Since I finished watching the entire run of Gilmore Girls (and loved it), The Crown is that series that I sometimes feel like I should apologize for being a loyal fan of.
It is a soap opera. About the British royal family, no less, a subject I’ve never had the least bit of interest in. I apologize if that offends, but it’s true. I’m also not interested in the American equivalent of royalty, Hollywood movie stars or famous musicians and athletes, and their various couplings and uncouplings or legal dramas. That stuff may sell tabloid newspapers. But, not to me. Uh-uh. No way.
I prefer fictional drama. I recently admitted that Mayans MC was a macho soap opera set in the milieu of a Latino outlaw motorcycle club, and that I liked it. While I attended college—a long, long time ago—I briefly became hooked on Days of Our Lives, and I believe the same story arc is still unfolding there (seriously: just the other day, I recognized characters from more than thirty years ago on the show). With my lovely wife Sharon, I also watched the Dallas reboot and quietly mourned its cancellation.
You see, I will loudly bemoan the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t make it into the playoffs this year, but the passing of Dallas (the television series, not the NFL team) was quietly mourned. This may be a more enlightened age, but there are still some things a man just does not do.
Unless he’s among friends, of course, as I am here.
I don’t bother to fact-check The Crown. To me, it’s just another drama, and that’s how I approach my appreciation of the program.
I thought the change in actors would bother me more, but the storytelling is still on point and compelling. I don’t see how we could have portrayed Elizabeth and Phillip as effectively without new actors as they age. The role of Queen Elizabeth II is now played by Olivia Coleman, who I’ve decided is perfect for the role as we get into the 1960s. I miss Claire Foy the same way I miss myself in my 20s and 30s. Bless her heart, she’s just too young to play this Queen Elizabeth.
For this stage of their lives, the role of Prince Phillip goes to Tobias Menzies. After the first couple of episodes, I was able to look at Menzies as someone other than Black Jack Randall. He is a consummate actor. Of that, I have absolutely no doubt now, if I possessed any after the second season of Outlander. He is mesmerizing any time he’s on the screen.
Helena Bonham Carter assumes the role of Princess Margaret this season, and she’s another one who chews up the scenery every time she gets screen time. This season is definitely a showcase for Menzies and Carter. Olivia Coleman delivers a fine, understated and subtle performance, but Menzies and Carter shine brightly. In this season Margaret deals further with her jealousy issues towards her sister as her marriage disintegrates.
During this season, Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) come of age and take more of a lead role in the drama. Charles falls in love with the alluring Camilla Shand (Emerald Ferrell), who is destined to become a Parker-Bowles. Even I knew that. Prince Charles is continually painted in an unflattering light, but it’s easy to feel sympathy for him as a character during this season. He feels a connection to the abdicated King Edward (Derek Jacobi) that makes sense, considering Charles’ own future with Camilla.
Edward dies this season, as does Winston Churchill (with John Lithgow briefly reprising the role). Time is passing. If nothing else, that seems to be the theme of the season.
There are some brilliant standalone episodes during Season 3 as well. The third episode of the season, “Aberfan,” is a heartbreaking story about a mining disaster that results in the deaths of more than 100 children. Episode 7, “Moondust,” is about the 1969 moon-landing and the deep effect it has on Phillip. Somehow it becomes a meditation on the conflict between religion and science as personified by Prince Phillip.
The show moves at a measured—dare I say “stately” or “regal”?—pace. I didn’t find myself looking forward to watching each episode the way I did the first two seasons, but I must admit that I felt mostly satisfied at the end of each episode. Not completely satisfied, however. There’s something about this series that leaves you wanting more. Maybe that’s part of its appeal. It spends much more time showing than telling. At times I feel sympathy for the royals and at other times am bewildered by how clueless they seem to be about the plight of those less fortunate than they are.
The biggest criticism I could possibly level at this series is that there doesn’t seem to be just one central story thread here. No unity of purpose. A lot like life itself, I suppose. But, again, reality is no defense for fiction.
I enjoyed this season of The Crown, and I still recommend it for everyone. Even as I type this review, there’s new drama unfolding with Harry and Meghan that I don’t fully understand.
I think I’ll wait for the television version.
Firewater’s God-Save-the-Queen Report Card: A-
Oh, I’m watching Season 4. You can bet the Crown Jewels on that.