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THE CROWN (Season 2) gets 8/10 Queen of diamonds

Creator Peter Morgan
Starring Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby

8/10

Season 2 of The Crown switches the focus to domestic affairs and, like the young Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy) depicted onscreen, begins to display more confidence in its own power. The performances are more confident too which makes it a little disappointing to remember that the cast will now make way for a new one.

A massive undertaking by Netflix costing $100 million dollars for production of both seasons, season 1 proved a success. That season opened strongly with the end of King George VI’s reign, showing a man at the end of his health taking in his family one last time and trying to meet the end with dignity. Something that proved fascinating in that first season was how a young Elizabeth was influenced by people who had lived through and believed in Victorian and Edwardian era values. None more so than Sir Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) who many of the better latter episodes focused on, showing another great man reduced in his capacities facing up to mortality. The problem was that as a character the Queen lacked agency in her own story, often briefed on world events but unable to have an opinion much less intervene. In the course of any episode she may have started out wanting to doing things her own way but ending up coming around to the wishes of ‘The Firm’.

Not so this time around. The first three episodes centre on a testing time in the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip (Matt Smith). The Duke of Edinburgh has been dispatched on a world tour aboard the Royal Yacht having felt a lack of purpose as a Royal Consort. At home the Suez Crisis ticks over representative of Britain’s reduced power in the world but unlike the first season historical events are background noise only feeding the interpersonal relationships of the characters. With Churchill gone the ensuing Prime Ministers act as metaphors to the Queen about the changing nature of the country. After the first few episodes, like season 1 before it, the show does become more episodic. An episode of Princess Margaret’s (Vanessa Kirby) wedding followed by an episode about The Kennedys coming to Great Britain for example and as before the quality maybe dips a little bit here but it’s still a first rate production.

Maybe one of the best episodes is the penultimate one dealing with Prince Philip and Prince Charles as young boys attending Gordonstoun. Matt Smith’s performance here is really elegantly understated as we see a man trying to pass on his values to his son but unable to deal with the differences between them. This is all the while seeing in flashbacks how those values came about. Prince Philip’s service in the Royal Navy during the war is well known, his challenging childhood less so and The Crown season 2 reveals quite a bit, and tastefully.

In addition to the performances of Foy, Smith and Kirby, special mention must be made to Pip Torrens as Tommy Lascelles, Private Secretary to the Queen, who continues to delight as the physical embodiment of the old establishment with his clipped accent and dour face. There is some telling insight into the nature of the monarchy throughout. Not just how they learned to change in the 20th century but also how power can make real attachments very difficult. Some people close to the Royals find that out the hard way and while their lives are wrecked the Royals step over the debris and move on. It is the same way with successive governments too, as pointed out in the first season: while it holds no real power The Crown endures.

LLOYD MARKEN

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