Season Review The Crown

The Crown – Season One

"Monarchy is God's sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth. To give ordinary people an ideal to strive towards, an example of nobility and duty to raise them in their wretched lives."

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I had no idea I could love The Crown so passionately, but this is one spectacular season of television that doesn’t disappoint in any way.

Showcasing the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she assumes the throne at the age of 25, The Crown lavishly recreates Buckingham Palace (this is reportedly the most expensive TV show in history) while breathing a whole lot of dimension into the esteemed Windsor family. You would assume the subject material to be dreadfully boring (and indeed this was my apprehension before beginning the show), but every single script of the show’s 10-episode debut season is exquisitely realized. There are no wasted subplots or unrealistic motivations, just capably-drawn characters and a plot that services them instead of the other way around.

Of course The Crown simply would not work if Elizabeth herself wasn’t perfectly cast, and Claire Foy is a real revelation here. She’s confident, insecure, optimistic, cynical and everything in between –  the actress brings all of these facets to life in a complex manner, and we root for the heroine until the very end. It helps that Foy is surrounded by a masterclass of acting thespians: John Lithgow is downright astounding as her Prime Minister Winston Churchill: he captures the man’s bizarre eccentricities and yet still manages to be incredible likeable. Also amazing? Vanessa Kirby as the Queen’s sister Margaret. As the out-of-control princess, Kirby is a hoot in every scene, perfectly balancing the character’s wildfire and heartbreaking tragedy of a life. I dare say that the bond between the two sisters is the heart of the show, and it culminates in a powerful manner by the time the season finale comes around.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t praise Hans Zimmer’s utterly magnificent musical score. I genuinely can’t remember the last time a TV series wowed me with such gorgeously composed and affecting music. In fact, The Crown singlehandedly reminded me just how impactful a rousing piece of music could be. Give Zimmer every award in town, because his work here is a towering achievement.

Royal Bits

– Avoid this section if you haven’t watched the whole season; it’s going to be filled with spoilers.

– The great thing about The Crown‘s characters is that I was constantly torn over several of them. Take Prince Phillip for example: I hated him the majority of the time for his old-fashioned treatment of Elizabeth, and yet somehow, I understood his insecurities.

– Victoria Hamilton did a terrific job as the Queen Mother. You sensed her love, but also the hints of jealousy in between when her daughter assumed power.

– Everyone finding out about King George’s death (his family in particular) gave me goosebumps. What a chilling and haunting sequence.

– With its distinct focus on the gut-wrenching relationship between Elizabeth and Margret, episode 8 was a real highlight for me. It was especially hilarious to witness Margaret take Lilibit’s place and cause chaos in the Kingdom (those speeches were hysterical).

– Jared Harris as King George? Tremendous casting! I particularly loved all the flashbacks (especially as he asked his daughter not to let the Crown come between them). And how perfect was his brother Edward played by the uber-talented Alex Jennings? What a sleazeball!

– Heartbreaking moment: Churchill coming to terms with the painting that was commissioned of him and how “frail” he looks.

– Just how compelling and addictive is this show? Every episode is 60 minutes long, and I never once found myself bored. Now that’s an impressive feat!

– I genuinely got all teary eyed as Winston kissed Elizabeth on the forehead in the finale during their “last audience”. What a beautiful father-daughter dynamic they forged.

– So Anthony Eden had drug problems didn’t he? Elizabeth is going to have a hard time with this one!

– If this season had any drawbacks, it would be the sudden introduction of Elizabeth’s almost-love Porchey. How random was he?

– Margaret’s plight in the finale was so frustrating wasn’t it? You really felt for Elizabeth being unable to help her sister, and the harsh decision she had to make. The season’s final moment with Elizabeth Regina (that’s latin for Queen) posing for a portrait with a stoic yet broken look was a poignant way to end the season. She might seem powerful, but does she really have the power to do anything at all?

Quotes & Queens

King George: (to Prince Phillip) You understand, the titles, the dukedom. They’re not the job. She is the job. She is the essence of your duty. Loving her. Protecting her. Of course, you’ll miss your career. But doing this for her, doing this for me, there may be no greater act of patriotism. Or love.

Churchill: We’re all dying. That’s what defines the condition of living.

Queen Mary: Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth. To give ordinary people an ideal to strive towards, an example of nobility and duty to raise them in their wretched lives. Monarchy is a calling from God. That is why you are crowned in an abbey, not a government building. Why you are anointed, not appointed. It’s an archbishop that puts the crown on your head, not a minister or public servant. Which means that you are answerable to God in your duty, not the public.

Queen Mary: While you mourn your father, you must also mourn someone else. Elizabeth Mountbatten. For she has now been replaced by another person, Elizabeth Regina. The two Elizabeths will frequently be in conflict with one another. The fact is, the Crown must win. Must always win.

Queen Mary: To do nothing is the hardest job of all. And it will take every ounce of energy that you have. To be impartial is not natural, not human.

Elizabeth: I am aware that I am surrounded by people who feel that they could do the job better, strong people with powerful characters but, for better or worse, the crown has landed on my head.

Conclusion
An impeccably made drama with rich storytelling, elegant production design, and a flawless cast. Truly one of the best shows of the year!

Nad Rating
A

5 comments

  1. I have to agree with you on all points, Nadim. I just finished watching “The Crown” over the weekend and I was amazed. Like you, I didn’t anticipate how much I would love it. Now, I’m recommending it to everyone I know.

    Everything about this show is brilliant! The casting is perfect. Claire Foy is convincing as Queen Elizabeth but, to me, Vanessa Kirby and Victoria Hamilton are the exceptional scene-stealers. (Hamilton also steals every scene in “Doctor Foster”.) Matt Smith and John Lithgow are incredible. It’s amazing how alternately irritating then sympathetic Smith’s Prince Phillip is. I felt the only miscasting was Michael C. Hall as JFK; he sounded like a Saturday Night Live parody of Kennedy. The direction, the sets, the editing, the music (as you also pointed out) couldn’t be any better.

    God save the queen!

    1. So glad you loved it too Rocco! It’s so intriguing and well made. Tell me if you watch season two because I never did! Would love to know if it’s as good!

  2. I did watch Season 2 and it was much darker than Season 1. This is not a bad thing and was probably unavoidable, as scandals and tragedies plagued much of England in the late-1950s to early-1960s, as well as its fall from the world stage. In spite of what I said about the miscasting of Michael C. Hall as JFK, the “Dear Mrs. Kennedy” episode really revealed QEII’s vulnerabilities. Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy was priceless and more than made up for Hall’s stumbling. The final episode, the last with Claire Foy, Vanessa Kirby (who will be replaced by the fantastic Helen Bonham Carter) and Matt Smith, was stunning and devastating. Check Season 2 out, Nadim: you won’t be disappointed.

    BRING ON SEASON 3!

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