Created by Peter Morgan
Starring Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Emma Corrin, Gillian Anderson, Josh O’Connor, Helena Bonham Carter and Erin Doherty
The latest instalment of any royalist’s favourite binge-worthy series has been released on Netflix and this season takes the crown for salacious drama and historical moments we have been waiting three seasons to see on-screen. Throughout watching The Crown, audiences have had the opportunity to watch a delicate and sophisticated biopic that details Queen Elizabeth II and her ascendancy to the throne. Thus far, those of us who have stayed loyal to this slow-burn narrative make do with subtle acts of quiet drama and turmoil wrapped in niceties and royal protocol. Season 4 promises something slightly less subtle and a lot more tantalising.
The Crown tackles some landmark moments in British history in Season 4 and in doing so it feels a bit like a ride on a roller coaster – exhilarating yes, but also crowded and clumsy in certain areas. This season promised to be an ambitious one with the introduction of Princess Diana and “The Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher. The relationship between the establishment and these two iconic figures has long-been a point of controversy in the public eye and the writers and producers did not shy away from the complexities of this.
The inclusion of Diana Spencer has been long awaited since Claire Foy and Matt Smith graced our small screens to be coronated in Westminster Abbey. It’s commonly believed that Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s relationship began on rocky foundations with the Prince of Wales being in love with Camilla still. The beauty of The Crown is that it is a historical drama (so that means there’s no chance of spoilers really), but the juice of the show lies in offering us the opportunity to feel the tension in a more present way than ever before.
A mystery that constantly beckons while watching is how the royal family truly feels about the show. This season demonstrates a darker and colder side to the family which is manifested in a number of ways: Diana’s ostracisation from the inner circle, Charles’s abusive, neglectful behaviour towards his wife, Queen Elizabeth’s disjointed and dysfunctional relationship with her children and more. The show-runners have progressed with a bolder depiction of the family, one that is guaranteed to have viewers hooked on the drama.
The predominant focus this season has been on the Diana and Charles storyline which is sure to have drawn many of the viewers. However, the historical plot that is just as interesting this season is the inclusion of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister. Thatcher was coined “The Iron Lady” for her cold and decisive resolve in politics. Thatcher’s style of leadership has gone down in history as “Thatcherism” and this season did not shy away from the impacts it had on the British people.
The episode titled Fagan depicts the infamous break-in to Buckingham Palace by Michael Fagan. The episode was a drastic departure from the lavish palaces and jewelled ball gowns that is common for an episode of The Crown; viewers are invited into the dismal experience of the lower class in Britain during Thatcher’s reign. This was a strategic contrast which allows viewers to remove themselves from the realm of fantasy that the royals seem to occupy and be reminded that beyond the glamour and fame and opulence there were, and are, a suffering minority that often live their lives in untold struggles.
Season 4 sees content maturing as it was not uncommon to hear frequent cussing from the royalty which was previously reserved for Prince Phillip and Princess Margaret during one of their foul moods. Prince Edward even calls Prince Charles “impressively c***ty” which was a welcome surprise from the stuffy passive aggressiveness that The Crown royals have demonstrated so far. Hopefully this emboldened depiction continues through to Season 5 which, as expected, has already been teased by Netflix.
Visually, this season does not let audiences down. Setting the drama and intrigue against the backdrop of Britain’s grandest palaces and manors with the actors adorned in breathtaking costumes, faithfully remade in the likeness of the ones worn by the royal family, is a treat for those who tune in. The filmography is reminiscent of the style we have witnessed before – plenty of diegetic sound and thoughtful camera angles to demonstrate the intensity of any given moment. The score is consistently impressive, complementing the visual elements which are equally well-considered.
However, the storytelling in this season does feel clumsy at times, and viewers may find themselves regularly having to backtrack to remember where the storyline had been, where it was and where it was going. As the writers jump through almost a decade of events within thirteen (albeit very long) episodes, it is a forgivable mishap however, as the show maintains its quality throughout each episode and will keep most fans itching for the next season.