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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

The Crown Season 4: War of the Women (Review.)

Season five of The Crown came out this Sunday and I was surprised as anyone how quickly I burned through the entire season, hanging on with bated breath for every piece of drama, every bit of piping hot tea and gossip that the royal family had to offer this year. This season focussed not just on Elizabeth and Phillip and Princess Margaret but on the shows two new burning stars, Prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the people’s princess, Lady Diana. The two women tear through the walls and comforts of the royal family and turn the main cast upside down.

Gillian Anderson is frighteningly good as Margaret Thatcher, stony-faced and raspy-voiced. I know little about the iron lady, but I know she’s polarising, people love her or hate her. She’s the first prime minister to really challenge Elizabeth in their weekly briefings, talking down to the queen like she is an ignorant child. It’s fascinating to watch her as she turns the nation to ruin, leads them into a war and ruins their economy, all with a perfect, horsey accent and perfectly coiffed hair.

The Crown is at its best when it’s highlighting the class hypocrisy and inequality, as it does in episode 5, “Fagan.” Fagan was a man who very much broke into the palace, TWICE, and had a conversation with Queen Elizabeth in her bed chambers about Thatcher. In real life, the queen’s conversation with Fagan wasn’t as interesting as the show made it seem. Fictionalised Fagan laments his life struggles to Elizabeth, demanding change as the Thatcher administration ruins his life, taking his job away from him.

He yearns for the things that make the people of the nation happy, “The right to work the right to be old the right to be ill. The right to be frail, be ill, be human.” The show hammers home the message as Fagan lines up for unemployment while societies elite lines up to shake the hand of the queen. It reminded me of the documentary episode in season 3 where the royals were totally clueless about the plight of the people, and what they represent to those suffering to make ends meet.

Diana is the other star of the season, played by Emma Corrin who Is perfectly delightful, refined, polite, whimsical, and caring. They take a very odd decision, in the beginning, to portray Diana very young, however; a petulant child unable to cope with the stresses of becoming princess while her husband is absent, and still pursuing Camilla. She starts to hold her own event, standing up to Charles, demanding more from the queen, and we do start to sympathise. With her responsibilities, with her mental health and eating disorders, and her struggle to be respected and loved within the family.

But there is still the image of the dignified, well-spoken princess of the people. It’s easy to see why people loved her, even this dramatized version of her. However, if I were watching as, say, a son of Diana, both of whom are very much alive, I wouldn’t be so happy with the portrayal of the seemingly loveless marriage between Charles and Diana. Corrin does portray a Diana very much in love with her children though, her compassion and commitment to them bursting off the screen.

This is truly were the crown reaches the modern age, and I believe its portrayals will become trickier to get right as we steer into what is the current family, continuing forward I’d imagine things will become more fictionalised and less mired in recorded historical fact. The relationship between Charles and Diana, they’re discussions and fights could be completely fabricated. Did they yell so much? Did princess Margaret make an impassioned plea to call off their wedding? Did Elizabeth truly dislike her? It’s impossible to say. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle modern problems in season 6.

Being Australian I took particular interest in the episode where they did a tour of the country, it was a perfect depiction of Charles and Diana’s ups and downs in one episode. But how much of the private conversations, beyond the public appearances and the pretty, accurate frocks wore on their tour?

It’s sad watching and knowing what happens with them, what happens to Diana, a cloud follows the fictionalised versions of the royals, as we know during every fight or triumph what tragedy is going to come.

Of course, Thatcher and Diana aren’t the only characters who have the spotlight on them. Josh O’Connor plays a perfectly timid and pretentious William. Olivia Coleman’s Elizabeth is still spot on, as is the pomp and hypocrisy of Phillip. Then of course there is Princess Margaret, Helena Bonham Carter is still a strong hurricane of a presence, her struggle with divorce and mental illness is truly heartbreaking. Episode 7, “the Hereditary Principle”, Bonham Carter is a tidal wave of emotion and passion as she fights her mental illness and a family who treats mental illness like it is a curse or abomination.

Truly, as someone who doesn’t hold great affection for the royals or their place in the world and history, I am constantly surprised how sympathetic these characters are and how much I care about the struggles and emotions of an institution I usually don’t like very much. That is the power of the Crown. The Show can do very little wrong, so it will be interesting to see, in season five and six with a whole new cast, how the show will tackle the 2000’s, with adult princes, an aging Charles, and whatever happens beyond.

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