The hit series The Crown’s next season could not have come at a more vulnerable moment for the Royal Family.
After the Queen’s passing and Prince Charles ascending the throne after six decades of waiting, this season of the drama series follows the most turbulent decade for the royal family.
The 90s: From Diana and Charles’s failing marriage, the revenge dress and TamponGate, season five promises to open new wounds and revisit what some may call recent history.
The show has faced a lot of criticism in the UK, with some English celebrities openly discussing their disapproval. The one and only, Dame Judi Dench has expressed her concerns that the show should include a disclaimer.
Nevertheless, season five premiered as promised, on the 9th of November. Since the premiere, reviews have started popping up and the Voice of London doesn’t fall behind.
Peter Morgan, who became a known name in the industry after his involvement in the movie The Queen (2006), has taken a brave step in portraying the Royal Family during the reign of the now-late Queen Elizabeth.
The first season started as a history lesson that explored the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign and her difficulties of fitting into the role, followed by seasons two, three, and four, which all received approximately 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, season five alone received a disappointing 72%. Why?
One would consider the events portrayed in this season might appeal more to younger generations, but has the rage died down already?
Season five is faced with an entirely new cast and on top of it all – Elizabeth Debicki as Diana who secured the role two years prior to her first appearance in the series.
Since the show explores the seven decades of Elizabeth’s reign, one would assume Imelda Staunton, who is taking on the role of the Queen after two brilliant actresses – Claire Foy and Olivia Colman, would be the main character, if The Crown ever had one. But Debicki is quick to steal the position.
She has impersonated Diana’s demeanour, even her movements merely to perfection. The Australian-born actress has expressed her concerns about portraying the princess even 25 years after her death, and yet… she has done it.
The hopelessness we saw in Emma Corrin as young Princess Di transfers into her older version too, but her confidence has improved as well as her actions. She has one simple statement for the Royal Family: I’ve had enough.
The beautiful and almost effortless transition between Emma Corrin to Elizabeth Debicki has given viewers a small peek into what a tragic marriage the princess was in. It gives reasons behind the scandalous book by Andrew Norton and the all-tell interview by Martin Bashir following Charles and Diana’s divorce. She finds true comfort only when in the company of her sons – princes William and Harry.
Imelda Staunton’s portrayal is maybe what I was most excited to see. Probably every fan of the Harry Potter film series can recognise her as the terrible Dolores Umbridge. Although with her icy glare, and firm posture, Staunton managed to express the great responsibility, one might imagine comes with the Queen’s position.
However, what I wasn’t expecting to feel was pity toward the Queen. Well, not in the first episode when she was arguing with PM John Major regarding the repair price of the yacht. But when she is faced with the realisation of her children’s failed marriages. While her own marriage is not one without troubles and disagreements, she is simply bewildered about how none of her children can get past the differences of their partners if not for themselves, but for the face of the monarchy, for the reputation of their mother.
Her insecurities portrayed in this season separated her from the eternal figure we see her as and showed what she truly is – a diplomatic woman whose loyalty lies first with the monarchy and the people.
I think Staunton is skilled enough to elegantly continue the legacy of Foy and Colman.
As pleased as I was to watch Staunton and Debicki, Sir Jonathan Pryce who embodied Prince Philip didn’t leave such a mark on me. I found his portrayal of the Great Sparrow in Game of Thrones more interesting. But the resemblance between Pryce and Prince Philip is there.
In the fifth chapter of the drama series, the late Duke of Edinburgh has found a new interesting way to pass the time between his royal engagements and family get-togethers. From painting to bird-watching, Prince Philip seems to have excelled in them all.
This decade he has dedicated himself to carriage driving. A passion he has found with a companion Penny Knatchbull, known by her official title – Countess Mountbatten of Burma. Throughout the season, the pair often engage in meaningful conversations about life, philosophy, and on one occasion in episode six, even genetics.
The most intriguing exchange starring Prince Philip that I watched was his conversation with Diana in episode two. His speech on preserving the system of the monarchy, as it is and not causing tension between the family is what I found to be Pryce’s most notable monologue. With a few short lines, Pryce managed to summarise what one might think being part of the royal family for such a long time could be, as he has been. Diana doesn’t seem to agree with him and we all know what happens after, anyway.
And last but not least, I want to add a short commentary on Dominic West, aka Prince Charles.
I couldn’t find the resemblance between West and the now King Charles. But after all, looks aren’t everything. The determination with which the prince wanted to prove himself worthy of being a sovereign is what I found intriguing. His resentment towards Diana for being younger, more attractive, loved by the public and essentially, not being Camilla is quite visible.
I tried to feel a bit sympathetic to his side of the story regarding the marriage but then TamponGate happened. And all sympathy went out of the window. But I think that if there’s a character I actively dislike, then the actor is truly talented.
The show tried to bring some positive qualities of Charles’s character to light and, in a way, they succeeded. His honourable quest to modernize the monarchy is a trait he might have inherited from his father who was the sole reason the Queen’s coronation was shown on live television. The excerpt of Charles’s leadership in his charity organization – The Prince’s Trust is an example of what kind of king he would have been, had he been given the chance sooner.
There are aspects in which The Crown hasn’t disappointed me at all and one of those might be the astonishing scenery and costume designs. They managed to capture the 1990s British vibe all viewers of The Crown want to see.
Season five divides opinions and fans take sides just as people did back in the 90s when Charles and Diana announced their separation. I would say I found the season anticlimactic, contrary to the events that occurred in real life.
The writing dialogue could have been better, the whole episode on the Al Fayeds looks a bit unnecessary so far and the revenge dress deserved more screen time, but who am I to judge?
Just remember – The Crown is not a real documentary after all.
Words: Elitsa Maymareva | Subbing: Argia Hernandez and Ashreya Jimi | Featured image by: Netflix via Deadline