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The Crown Season 4 .— the saga of the royals continues with focus on Princess Diana, whose fairy tale romance could have been scripted by the Brothers Grimm.
By Elyse Sommer
Of course you know how the fairy tale marriage ends and why Margaret Thatcher became known as "The Iron Lady." But Morgan manages to make Thatcher and Diana into two fascinating, fully rounded characters and their personal stories are again cleverly interspersed with the historic events that made headlines during this season's ten-year timeline.
To achieve top-click status with Netflix viewers, Morgan again takes a writer's liberty with dialogue and factual details about the series' broader historic landscape as well as actual behind-scenes interactions. Thanks to the work of his researchers and designers, script and the many gorgeous visuals come off as authentic, and yet refreshingly new — especially given the enthralling performances by Gillian Anderson as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and a-star-is-born newcomer Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer.
The 80s decade during which the Thatcher and Diana stories play out covers a lot a lot of British and international political and social changes to interweave with theirs and the other Royals' personal concerns: The assassination of Lord Mountbatten, who was a father figure to Prince Philip and later Prince Charles; the Falklands War; The Irish Troubles; the rise of Thatcherism associated with the way this first female prime minister reshaped her party and social welfare programs.
Colman beautifully captures all the nuances of the Queen as she tries to hold on to the private and public decorum and rules that have been central to her by now over a quarter-century reign. But the arrival of Thatcher and Diana puts everything to the test: Thatcher's ultra-conservatism is a challenge for maintaining cordiality during the weekly audiences; Diana's inability to cope with Charles's continued involvement with Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennell) results in her seeking solace from the public that outshines Charles and exacerbates the marital problems.
Clearly, the Queen's plate is heaped high and there are plenty of opportunities to continue the masterful interweaving of public and private concerns. Anderson and Corrin not only manage to believably render the mannerisms and voices of the women they portray, but to let us more fully understand them.
In Thatcher's case, we see vulnerability beneath the fierce determination to do things her way. Her being England's first female prime minister is not a triumph for feminism. As for Diana, for all her playfulness she's emotionally needy, as is painfully evident by Dorrin's no-holds-barred bouts with bulimia.
Mesmerizing as it is to watch these series' dominating new characters alone and in duets with the Queen, several actors are back to further refine and deepen their characters. Josh O'Connor is even better than before as the Prince, who can't let go of his attachment to his married lover and is also too insecure to welcome his young bride's popularity during their public appearances.
Unlike his son, Prince Phillip has become comfortable staying a step behind his wife. Tobias Menzies is terrific as the other half of the long-married couple who are now enjoy a cosy compatibility. Morgsn has gifted Philip with some of the more memorable comments on family and political matters.
Like the character she plays — Elizabeth's younger sister Margaret — Helena Bonham Carter is given less rather than more to do. However, she does get one episode, The Hereditary Principle, all to herself. It's not as integral to the overall series as the other episodes but it does bear out Philip's comments about how even someone born into the Windsor clan can feel like an irrelevant outsider.
Tom Brooke's Michael Fagan, appears in just one episode named for him. That episode is a particularly effective example of intertwining one plot situation with another. In this case seeing how Thatcher's policies have caused massive unemployment. Fagan is one victim of this. While the real Fagan did actually enter the Queen's bedroom, what happens onscreen between them is probably one of Mr. Morgan's most extensive inventions.
The whole season adds hangs together so smoothly that each episode flies by. I particularly liked the preludes. if you heard that the Claire Foy, The Crown's first Elizabeth, would make an appearance, you heard right. It's in one of those preludes that she shows up.
Since the entire series is available to Neflix subscribers, anyone who hasn't seen any of the previous seasons can play catch-up. If you've seen all you may want a quick refresher by taking advantage of how this format enables you to fast forward your way through. The title of each episode includes a handy little sum-up of what it's about.
While the members of the royal family may not be thrilled with how they're portrayed here, The Crown will undoubtedly rank high with all who'll eat up any new take on the Windsors. There will be a season 5 which will feature Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth; Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip; Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret; and Dominic West as Prince Charles.
For an immediate royal fix, the terrific 2006 movie, The Queen, also scripted by Morgan and starring Helen Mirren, is still available at Netflix.
The Crown, Seasons 1 and 2. . .plus Season 3 with new cast
Being somewhat less fascinated with the British Royal family than some, the Netflix original multi-episode The Crown, didn't immediately have me gung-ho to watch the currently running first season (2016-2017). But the fact that it was created by Peter Morgan famous for Downton Abbey, did tweak my curiosity— even more so, when I learned that Morgan's movie The Queen and his Tony-winning play The Audience which I reviewed during its 2015 Broadway run (review) were the springboard for this series.
Season 1 of this decade spanning saga takes us from Elizabeth's young adulthood, to her fairy tale wedding , through her coronation. We follow her struggle to deal with the duties of being Queen and its effect on her marriage, as well as her relationship with her sister and Uncle David, the King who abdicated the throne for the woman he loved.
It was a treat to see a cast of outstanding British thespians strut their stuff. Some, like Ben Miles and Harriet Walters, I've seen during her trips across the pond, others our London critic, Lizzie Loveridge, has written about. Winston Churchill, the first of the many Prime Ministers with whom Elizabeth held her weekly audiences, is potently portrayed by the always worth watch nag American actor, John Lithgow. Some of the most compelling scenes focus on Churchill (retired and now himself an amateur painter) having his portrait painted by Graham Sutherland (a marvelous Stephen Dillane).
