The Crown season 4 review: Netflix's historical drama is an absolute treat for royal watchers and the uninitiated
The season makes for some delightful episodic arcs such as the most watched wedding of the previous century; Charles and Diana’s Royal visit to Australia; the security breach at Buckingham Palace; the tragic, downward spiral of Princess Margaret; the much talked about rift between The Queen and Thatcher.
A delicious, dreaded foreboding.
That's the feeling that hangs over the much-awaited fourth edition of The Crown, which, like previous seasons, pulls back the curtains of Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street during a particular period in time (roughly 1979 to 1990).
What stands out immediately is that though the now weary Queen (played by the fantastic Olivia Colman) has been the sun among the planets in previous seasons, this time, there are two more stars that shine just as bright, if not, dare we say it, even brighter.
Those being the newly-elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson doing a laboured impression of the Iron Lady) as well as the stars-in-her-eyes Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) who is much more of a girl than a woman.
What makes this season riveting is the contrast between The Queen and Thatcher, the hard-as-nails women knowing exactly what they want from this world and Lady Diana, the young girl struggling to fit in to the most famous family in the world, on the other.
The season makes for some delightful episodic arcs such as the most watched wedding of the previous century; Charles and Diana’s Royal visit to Australia; the security breach at Buckingham Palace; the tragic, downward spiral of Princess Margaret; (a criminally underused Helena Bonham Carter) the much talked about rift between The Queen and the PM; each of which have been craftily conceptualised and lovingly essayed.
The money is still very much on the screen: the lavish costumes, the opulent sets, the exquisite cinematography, but what stands even further is the smashing performances by the main cast and supporting actors.
No surprise that Olivia Colman remains pitch perfect as The Queen: who for the most part remains a distant, dignified character among all the tumult around her.
Truly excellent and heart-wrenching performances come from Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles and Corrin as Lady Diana: Connor nails the role of the troubled prince stuck in a doomed marriage: The forever-drooped shoulders, the permanent scowl and the sheer devotion to the love of his life who just happens to be a woman who is very much not his wife.
And then there is Corrin, who has the unenviable task of portraying arguably the most beloved woman of the previous century.
While Corrin brings to life Diana’s joie de vivre, that magical glint in her eyes, the genuine warmth she felt for the common people that made her the most admired royal in no time, she also deftly showcases the other less-seemly side of Diana: the preening, performative People’s Princess that looks to steal the spotlight from her hapless and unhappy husband.
Corrin’s performance puts one in mind of an animal trapped in a corner: eyes darting this way: of a strained, nervous, unformed quality (to quote former US president Barack Obama).
It is Diana’s very human struggles to navigate the royal labyrinth, which eat away at her very being, that keep the viewer hooked and wanting more.
While The Crown certainly isn’t above stunt-casting (Michael C Hall as John F Kennedy remains Exhibit A and Dominic West is to play Prince Charles in seasons 5 and 6 Exhibit B) Anderson as Thatcher proves to be an inspired casting decision and not at all the distraction that most people, including this critic, so feared before the start of the season.
Anderson as elected PM proves the perfect sparring partner and foil for Colman’s unelected Queen Elizabeth in ways that none of the other characters (or cast members) could hope to be.
Almost every scene between the two women, a power play between two titans of Crown and government, is an absolute masterclass.
While Anderson gets Thatcher’s look, her dialogue delivery and iron countenance right (still too pretty by far though!), she never quite fully completes the transformation into Thatcher.
Of course, we the viewers know what the characters don’t: How Thatcher’s extraordinary reign at 10 Downing Street is to come to an abrupt end at the hands of her own party, how Charles and Diana split and her tragic death and its impact on the Royal Family (surely to be covered in future seasons).
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but woe be to those that are in closest proximity to it. The Crown season 4 is an absolute treat for Royal watchers and the uninitiated alike.
(All images from Netflix)
The Crown season 2, which follows the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, is set to be released on Netflix on 15 November.
Watch the trailer here —
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