Review: The Crown Season 2

The Crown Season 2
Image credit: Youtube

Now onto a second series, one might be forgiven for being worn out by the domestics of the British royal family, particularly by a show whose success hinges on audience members caring a shred about them. However, once again the Netflix original has elevated itself above the average period fare. Where lesser shows would have produced a second series tinged with directionless, soapy style story-telling, ITVs Victoria springing to mind, The Crown excels by continuing to enhance its high production values through the display of well structured, elegant and effectively thematic storytelling.

As we are taken on a winding road through mid twentieth century scandal, headlines and political landmarks, the young cast of royals are all given their moments to shine. Matt Smith stands out this time round having grown into the role of Prince Philip, who continues to grapple with the fact that as a subject to the Crown he is in fact subject to his wife. This conflict could have got old very quickly but no longer does the Smith’s portrayal feel as restless. Surprising instead is a look at his more vulnerable side and his intrinsic role as part of the shows exploration of family commitment and loyalty. “Remember you have a family” is the note left by Claire Foy’s Elizabeth as he takes her place on five month tour around Britain’s foreign territories. Episode nine is consequently a stand out, compelling and challenging chapter as an exploration of the princes’ own family background and the resulting boiling hot pot of expectation, pressure and personal tragedy he comes to ladle onto his son, the boy Prince Charles.

Vanessa Kirby also shines, portraying a Princess Margaret who is having a hard time out of love. The last series saw her deprived of the chance to marry the love of her life, Peter Townsend resulting in loneliness and bitterness. The choices made to force happiness or find make her storyline particularly tragic.

Amongst the exploration of character, the show manages to do something very clever. We feel privy and invested in the character’s personal woes, yet it achieves the feat of simultaneously maintaining a distance through a lens of parody. We do not always identify with their ideas and the family all voice their fears of the changing world beyond their gates. This is a period of crumbling empire, the erosion of Britain’s standing worldwide and therefore efforts to modernise the family to ensure its survival are received by its members with bitterness and considered an encroachment on their dignity and divine right. This is not hidden. The Queen is not portrayed as a progressive liberal for the sake of audience appreciation. In this sense, the Crown has to be applauded because I found myself often frowning, laughing and caring all at once.

There has been a good deal written about The Crown’s historical accuracy and ultimately for a show as well constructed as this one this is in most instances irrelevant. Of course the private moments have been dramatised. People around the world are fed myth, scandal and intrigue about the royal family and this an expertly handled interrogation and interpretation of the making of the narrative fed to us. However as mentioned, this is a period of crumbling empire. It would only do right to spend some time considering the implications of decolonisation for the colonised. Time is spent on Nkrumah and Ghana, to exemplify, but one does wonder whether more could be covered in perhaps more depth to address what decades of rule under the crown, if symbolically, has meant beyond the British islands.

Ultimately this is enjoyable, meaty and compelling stuff. The accents are as hammed up as ever. The politics is as twisting and turning as one might expect from world events of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Key though is this series’ exploration of character and family that cements The Crown as one of the best period shows of the last few years.


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