Series Created by Peter Morgan.
A lot has happened since November 2020, when, two years ago, Netflix released the fourth season of their wildly successful historical drama, The Crown. Britain has had three different prime ministers — Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and, current PM, Rishi Sunak — and, most importantly, Queen Elizabeth II, the subject of this series, has died. The United Kingdom now has a new monarch in King Charles III, who, as the series has moved forward, has moved closer and closer to the focal point of the series. Indeed, one might argue that these latest two seasons are the most critical of the former Prince of Wales.
If you enjoy this show, then you have undoubtedly noticed the calls for Netflix to add disclaimers to the show indicating that the show is fiction. One of these critics is reportedly Dame Judi Dench. Without wishing to step on anyone’s toes, let me say that I think it is plain for all to see that The Crown has always been a dramatization of history and that its accuracy varies for dramatic purposes, as is the way with all entertainment depicting history. One might consider why this criticism comes now, though. I certainly have my theories, but I digress. It is rather strange, though, to have the fifth season of the show be released in a world where Elizabeth II is no longer with us, and it certainly added something to the way I viewed certain plot developments, even though the show certainly didn’t expect this to happen, as it was written and filmed long before her passing.
Obviously, every few years, The Crown tends to shift out the entire cast and recast. The same has happened again now as the series takes a closer look at the 1990s. I think the new cast members are all good, but it should be noted that especially Imelda Staunton, who plays the Queen, isn’t given as much to work with as Olivia Colman and Claire Foy were back in the day. I feel like it’s pretty clear that there’s a change in focal point with the recent seasons. there is a much larger focus on Princess Diana and Prince (now King) Charles, which is appropriate given the time period it covers now. However, I feel like the Queen’s primary arc this season was learning about her husband and what wasn’t really an affair, and, to add to that, realizing that the new generation isn’t ready to pay for everything and update her ship.
Frankly, it is a completely unmemorable season for the Queen, whereas what happens with Diana and Charles feels relatively familiar due to the previous season, how recent the events (and wounds) are, but also due to a film like Spencer starring Kristen Stewart. Though Elizabeth Debicki is quite good as Diana, I think her performance falls short of Stewart’s but also the one delivered by Emma Corrin in the previous season. Actually, I feel like that is the general feeling from top to bottom in the primary cast.
There are, however, obvious highlights here. These include the scenes dedicated to the scandal surrounding Charles’ indecent phone call with Camilla Parker Bowles (and the fact that the show wants us to believe that Charles planted stories about public opinion to thwart his mother), but also the episode dedicated to anglo-Russian history. But, on the whole, it is a fine but largely unremarkable season of The Crown. The show may have already peaked. The production design and the attention to detail are still outstanding, but the show didn’t wow me this season, which is a disappointment. A decent season of television, but a noticeable step down in quality.
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.