Morgan clearly had access to some fascinating material— like the devastating fog that almost ousted Churchill from 10 Downing street. I also didn't know much about her personal religious beliefs and meetings with the Evangelist Billy Graham (played by another American actor, Paul Sparks, whose work I've long admired).
But even when the focus is on the most familiar aspects of the Windsor dynasty's history, The Crown manages to be a fresh and fun to watch entertainment. It's a feast for the eyes with At times you feel as if you're e stepping into a museum and find yourself mouth agape at a spectacular painting before you.
While The Crown is hardly likely to match the super-hit status of Downton Abbey, it does manage to imbue this behind the scenes look at the personal ups and downs of these famous public figures with a highbrow flavor. And the cast so far couldn't be better. For starters there's Claire Foy who plays this fictive queen for just this and the next season. Her performance is wonderfully subtle . Matt Smith also gives a nicely nuanced interpretation to the role of the macho husband who has to adapt to the constraints of being the royal consort .
Alex Jennings is a standout as the Duke of Windsor who hates the way his family has exiled him from the perks of the royal life. Also excellent are s Vanessa Kirby as siser Margaret and her lovers — first, the unsuitable Peter Townsend (a superb Ben Miles) , later the photographerAnthony Armstrong-Jones ( a fascinating performance by Matthew Goode).
Jeremy Northam is very fine as Anthony Eden, Churchill's deputy prime minister and Foreign Secretary who becoms his successor. Harry Paton-Smith, who I last saw as Henry Higgins in Lincoln Center's revival of My Fair Lady here plays the young Queen's private secretary Martin Charteris.
Seaeon 2 continued to make the story I thought was too familiar to need yet another long replay, pull me in — thanks to the eye popping staging and the actors assigned to let us see what makes these familiar headliners really tick. If you need a royal drama fix before the next season of The Crown arrives, Netflix also has a detailed documentary called The Royal House of Windsor as well as a drama about another royal family, The Tudors.
The Crown, Season 3 With New Cast-
And so, once again, I wondered whether Downton Abbey style luxurious stagecraft make a decade by decade rehash of Elizabeth and company's binge worthy. Fortunately, Peter Morgan's own imaginative behind the scenes take on the Royals and the cast taking us into the 1960s delivers the goods. It did, however, require the viewer as much as the actors to adjust to inhabiting characters already impressively inhabited by others.
But Olivia Coleman as the middle-aged Elizabeth is so amazingly watchable that I was pulled right in. Just a look into Coleman's eyes once more underscores the pleasure of close-up views that are possible only when watching a filmed drama.
Tobias Menzies is also superb as the new Prince Philip, as is Helena Bohnham Carter as Priness Margaret. Philip at one point of the series has something of midlife crisis about his own unheroic life choice prompted by the first manned lunar landing. As for Margaret, she gets a major turn charming President Lyndon Johnson into granting her cash poor country a loan. Not that this gives her a more influential role in the family business. And a business is — though when Philip regains his mental equilibrium and spearheads a documentary intended to insure the Windsors' popularity by preseniing them as ordinary folks it unsurprisingly fails to convine anyone.
Other transitioning cast members include the terrific Josh O'Connor as the now grown-up Prince Charles, Erin Dohertyl as his high spirited, fun loving sister Prncess Anne, and their Machiavellan uncle Lord Mounbatten (the always reliably excellent Charles Dance). While Mountbatten is key to putting the kabash on his nephew's love affair with young Camilla Shands (Emerald Fennell), the twists and turns of the Charles-Camilla story will be revisited in future series.
With Morgan's focus on the Royal Family's continuity and how it's ahieved, a lot of major events of this and other decades are omitted here. While I have no problem with that or the liberties taken to enrich the drama and humanize its persona, I had a hard time accepting his portrayal of the king who gave up his crown for the woman he loved in this season. Despite the always great Derek Jacobi and Geraline Chaplin now playing the couple's exit from the stage of life, I found it hard overlook the failure to mention the couple's shameful support of the Nazis.
As the Queen is going through the actural challenge of having to support her curreen PM's Brexit bound policy, Season 4 is being fillmed -- so get ready to revisit Diana and the Windsors' having to deal with that traumatci chapter in their history. Stay turned to see Peter Morgans own binge-able version of what's probably the most successful family business in the world.
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The Crown Season 4, 10 Episodes
\ Cast List:
Gillian Anderson as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Olivia Colman-Queen Elizabeth
Tobias Menzies as Prince Phllip, Elizabeth's Husband
Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, younger sister of Elizabeth
Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles, the Queen's oldest son and Diana's Husband
Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer, the 18-year-old bride of Prince Charles
Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles, the married woman Charles continues to have an affair with after his marriage to Diana
Charles Dance as Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Philip's ambitious uncle and great-grandson of Queen Victoria
Marion Bailey as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Erin Doherty as Princess Anne, Philip and Elizabeth's second child and only daughter
Tom Byrne as Prince Andrew, Philip and Elizabeth's third child
Jessica Aquilina as Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew's wife
Angus Imrie as Prince Edward, Philip and Elizabeth's youngest child
Tom Brooke as Michael Fagan, a British man who entered Queen Elizabeth II's bedroom in Buckingham Palace in 1982.
Freddie Fox as Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret Thatchet
Rebecca Humphries as Carol Thatcher, daughter of Margaret Thatcher