So, I’m back again! It’s been an interesting year. More of that to come in future posts.
I started this post months ago, shortly after I finished season 3 of The Crown. It was an interesting season in that there were some parts that were very intense and other parts that were, dare I say, a little boring. If seasons 1 and 2 were more uniformly good, IMO, season 3 was a bit of a mixed bag. Mom and I are starting the series again, so may have more comments on seasons 1-3. I’m also watching season 4 with friends. It will be a bit of a smattering of thoughts, I’m afraid!
Focusing only on the transition to the new cast (not on the content of the episodes), the shift seemed both premature and overdone, in my opinion. I understand the rationale, but I think they should have figured out a way to extend the first cast through season 3, rework some of the early episodes or jump ahead in years. From the last episode of season 2 to the first episode of season 3, it was literally a jump forward of MONTHS. So, 1964 must have been a tough year for the queen, who went from looking like a lovely 30-something woman who had just given birth to a stern woman at least a decade older! It was rather jarring. Had they jumped from 1964 to 1970, it might have been more reasonable.
I can understand the recasting of characters who were prominent and on multiple episodes (like the Queen) because they don’t want to do extensive aging makeup. But I had a problem with the recasting of characters who were only seen occasionally. I love Derek Jacobi, but having him replace the wonderful Alex Jennings (as the Duke of Windsor/David) for ONE episode was ridiculous. Surely, they could have aged Alex for that one episode. For me, the emotional impact was lost because it didn’t feel like the same character.
Moving to content, the episodes in this season focus more on events rather than relationships (a change from seasons 1 and 2, see the crown, seasons 1 and 2), so for me the accuracy of the timing and background of the events becomes more important. We have a KGB mole – that’s got to be exciting, right? It was OK but a bit anticlimactic once you know that he was able to stay on the job for another 8 years. We have Princess Margaret and President Lyndon Johnson – big personalities whose real story apparently wasn’t exciting enough so the writers imagined a big wild party that led to a trade deal. The trade deal happened and Margaret visited the White House, but there wasn’t much of a party and there isn’t really causal linkage here. Then we have Aberfan, which focuses on a horrifying event that killed 144 people, 116 of whom were children. So, a focus on the inhumanity of the National Coal Board or the lives of these people who are now trying to move forward after losing so much? No, the bigger issue was: did the Queen cry or is she a heartless, non-maternal monster who cannot feel normal human emotions? Seriously? That’s where we went? <heavy sigh>
This brings me to one of the issues I have with this show. They have several interesting women (or at least women who lived during interesting times) and we seem to end up with sexist presentations or no representation. I get that the time period for this season was a sexist time, but I’m not talking about that. Here’s a question: if a king was wearing the crown, would would this show focus multiple episodes about the queen whining about her lot in life and how she pals around with the ladies who lunch? Probably not.
- The Queen Mother supported her husband as he overcame a challenging stutter and spent much of WWII at Buckingham Palace during the bombing. As I recall, she was beloved by people and by Prince Charles, and was one of the most popular members off the royal family. But she is presented as mostly devoid of personality in The Crown, not wanting to engage with people and fairly ambivalent about her daughters and grandson. She is one of the few characters who seems a bit better in season 3 – at least she smiles once in a while, but still seems vague and aloof.
- Princess Alice (Philip’s mother and Queen Victoria’s great granddaughter) could have her own mini-series! She was deaf but could still speak three languages, was a nurse in WWI, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to an institution, rescued Jewish people during WWII, and founded a nursing order of nuns in Greece. She had a couple of great episodes but mostly in her relation to her son (no surprise there), though her interaction wsith Princess Anne was fabulous!
- Queen Elizabeth II, one of the wealthiest and most famous women in the world, had to balance transitioning from the war era (and rationing) to the chaos of the 1960s and through to the challenges of the 21st century. Ostensibly, she is the star of the show but in season 3 she often seemed indecisive, tense, stern, unsure of herself, somewhat heartless, etc. – she had a personality in seasons 1 and 2 – what happened?
- Princess Anne – an Olympian who foiled her own kidnapping attempt! How could they not cover these things? She also got married (no royal wedding on the show?) and had a baby in the 1970s. Also, her wardrobe is one of the few ways we know we’ve crossed over into the 1960s. What does a girl have to do to get recognition? I think they could do a series with Princess Anne and Princess Alice together – I’d watch!
Instead, we have episodes (plural) that highlight Philip’s man-pain (seriously sick of this storyline, which was prominent in seasons 1 and 2 as well). We have a bunch of power-hungry, rich, old white men who want to wrest power from the Prime Minister and hand it to Mountbatten (which didn’t really happen the way it was presented). We have Philip wanting to be an astronaut – not to mention a poor representation of the astronauts themselves, who were intelligent guys portrayed as not being able to talk about topics beyond how to operate a space craft. And we have an episode on the dying deposed king becoming essentially the hero in a romance novel and inspiring Prince Charles (also apparently didn’t happen the way it was presented) – apparently we’re forgetting all that Nazi stuff from the prior season.
Season 3 felt like filler to get to the Charles and Diana story. I have to admit, I’m not thrilled – I remember Chuck and Di and am not all that anxious to relive it. That’s an unpopular opinion, though, as I know many people are excited for this phase of the story. Of course, I would have liked to see The Crown start a bit earlier, with Bertie and Elizabeth, Lilibet and Margo in WWII and the immediate aftermath, and then to Lilibet and Phil in the post-war period for a more extended stay and to the 1970s to highlight more of the family (see notes on Princess Anne). But that’s just me ….