What The Crown S4 lacks in flamboyance and drama, it makes up with its business-like efficiency and clinical unravelling.
Claire Foy’s class act makes you fall in love with Elizabeth II. She makes her come alive as a gentle but firm monarch who, aware of her limitations, grows into her destined role and brings a great deal of restraint and dignity to her often onerous duties. One watches Claire evolve and seep into the skin of The Queen as she tries to balance her official duties with her personal commitments. An empathetically told S1 about the world’s longest serving monarch who appears relatable, humane, in control and unafraid to make hard choices in the line of her duty. That said, it appears to be a romanticised, sentimental take and the dark side of The Crown is not revealed. Yet.
S2 is riveting and incredibly polished. And my God, Claire Foy is royalty incarnated and I will miss her restraint and sangfroid in S3.
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After the first two seasons dominated by the self-assurance and aplomb of Claire Foy, it takes a few episodes to let Olivia Colman’s ultra-restrained, unemotional and always-in-control act grow on you. But grow it does and you begin to appreciate that sometimes, make that most times for The Queen, the hardest thing, indeed, is to say or do nothing. S3 showcases many historical events. The showrunner, Peter Morgan, is a scriptwriter of significant prowess and he doesn’t disappoint. What is disappointing, however, is Helena Bonham Carter’s lacklustre performance as Margaret. She is out of sorts throughout and I wonder why!
You have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.
— Charles Mackay, 19th century Scottish poet, quoted by Thatcher to the Queen.
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I must say that S4 begins a bit tepidly but then comes into its own. Well researched, brilliantly scripted and painstakingly recreated, it is essentially centred on the growing conflict between the palace and the prime minister and how the Queen puts Thatcher in her place, and the crumbling marriage of Charles and Diana. Thrown in between the timeline of 1977-1990 is the IRA attack killing Lord Mountbatten, the Fagan episode, the Falklands War and the apartheid protests in South Africa.
Emma Corrin as a frail, bulimic, suffering yet outwardly calm and endearing Princess stands out while seasoned performers, Colman and Gillian Anderson (though the jury is out on her portrayal of gritty Maggie, some accusing her of “copying the voice and intonation of her latter years”, hence crafting an “entertaining but ridiculous parody” of the British PM) battle it out, mostly a war of calculated and calibrated words between a resurgent democracy and the constitutional monarchy.
The Queen is the oxygen everybody in the royal household breathes and Oscar winner Colman continues to hold this indifferent-in-parts season together. In all, what The Crown S4 lacks in flamboyance and drama, it makes up with its business-like efficiency and clinical unravelling.
Can’t wait for Season 5. In it, the Queen will be played by Imelda Staunton, veteran English actor and singer. That will be fun to watch.
Where to Watch: Netflix
By Sanjay Trehan
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