No one would have blamed Peter Morgan if the sixth season was on Netflix The crown had addressed Diana’s death and its impact on the royal family only in a roundabout way.
Okay, some people absolutely would have. But personally, I wouldn’t have blamed Peter Morgan if he had decided that with 2006 The Queenwhich he had already made into his two-hour episode The crown dealing with the impact of Diana’s death on Queen Elizabeth and the precarious position of the monarchy. Morgan certainly had nothing to gain from repeating the same beats of royal mourning, along with musing on the causes behind Elizabeth’s slow initial response and the circumstances behind her ultimately well-received speech to the grieving nation.
It comes down to
A frustrating beginning to the end.
Broadcast date: Thursday November 16 (Netflix)
Form: Elizabeth Debicki, Dominic West, Khalid Abdalla, Salim Daw, Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce
Creator: Peter Morgan
At the very least, I hoped that Morgan would find an unexpected angle: the perspective of a palace guard who spends the days after Diana’s death watching over the makeshift public memorials, or a mouse at Balmoral as the news circulates from room to room. Everything, honestly, except a television rerun The Queenleaving poor Imelda Staunton with the responsibility of emulating not only the actual Queen Elizabeth, but also Helen Mirren’s Oscar-winning performance.
Unfortunately, aside from a few formal details, that’s pretty much what Morgan does in the first part of the drama’s justly acclaimed final season. Netflix decided to split the season into a four-part first part, which starts this week, followed by the final episodes in December. The split was confusing at first, but after seeing these four (and nothing since), I understand.
For better or worse, people will have a lot to say about these four episodes. They’re not terrible – if anything, Elizabeth Debicki’s take on Diana is so excellent that it’s a pleasure to see her in the spotlight for so full and long – but the third and fourth episodes in particular represented my least favorite stretch by The crown to date. Airing this arc now gives the British press and various royalist fact-checkers a month to tear garments and gnash their teeth – it is the Al-Fayed estate that should be planning the actual transgression – before they see how Morgan concludes this decade -hop to finish. experiment.
It’s actually a pretty neat four-episode mini-season that chronicles the two-month origin, rise, and heartbreaking fall of the Diana-Dodi romance. These episodes are so completely focused that there’s almost no room for anything else, especially Staunton’s Elizabeth, who has maybe five minutes of total screen time in the first three episodes combined and does almost nothing. Jonathan Pryce’s Philip is similarly wasted, though he actually has the best line of the season so far: a single beat during the fourth hour that I found shockingly effective in an episode that overall I found to be anything but.
The first two episodes that lay the groundwork for what unfolded with Diana and Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) are quite good. The former has a very welcome lightness, especially knowing where things are going, showing William (Ed McVey) and Harry (Luther Ford) in a sympathetic way, finding sympathy for the pairing of Charles (Dominic West) and Camilla (Olivia Williams) and even finds a way to work with some vintage British musical curiosities from the late 90s, from Chumbawamba to Kula Shaker.
Much of Debicki’s Emmy-nominated performance last season focused on the woes of the dissolving Charles/Diana marriage, and she was so heartbreaking in it, but it’s just as nice to see her portray a version of the character playing with an individual identity – rightly so. heroic one moment and cleverly flirtatious the next. She’s great as this woman who only learned the limits of her luxurious prison cell after it was too late, and as last season’s wonderful episode “Couple 31” taught us, she and West are great together.
The second episode of the new season, ‘Two Photographs’, is a great example of what I’ve always liked most The crown – namely Morgan’s ability to approach a familiar story from new and unexpected angles.
There isn’t enough of that in the second half of this arc. The third episode in particular becomes a rather brutal battle against Dodi, presented as a spineless man-child, and father Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw), who becomes a cunning Machiavellian stereotype that bears no resemblance to the sympathetic and nuanced version. of the character we met in season five.
It’s been twenty years since anyone believed in the “This was Diana’s second fairy tale novel!” story some people pushed for after her death, but Morgan’s decision to treat the short coupling as merely a fateful enabler in Diana’s life – the moment she realized she needed to focus on herself and not on being a woman or girlfriend – is uninterestingly utilitarian. . Most of all, the third episode violates the contract that Morgan has had with the audience since the beginning of the series, in which we know that almost every conversation we witness is the product of a writer’s imagination—something we happily accept when those conversations are cleverly constructed and carefully written. There’s barely an exchange in the third episode that isn’t imbued with a “These people are going to DIE!” foreshadowing that makes the whole thing unconvincing.
There’s improvement in the fourth hour, thanks in part to the ensemble’s performances, but it’s strange how little Morgan has adjusted his view of Elizabeth over these six seasons compared to the insight offered within the much more limited scope of The Queen. The series offers several variations on the aloof version of Elizabeth, who is not always comfortable in her role as national matron, especially in season 3’s “Aberfan,” one of the show’s best episodes. So why does the Elizabeth in ‘Aftermath’ feel barely developed anymore? Ideally, given everything that came before it, the insights in this episode should be completely different or more thoroughly developed than they were in The Queen. Instead, they just feel repetitive.
A title card that says “Just go see the movie!” would have been more efficient and opened the door for Morgan to spend more time breathing into the series’ homestretch.
I’m certainly curious to see how the rest of the season plays out, because not only is this mini-chapter a bit of a miss, but Charles has a monologue in the fourth episode that is an equally clear closing statement of the show’s thesis – about responsibilities and challenges of simultaneously existing as a human being and as an embodiment of an ideal – as Morgan might imagine. After repetition The Queen writ large, is he really going to spend another six episodes repeating that monologue? Come back in December!