Following up on my post about The Crown, Mom and I have watched the first two seasons and started season 3. For her, season 3 is a bit easier to follow – they are more like stand-alone episodes so she doesn’t have to remember a story arc. I have mixed feelings about season 3 … for the same reason.
Because seasons 1 and 2 were more focused on relationships than events, the inconsistencies with the real timeline were less important to the overall story. So, if Rev. Billy Graham did not visit the Queen during the year presented in the episode, but did visit before and after that time frame, it was fine. She needed someone with whom she could discuss forgiveness, so shifting things a bit to accommodate was not a big deal. Philip’s father really didn’t blame him for the deaths of his sister and other relatives on the flight from Germany to England – I should hope not – but it somehow felt like Philip blamed himself. I could buy that, even if it wasn’t remotely true, because he felt abandoned. Other changes from reality seemed similarly minor or they conflated details from a few events to reflect the overall situation.
For me, there were several takeaways from seasons 1 and 2, which covered from 1947 (wedding) to 1964 (birth of Prince Edward). Elizabeth as a young woman and as Queen was introverted and stoic in public, though showed more personality in private. She mourned her father’s death, chatted with her mother and sister, felt remorse when conflict arose and shared many emotions with her husband – sometimes frustration or anger and other times laughter, teasing and even flirting. In real life, there are reports of her sense of humor, which was present but perhaps underplayed in The Crown. In the show, she and Philip had a contentious marriage, particularly over Philip’s role, name, house, fidelity and children. In real life, those were all issues they faced, so the show seemed to capture that essence. I hope for Elizabeth’s sake that Philip was less whiny in real life than he was on the show and that his progress in finding his role and settling down was less uneven and didn’t take a decade.
The story arcs allowed for a synthesis of character traits and an overall sense of the relationships. Elizabeth and Margaret … Elizabeth and Churchill … Elizabeth and Philip … Elizabeth and her father … Elizabeth and Tommy Lascelles … Philip and Margaret … the Duke of Windsor (aka David) and, well, pretty much anyone, …. I appreciate complex relationships and the ups and downs of life.
And the cast was fabulous! They really made me care about these people or at least want to know more about them. In fact, it’s hard to pick a favorite episode from season 1, though anything with Jared Harris (Bertie), Pip Torrens (Tommy Lascelles) or Alex Jennings (David) probably scored pretty high. Vergangenheit and Paterfamilias were probably my favorites from season 2, along with the Queen’s trip to Ghana in Dear Mrs. Kennedy. Claire Foy was new for me – I’d seen many others in the cast before, in prior roles – but she was really fantastic and gave a nuanced performance that really helped to show Elizabeth as a dedicated and conscientious queen, an exasperated yet love-struck wife (honestly, sometimes she and Philip were really cute together), and a distracted mother. She was able show emotion even behind the public face. Matt Smith as Philip and Vanessa Kirby were good, though sometimes annoying for me – but this may be more about the characters than the actors … mostly I think it was the characters! Seriously, how often could they blame Elizabeth for something that was their fault! Yet, I also felt their pain and frustration in having to temper their bigger personalities and ambitions and to fall in line behind a “dull” Elizabeth.
Coming up … thoughts on season 3.