Having invested 40 hours of my life in this, one of the finest serials that Netflix has produced, ten of those hours in the last four days unwilling to miss a single beat from the episodes collectively constituting Season 4, the question I asked myself was, ‘Was it worth it?’ And the answer is an emphatic yes! I can’t wait for the next season, to experience more about the vulnerabilities and transgressions of Britain’s most-revered Royal family. Gosh, if this family can be so muddled in its priorities, who are we?
In its four-year existence, The Crown has made us loyal to the Royal. The first season featured Claire Foy as Princess Elizabeth. Ms Foy’s attempts to come to terms with her thorny crown were majestically portrayed. Most of us became subjects to The Crown in the first season. The following one featured the same cast. But the struggle for Princess-Queen Elizabeth to find her bearings was diversified into several new channels, giving Season 2 a bigger emotional heft than Season 1.
Season 3 brought in the acclaimed Olivia Colman as Elizabeth. I’ve always had a problem in accepting Ms Colman’s reputation as a great actress. No matter what she plays, she looks stricken and anxious that the roast chicken in the oven may burn and the dinner guests would have to go home unfed. Not that Queen Elizabeth needs to do even a day of cooking in her life. But you get my drift?
In Season 4, Ms Colman’s Elizabeth allows herself to be walked all over by Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher every time they meet over tea. Why only Maggie! The Queen looks lost (remember the roast in the oven?) even when sparring with her feisty sister Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter, one of the highlights of the series) or exchanging barbs with her patient, bemused and silently suffering husband, Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies, uniformly brilliant). I wish Ms Colman would show some added spunk in her habitual stone cold demeanour.
In this season’s fifth and best episode, a psychologically disturbed stranger Michael Fagan (Tom Brooke, incredibly in-character) walks right into the Queen’s bedroom to discuss the state of Britain’s economy brought to the brink by Margaret Thatcher. Ms Anderson’s character begins as though she were caricaturing the original (something that Meryl Streep never did in The Iron Lady) and then the clever articulate performance gradually settles into being a source of illimitable power and impact. It won’t be wrong to say Anderson stands heads and shoulders above the stellar cast in Season 4.
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As for debutante Emma Corrin’s Princess Diana, what can I say except … awwww! The role is written in flattering shades. Diana is an imp, a gamine, a child of whimsy, a breath of fresh air and Ms Corrin just let her Diana play to the galleries. Opposite her Josh O’Connor (an actor I usually like) comes across as such a sexist wimp. I am sorry to say but O’Connor has gone through the entire series playing Charles with one dour expression. He resents Diana getting all the attention in their marriage and the best part of this scene-stealing royal deal is that we are never sure if Diana is innocently playing to the galleries or doing it deliberately. What we are sure of is, Season 4 of The Crown is heavily weighed against Prince Charles. While Diana can do no wrong, he can do nothing else. At the end of Season 4, the Crown stands at a fascinating crossroad. We know exactly where this would go. But the journey is no less intriguing and engaging for it. Can we skip the rest of the year and go straight to November in 2021?