Season 4 of The Crown Introduces Two Powerful New Players and Brings Us to Familiar Territory
It cannot be denied that its latest season makes for fantastic television
As The Crown steadily gears up for its closing act (the upcoming fifth and sixth seasons will be the last), its storylines inch closer to what may be familiar territory for even the most casual of viewers. The magnificent Olivia Colman’s final outing as Queen Elizabeth II covers events that took place in between 1977 and 1990, focusing largely on the courtship and marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and eventual resignation from office, the Falklands War, and Michael Fagan’s infamous Buckingham Palace break-in. The dramatization of these events, coupled with the historical liberties that creator Peter Morgan and his team have often taken, have certainly opened old wounds. It cannot be denied, however, that its latest season makes for fantastic television.
While the Queen is and always will be the central figure of the show (Tobias Menzies’ Prince Philip hits the home run on this idea far more eloquently towards the tail end of the season), she shares the spotlight with two highly-anticipated new arrivals this season. Entering the royal fray as Prince Charles’ bride-to-be is Lady Diana Spencer, exquisitely portrayed by Emma Corrin. This was a gargantuan task for the young actress; the Princess of Wales remains one of the most beloved public figures, and critics and fans alike must have been waiting with bated breath since her casting was made official. And like how Diana swept the world by storm with her magnetism and a warmth that went largely unassociated with the Royal Family, so did Corrin, who successfully captured not just the Princess’ speech patterns and mannerisms (the fringe peer-through is a winner), but her naïveté and pain as well. Every moment, joyous or otherwise, spent in her company is heartbreaking—this is amplified by the knowledge that it all ends in tragedy.
Residing at 10 Downing Street this season is Margaret Thatcher, a polarizing, self-made woman who made a name for herself as the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Slipping into the uncompromising Iron Lady’s jewel blue suits and bouffant yet rigid hairdo is none other than Gillian Anderson—and it is the performance of a lifetime. Anderson transforms fully and convincingly; she adapts the many elements of what made Thatcher who she was and adds a bit of her own flavor in the mix. If there’s something most of the viewing body is in agreement with, it is that she is the undeniable scene stealer this season.
It is worth nothing that the Thatcher era brings, for the very first time, two women to stand together at the helm of the ship. Queen and Minister could not be more different from each other; Thatcher’s autocratic conservatism approach to governing serves as the foil to Elizabeth’s laissez-faire style. The Crown has always done particularly well in showcasing the relationships between the Queen and her many Prime Ministers (Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth and John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill remain a particular favorite pair). Some of its best scenes this season take place during the private audiences, which are a subtle display of star power between Colman and Anderson.
The lavish sets and costumes are mainstays; and so are the spectacular cinematography (the framing is a work of art this season) and emotionally driven storytelling. What makes season 4 so crucial is that it is essentially the tipping point—the rising act of this slow-building crescendo that has us collectively holding their breaths because it sets things up for what the actual Queen has referred to as her “annus horribilis,” among other things. But this is a conversation best saved for the next chapter. For now, one must be patient and wait.
Photos courtesy of Netflix