The Crown, created by the great and powerful Peter Morgan, dives into the political rivalries and romances of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the events that shaped the second half of the 20th century. The fourth season, now streaming on Netflix, explores the famous events of the ‘Thatcher Era’ i.e. between 1979 – 1990. Gillian Anderson takes up the role of Margaret Thatcher, while Emma Corin plays a young Princess Diana, who initially falls in love with yet soon experiences a tumultuous marriage with Prince of Wales (played by Josh O’Connor).
This, in my view, was by far the best season of the show so far due to the characters mentioned above – Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher. These two women, both unique in their own right and with totally contrasting personalities, brought new life to the show due to their their compelling story arks and strong on-screen presence. These characters seemed like indistinguishable replicas from their real-life personas – superbly portrayed by Emma Corin and Gillian Anderson. Lets now dive into what made these two characters so special.
With regards to Princess Diana, she was the belle of literally every ball. Corin brought an infectious, youthful and innocence presence to her character, which made her an extremely likeable person. Diana was an outsider to the Crown – though born in an aristocratic family, she was very much a working class woman who enjoyed the thrill of independence. She also (at first) lacked a rudimentary understanding of what it meant to be a “princess”, which made sense because she was only eighteen years old when she married Charles. These character traits made her dynamic with Charles interesting, because he was the exact opposite of her. The show did an excellent job to illustrate how the pair’s contrasting personalities led to the degradation of their marriage.
Moving to Margaret Thatcher, she was presented as a stern and steadfast woman with conservative ideologies. With her hair festered with hairspray and her deep yet persuasive voice, Thatcher stood out as a fresh face to British politics. Her relationship with the Queen was particularly intriguing. Though they were both women, they often did not see eye to eye on many social and economic issues, yet there was always a hidden mutual admiration between them. Like Diana, Thatcher too was presented as an outsider – as illustrated brilliantly by the episode titled The Balmoral Test.
Other highlights of this season, and generally all the seasons of this show, was its attention to detail. One thing that is indisputable about The Crown is its authenticity. From the furniture & paintings scattered around the Queen’s’ palaces, to the outfits worn by the characters to the mannerisms exhibited by members of the royal family, everything felt right. Even the real-life events covered over this season, though dramaticized to a certain extent, were well researched so that they were presented in an accurate manner. The score and sound-mixing were also well orchestrated. This is best illustrated in the episode titled Avalanche:
In the episode Avalanche, Charles is caught in a deadly avalanche on his trip to Switzerland. The Queen, not knowing the condition of her son, was, in a scene, shown with her back to the camera staring hopelessly out a window. In the backdrop, we hear a clock ticking, emphasizing the slow passage of time and the emphasis of each passing second – how even the most miniscule measure of time could change the future trajectory of the monarchy.
My favorite episode of the season was by far Terra Nullius, where Charles and Diana struggle to balance their marriage with their royal duties in Australia. This episode showcased how Diana and Charles’ (well mostly Diana’s) infectious presence garnered the admiration of Australians, yet how jealousy and distaste from one of these characters led to a stain forming in their marriage.
The only bit of constructive criticism that I have for this season was its minimal use of time-stamps. It would’ve been nice to have seen more time-stamps being used within and between episodes to denote the passing of time, especially since the entire season takes place over a period of roughly eleven years. However, this is only a minor complaint. Season 4 of The Crown is excellent, for all the reasons I have mentioned above. It is shocking that we would have to wait another two years for the next season to come out, but I am optimistic that the next season would be an even bigger banger.