There’s a scene in season three of The Crown where Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins) tells Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), “We don’t want you to be normal. We don’t know what we want from you, apart from being ideal. An ideal.”
This season of the Netflix drama, which drops on 17 November, like the previous two, reinforces the belief that being a member of the royal family comes with a price - to be unbiased, ideal and appropriate even when you are not. The brilliant cast of the show aptly portrays this predicament.
While the previous two seasons of The Crown showed Queen Elizabeth trying to accept herself as the monarch, the latest season focuses on her as a ‘settled sovereign’ trying to keep up with the advancing times in the 13-year span from 1964 to 1977. The ten episode show also throws light on issues Britain faced in those years, from the Aberfan tragedy and devaluation of the pound in 1967 to the mine workers’ strike in 1972. However, creator Peter Morgan, not even once, fails to show the impact these events have on the Queen.
The fact that the main characters have been recast to show their advancing years could have resulted in a debacle had the new actors lost the essence of the show. However, the show just gets better. Every single actor is flawless in their respective roles, especially Olivia Colman. Taking over the Queen’s role from Claire Foy (who was just perfect, one must mention), Colman is nothing but magnificent. The Academy Award winner makes you feel for the Lillibet suppressed under the burdensome title of the monarch.
She’s still dabbling with her duties, making errors and learning. But as much as one wants to find flaws with the character, one just ends up humanizing her.
Been put up on a pedestal by the people of Britain and the government, she ends up being disappointed in herself for not being very emotive. In one particular sequence, she tells PM Wilson, “I’ve known for some time that something is wrong with me.” This revelation is because she did not shed a tear at the death of more than 100 children in the Aberfan tragedy. So much so that she plays a funeral hymn which eventually makes her cry. In such moments and more, Olivia Colman slides into the skin of the Queen and makes every shot come alive.
Another thing which really satisfied me as a fan of the show was the evolution of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s relationship.
While the previous seasons saw tension between Elizabeth and Philip as they tried settling into their new roles of being public figures, this one sees them completely comfortable with it. Completing 25 years of their marriage, their relationship is now settled, mature and loving.
Still an entitled snobbish man, Philip (Tobias Menzies) has now accepted living in his wife’s ever large shadow and being somewhat happy with it. Menzies is terrific in his portrayal of the Duke of Edinburgh and smoothly transitions from Matt Smith, who reprised the role previously. In an episode which focuses on the Apollo 11 mission which first landed man on the moon, Menzies brilliantly presents Philips’ insecurity about his achievements in life. With very less dialogues, the sequence is depicted through his body language and expressions which are on point.
And then there is Helena Bonham-Carter as Princess Margaret who’s equally scornful and sarcastic as Vanessa Kirby. She makes one feel irritated and empathetic all at once. Evidently, she wants to be in the limelight to make up for the pain in her marriage and brings it out beautifully. However, in comparison to Kirby, the only thing she lacked was a bit of flair and flamboyance.
The supporting cast aids these performances beautifully, especially Lord Mountbatten (Charles Dance), Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty). Just like his Tywin Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Dance is scheming, uptight and perfect as Philip’s uncle Mountbatten. Josh bears an uncanny resemblance to the Prince of Wales, chiefly during the scene of his investiture ceremony. His resistance towards his family, love for Camilla (she makes a brief appearance), and similarities with the Duke of Windsor make him one of the most interesting characters of the season. Failing to find his ‘mummy’ in the Queen, his plea to not be separated from Camilla is met with “We have all made sacrifices and suppressed who we are” by her. O’Connor and Erin Doherty represent the next generation of royals wanting to be normal in the Buckingham Palace (Only wish we saw more of Doherty as the unapologetic Anne).
What makes ‘The Crown’ a beautiful and satisfying watch are the silent moments intertwined with the narrative. Characters are given enough time to think, to delve into the situations and to be silent.
Their silence speaks louder than anything else. Wide, central shots absorb you in their conflicted world. It gives the viewers enough time to feel the emptiness of everything surrounding the royal family. The grandeur, lavish production only adds to one’s experience of wanting to be a part of that life.
Peter Morgan never lets you forget that this family was not meant to be in this position and their life could have been way different, and happier perhaps. Elizabeth takes over the throne unwillingly, kills a part of herself to be able to do it and then becomes the Queen no one expected her to be. She is exactly like Margaret tells her to be - “Everything falls apart only if we say it has. That’s the thing about monarchy. We paper over the cracks. And if what we do is loud, grand and confident enough, no one will notice that all around us it’s fallen apart. So you must hold it all together.”
The drama is a compelling watch which gives an insight into the most popular family in the world. If the Netflix show’s aim was to portray this family as any other imperfect one, to show the toll royalty takes on their personal lives, then it has succeeded and how!