Finally – I want to acknowledge the crew.
Over the past four seasons, while the cast rotated and nearly 40 years passed, the feel of the show stayed the same. The production value of this show is phenomenal – the production design (things like costumes, sets, props etc) is immaculate and the technical aspects of the show (things like cinematography and editing) – is spotless. It is a truly beautiful show. (And let’s be honest here – it should be with a rumoured production budget of $130 million).
From top to bottom I am obsessed with the look and feel of The Crown. I would love to walk around on the sets. You can tell that everyone involved on this project take their jobs seriously – and the product deserves all the accolades and awards.
I hope it does it’s own ‘Schitt’s Sweep’ at The Emmys next year. The real question is who will win the supporting actress Emmy – Emma or Gillian?
I’m going to end this here but note I could talk about this for DAYS. Instead, I’m off to go buy a Barbor coat and boil the kettle for some tea. As always; let me know what you think – I cannot wait for season five.
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