The Crown season 5 starring Imelda Staunton and Elizabeth Debicki takes us back to the 90s, one of the most turbulent yet still much talked about era from the Queen’s reign and the aftermath of it!
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. This season in particular has been all about defining that phrase in more ways than one. After Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman, the baton has now been passed to Imelda Staunton this season to play the titular role. With The Queen’s passing this year, the show just hits differently this time around as we get to see her brought back to life on-screen at least. The Crown, however, has always been an amalgamation of fact and fiction. Or maybe fiction more than fact. It’s Peter Morgan’s imagination of how these important events during the Queen’s reign would’ve taken place.
In season 5, we see the cold war between Prince Charles (Dominic West) and Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) become more and more cutthroat as the two are constantly in this competition of who can take revenge better. When it comes to The Queen’s own marriage, Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce) undeniably supports her on some days but seems increasingly distant on some as he develops a new friendship with his godson’s wife Penny (Natasha McElhone) whom he shares similar interests with. Princess Margaret (Leslie Manville) seems to have mellowed down over the years but old wounds between the sisters reopen when she crosses paths with the love of her life after 35 years.
Amidst all of this, The Queen also spends a lot of this season trying to save the one thing that she’s kept for herself all these years. The royal yacht, famously known as ‘The Brittania’ has now run its course but she tries her best to hold on to it for as long as she can. This also serves as a metaphor for how the monarchy always struggles between holding on to its ancient royal traditions and modern times. This is also the root cause of many nasty divorces which the crown could’ve simply avoided by moving ahead with the times. As the Queen also tells her grandson Prince William (Rufus Kampa) in a scene where he is trying to fix her TV that’s probably as old as her, “Even the televisions are metaphors in this place”.
While Charles and Diana’s disintegrating marriage still seems like the primary topic of this season, we also have to stay attentive and juggle between The Queen, Prince Philip, and Princess Margaret, the gore history of the Romanovs and their burial in Russia, Prime Minister John Major (Johnny Lee Miller) and the wealthy businessman Mohammed Fayed’s (Salim Daw) arcs as well. Of course, the billionaire Fayed who wants to learn the daily etiquette of a British man and also buy his way to a friendship with the royals, and his son Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) will play a much more important role in the next season. Their introduction in this part was probably to lay foreground so we feel the impact of it in the final one. But it becomes difficult to stay focused on any of these arcs as they fail to deliver the momentum they should, especially since the show takes constant leaps from one episode to the next.
The acting, though, still captivates you to the fullest. Elizabeth Debicki especially stood out to me this season. She brings out the same pain and emptiness that Diana has in her eyes while doing the blasphemous interview with Martin Bashir. It’s something that’s still so fresh in people’s memories and possibly one of the most scandalous interviews to air on television and yet she finessed that scene with such poise. Dominic West and Olivia Williams who plays Camilla Parker Bowles also deliver their best in the scenes where they’re dealing with the aftermath of their rather private conversations being leaked to the world.
The Crown’s background score will always rank high on my charts. Hans Zimmer who composed the show’s theme track has made it impossible for me to skip the intro and Martin Phipps increases tension in scenes that are intense with his dense violin tracks. The brilliant production designer Martin Childs offers us the exact replica of the designs when it comes to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, and the Royal Britannia. I often have to remind myself that it’s a set since shooting at these locations would be prohibited obviously. Which means that it’s a job well done. Costume designers Amy and Sidonie Roberts also have me wondering how they recreated all of Diana’s outfits the exact same way, especially the iconic ‘revenge dress’. The show is clearly very well executed on these technical fronts.
In the end, we also get a glimpse of The Queen’s new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel). A desperate Charles is tired of waiting to ascend the throne, whereas the Queen herself is retrospecting her 40 years on the throne. Despite all the famous historical events this season has to offer, it still goes amiss and doesn’t keep up with the benchmarks set especially by the first two seasons. But the lead cast still somehow manages to make this a binge-able watch.
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