The following is a review of the second season of The Crown – Available on Netflix.
I explained in my review of the first season how people might be surprised by my reaction to The Crown. I’m not obsessed with the royal family in any country, even though I live in a constitutional monarchy. My interest in The Crown was originally more centered around the inclusion of Sir Winston Churchill in the first season. However, having now seen the second season of The Crown, I must admit that I’ve actually become extremely fascinated with the British royal family. I’m still quite shocked.
I was impressed by the first season of the show, and it pleases me to say that the second season is even more strong. Some of the things that people have been clamoring for the show to focus on are finally getting the spotlight, and you can definitely feel the entire ensemble cast come into their own.
The most expensive show on television is as opulent as ever. It is a gorgeous show and more than once it looks more like a movie than a show you can bingewatch. The second season of The Crown takes us from the days of the Suez Crisis up until the events and aftermath of the Profumo affair, thus incorporating a season long focus yet again on the relationship and tired marriage between Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. At the very beginning of the opening episode of the season, the longevity of their marriage is called into question, and, at the very end of the last episode, we’re still discussing the way their marriage works and what concessions they make for each other.
With that having been said, I was surprised — even pleasantly so — by how much their relationship still took a backseat, while the focus in select episodes were on other characters like Prince Charles and Princess Margaret. Margaret was already a significant character in the first season, but her relationship with Elizabeth is still tested here. Margaret is adjusting to life without Peter Townsend, and that leads us to a great season guest star in Matthew Goode portraying Anthony Armstrong-Jones.
The Prince Charles-centric episode — titled Paterfamilias — is a true standout among the ten this season. It is one of two episodes that focus on the royal family’s connections to naziism. The episode cuts between Charles’ and Philip’s individual childhoods, when Prince Philip insists that Charles must go to Gordonstoun boarding school like he had when he was a child. It is an example of an awful disconnect between father and son, and it becomes rather devastating.
The other episode that focuses around naziism is Vergangenheit, which features a couple of cameos from characters that aren’t on the show anymore. The episode revolves around the Queen Elizabeth II’s relationship with both Edward VIII and God. Elizabeth — or Lilibet, as she is often called — wants desperately to forgive her uncle for being connected with Nazis, because her religion tells her to always forgive. But here she has to come to terms with the fact that some evils are unforgivable as files reveal that her uncle may have been a supporter of Adolf Hitler. In the episode, we see Lilibet exhibiting strength in standing up to Edward, who has a talent of always spinning the events on hand to make himself believe he has the moral high ground. Alex Jennings, like Matthew Goode in other episodes, is terrific here.
“This stuff used to wear you, now you wear it.”
This season sees Lilibet ease into her role as monarch — as the institution. We even get to see her get a different haircut, which is shot and framed as if it were a superhero vigilante putting on his mask for the first time. But we also see what the institution costs for Lilibet. Her marriage is not as loving as she might’ve liked it to be, which Margaret does indirectly point out once or twice. Also, her devotion to the institution also ends up making her seem inferior to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and the public at large once she is criticized by a male monarchist, who believes the institution has to evolve.
As such, many of her actions come almost at the behest of other characters. Mrs. Kennedy influences her decision to become more political and the aforementioned male monarchist gets most of the credit for having rejuvenated the monarchy. It is a bit of a shame that a season which is so terrific is best when exploring her relationship with other characters, or other characters outright. The one wearing the crown deserves more agency and focus in a show with this title. It is especially a shame considering this will be Claire Foy’s final season as Queen Elizabeth II, as all major roles will be handed on to older actors to portray the later years in the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Foy, like Vanessa Kirby and Matt Smith truly are magnificent this season.
At the end of my review of the first season of The Crown, I suggested that Claire Foy ‘could become the new face of Netflix original programming,’ and, indeed, I think that she has. The Crown has become the best live-action original series on Netflix.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen