Hold onto your orbs and prepare for the specter of the poisoned scepter once again – The Crown is back.
The fifth series of the Netflix hit seems as determined as ever to portray the Windsors as the most hideous family in history, a dastardly royal dynasty of madmen and Dementors who make the Borgias look like Beanie Babies.
“We destroy everyone who is different,” Prince Andrew (James Murray) shouts in episode four. To prove his point, he lists the virtues that first drew him to his wife Sarah before everything went downhill.
“Modern, recognizable and a lot of fun,” he said enthusiastically, perhaps not realizing that someone once said the exact same thing about the Hindenburg.
Meanwhile, after the luminous idealism of Claire Foy’s Young Queen followed by the arid pragmatism of Olivia Colman’s Middling Queen, we now have Imelda Staunton’s Late Life Queen, introduced here as a sort of seaside landlady, complete with a myth-busting corn plaster. Queen Imelda is even concerned about postmenopausal weight gain and looking forward to her vacation.
Hold onto your orbs and prepare for the specter of the poisoned scepter once again – The Crown is back
“One last day of ribbon cutting on Morecambe and then the feet will be up for summer,” she says. As if.
In scene after scene, she is an absolute Tiggywinkle of tweedy constipation, a woman at the mercy of her own emotional failings who is often puzzled by the passions of others, especially Princess Margaret’s (Lesley Manville).
In a barmy scene, Margaret storms through a crowded living room, pours herself a drink from a corgi-sized crystal carafe, and starts roaring about not being allowed to marry Peter Townsend 37 years earlier.
“Without sun and water, the crops will fail, Lilibet,” she tells her sister, whiskey tears running down her sable jacket.
‘What?’ says the queen, on behalf of all of us. I loved every moment, even if poor Lesley gets a few stinky lines. “From the acorn of simple kindness will grow an oak of happiness,” she murmurs at one point.
Speaking of jerks, Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin took home awards for their respective portrayals of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in series four, but they’re no match for this season’s A-team: Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki.
The fifth series of the Netflix hit seems as determined as ever to portray the Windsors as the most hideous family in history’s history, a dastardly royal dynasty of madmen and Dementors who make the Borgias look like Beanie Babies
West gives little hints that this newer, older Charles may be shallower than the usual cufflinked Gromit, his mouth in a gust of wind as he laments the state of his marriage and Diana’s girlish love of shopping.
Or maybe this is just the pink power of the great national Dominic West, an irrepressible crush, a pash that blinds enamored viewers (me) to any lack of flair?
Because even when he plays Prince Charles in a double-breasted blazer visiting the royal stables and calling Imelda Staunton “mom” while brushing a horse’s buttocks, Dominic is still hot.
You can understand how Princess Anne (Claudia Harrison) felt at Pladda Lighthouse on Arran in episode two, when her own search beams first brushed over the handsome Tim Laurence. ‘New viewfinder?’ she asks her mother, with the kind of hungry interest a royal owl might show in a new vole.
Best of all in the new series, Debicki captures not only the voice and mannerisms – though these are creepy – of the late princess, but also some of her eldritch mix of strength and vulnerability.
As the storyline progresses to the tragedy of foretold death—the Paris car accident coming up in the next series—Debicki’s Diana burns every scene like a cool flame.
There are longueurs, lots of them. An entire episode is devoted to Mohamed Al-Fayed, who is portrayed as a sweet Egyptian businessman with a mean side.
Meanwhile, after the luminous idealism of Claire Foy’s Young Queen followed by the arid pragmatism of Olivia Colman’s Middling Queen, we now have Imelda Staunton’s Late Life Queen, introduced here as a sort of seaside landlady, complete with a myth-busting corn plaster.
In the world of The Crown, he is allowed to be rich as well as nice because, unlike the ermine pests of writer Peter Morgan’s imagination, he is kind and benevolent. The type of millionaire who gives medicine to his dying servant and fondly fondles his empty slippers when he dies.
‘The mountain is really moving to Mohamed,’ he shouts, when it is announced that the Queen is coming to visit him. Except she doesn’t, because she’s a royal bastard and a snob, just like everyone else – except Diana, who is nice.
Production values are sky-high, while great scenes are delivered with verve and style, filled with extras and a determination to get every historical detail correct: from pearls to cars to an impressive Norma Major lookalike doing Highland coils at Balmoral.
The cast is first class. No question. Even former 007 Timothy Dalton shows up in a standard Crown trench coat to play Peter Townsend with a terminal diagnosis. No, he doesn’t want to water Princess Margaret’s crops one last time, thank goodness, just to share discreet but sexy memories of who did what to whom in the Crimson Room at Windsor Castle. Stop.
Agree, this isn’t in the best possible flavor, but what the hell is in this sprawling, soapy epic?
In its lust for pomp and circumstance, The Crown shows little tact and caution, as it plods into the souls of both the royal recently deceased and the living beings.
As the storyline progresses into the tragedy of the foretold death – the car accident in Paris coming in the next series – Debicki’s Diana burns every scene like a cool flame.
We are now 50 episodes further and even the royal family itself is starting to complain offstage about the endless penalty strokes.
Still, you could argue that approval or consultation is never sought from the hapless subjects who appear in real-life dramas like this one, those whose best and worst private moments are served up as entertainment for the viewing public.
From Tampongate to the messy royal divorces, why should the Windsors be given courtesies and privileges rarely granted to other families?
The answer, of course, is that they are not. Leaving everyone in the lurch, wondering if the Windsors were really that bad and so incessantly terrible all along.
Or if it’s fair to make such a game of their lives, embellishing events with lies and exaggerations, while piling up scenes that never happened and quotes that were never said?
“She’s a floating, sea-going expression of mine,” says the unlikely Queen Imelda, as she ponders the sinking of the royal yacht Britannia. But she could have been talking about The Crown itself.