The fourth season of the Netflix drama series The Crown was released on Sunday 15 November; it certainly left us wanting more.
I was in an anxious race to finish Season 3 of The Crown in time for the new season on Sunday. In the end, I binge-watched the last half late on Saturday night.
At first, I imagined Season 4 would be a smooth progression into the introduction of the highly anticipated characters. Those are Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher. However, I found myself watching something completely different from what I expected.
The Crown has emerged onto a cinematic stage with the acting, scriptwriting, sets, and budget, feeling more like a feature film rather than episodes in a television show. On the other hand, I gladly welcome this transition. The series had me hooked from start to finish.
The Crown needed to enter this new phase and did so spectacularly. Especially now that Netflix is catering to 73 million households and counting who have watched the show. The new season places the audience in 1979. Starting with the election of Britain’s first-ever female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It then ends in 1990. It later follows Thatcher’s resignation and the inevitable downfall of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage.
Season 4 sees the continuation of Olivia Coleman’s characterisation of Queen Elizabeth II. It also follows the dynamic of a new Prime Minister.
Gillian Anderson plays Margaret Thatcher, who is depicted more as a rival rather than a subject. As a younger viewer, I had only heard stories of Thatcher. It was an insightful experience to watch Anderson’s interpretation of this historical figure. Despite Gillian Anderson’s attempts to humanise Thatcher, her scenes mostly aggravated me, and perhaps that envelopes Margaret Thatcher perfectly.
Most of my struggle was with Thatcher’s character. Viewers were almost expected to sympathise with her nearer the end. Expecting us to forget her controversial policies which changed the face of British politics forever. At times, Anderson’s performance slightly overstepped into an imitation rather than reincarnation. This is understandable of course. She is one of the most unique, contentious public figures this country has ever seen.
Despite the stellar star cast that features the likes of Olivia Coleman, Gillian Anderson, and Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret), it is the younger actors who are in the driver’s seat and elevate the show into its most gripping series yet.
Josh O’Connor continues his fairly new role as Prince Charles and transforms effortlessly from a character who we grew to sympathise with last season, to the villain in a fairytale. The highly publicised dynamic between Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and Camilla Parker Bowles is reimagined on our screens. The young talent carefully articulates a very complicated narrative.
Three’s a Crowd
Our introduction to Diana is in episode one and sets a romantic, Shakespearean tone. This is perhaps a nod to the tragedy that the audience is expecting. However, Emma Corrin’s performance as Diana transports the audience to a happier time in the Princess’s life. At the same time, it temporarily helps you forget about the sadness that now revolves around her.
Corrin’s efforts provide a youthful exuberance to the show that has not been prominent in prior seasons. The same way Diana introduced a new dynamic to the Royal Family.
A standout episode is Diana and Charles’ Australian tour. This is where they navigate their dynamic as a newly married couple and parents. This episode provides a small glimpse of the better moments in their relationships. However, it also magnifies the catalysts in the breakdown of their marriage, signifying the beginning of the end.
While the roles were smaller, Erin Doherty’s (Princess Anne) and Emerald Fennel’s (Camilla Parker Bowles) contributions to Diana and Charles’ marriage had a big part to play. Doherty’s role as Anne was the perfect mediator and realist. She seemed to be the only person brave enough to fully confront Charles’ indecent behaviour. Despite Camilla’s prominent role in ending the marriage, Fennel was only seen a handful of times, scattered across the season but it reflected Princess Diana’s infamous statement “there were three of us in this marriage.” While Camilla was not physically there, her presence was still felt in the marriage and the show from the beginning till the end.
Fact or Fiction
While watching this series, it is important to re-centre your position as a viewer and remind yourself of the dramatisation of these storylines and real people. Before forming or articulating any opinions about the family, it would be worth doing research as a viewer to be able to differentiate fact and fiction. While the show has an abundance of researchers who dedicate their time to grasping an accurate portrayal of the family, there are certain parts of the show that have undergone development for viewer’s entertainment or filling in plot holes.
Knowing that some parts of the show are fictional creates a disconnect to reality. The drama of the show can be enjoyed without feeling as though it is too invasive into the lives of people who are still around.
The first three seasons of the show were laying the foundations to eventually build-up to this monumental series. It focuses on the royal family’s most defining moments as an institution and family unit. The past three series have created an audience large and loyal enough to be able to succeed in telling such historically high-profile stories without crumbling under pressure or controversy.
The waiting and longevity of season 4 of The Crown process has definitely been worth the results. This is especially true during lockdown where people are constantly craving something new to watch. Series four has left opportunities open for the new cast in 2022. They will take on a newer phase of the royal family’s lives and see the maturity and development of some of the younger royals. Thus, bringing the timeline closer to the royal family we know today.
A debate that has become more prominent as the years have gone on is whether we need the royal family. Are they important, or relatable?
The Crown has proven something to us. Despite the many oppositional views against the monarchy and how far from reality they may feel, the Royal Family are more prominent and relevant than ever.