I have to say, these next three episodes of THE CROWN changed my mind about the show. Originally, I thought the show relied too heavily on the history and not enough on the story and characters. But episodes 5-8 present more dynamic themes and characters. The show is timely given the state of affairs in our country. It’s hard to believe a woman was so highly regarded in politics in the 1950s. I think we could learn a thing or two from the UK’s progressiveness. These episodes discuss themes like family, feminism, and progressiveness vs tradition.
In Smoke and Mirrors, we see the Queen’s coronation. The Queen wants to appoint her husband Phillip as chairman on her coronation ceremony committee to spend more time with him however, it is against tradition. The Queen insists that this tradition be changed. After all, she is the Queen. Phillip has more ideas that shake up the coronation committee, like televising the ceremony. He explains to the committee that they now live in a modern world and that the coronation of a young Queen should reflect that. Obviously, there is some push back from the committee because of the implications of opening up the royal family to the public and media.
Televising the coronation does cause a bit of a stir. The media starts to suspect an affair between Princess Margaret and the now divorced, Peter Townsend in Gelignite. Princess Margaret has to ask the Queen for permission to marry Peter due to the laws against royalty marrying a divorced person with a living former spouse. The Queen gives Margaret her blessing as her sister but as a Queen, she is conflicted. This is where it gets tricky for the Queen. She has to make decisions that uphold the crown but also wants to be a good sister. And those two things conflict when the Queen has to send Peter to another country to put the scandal rumors to bed. This comes at the price of Margaret’s happiness and causes a riff between the sisters.
In Scientia Potentia Est. the Queen starts to question her lack of education. She feels inept when dealing with her government officials when they talk about foreign affairs and politics. These feelings prompt her to hire a tutor so she can be better equipped in those conversations. In the meantime, the foreign secretary and prime minister are keeping their illnesses from her in order to maintain the appearance that they are capable of governing. When the Queen finds out her tutor encourages the Queen to reprimand them. She realizes she doesn’t need to be smarter than her governing officials because her job is to be the sovereign and their job is to efficiently run the government. This gives the Queen a newfound confidence and Phillip is the first to notice.
I really liked Smoke and Mirrors and Gelignite because it showed the Queen finding her voice. She starts to exercise her power by challenging gender roles and taking on a more proactive role as Queen. However, she can sometimes be swayed by her personal secretary, Tommy, who tries hard to uphold tradition and keep the Queen in line. But the Queen always wins in the end and puts her foot down with a smile when she demands that she keep her choice of a personal secretary.
I love seeing the relationship between the Queen and Phillip develop. They seem to have a genuine partnership and the Queen knows how to pick her battles with him. One of my favorite scenes is when they are negotiating the terms of his position as the chairman in between getting ready for and attending a ballet. There is a delicate balance between her being Queen and letting her husband take the lead. And Phillip knows this when he needs to let her be Queen. This is seen when he protests kneeling before her at the coronation but in the end, he submits to the tradition.
The Queen has to deal with other male ego’s in her life, like Churchill. Churchill and the rest of parliament try to shield the Queen from their shortcomings. But when the Queen condemns him for this I thought Churchill’s character was going to keel over right then and there out of utter shock. It was a pivotal scene that showed the Queen’s empowerment.
Stylistically, my favorite episode was Gelignite. The episode started with a phone call between Princess Margaret and the Queen and ended the same way. We’re shown just how long it took to connect a call back then with all the switchboards, we’ve come a long way. In the first phone call, Margaret was excited to talk to her sister to schedule a dinner and share the news of her relationship with Peter. And the phone call at the end of the episode is the complete opposite. Margaret is furious because the Queen sent Peter away before she could spend time with him. She even calls her sister envious of her relationship with Peter. This an example of when the Queen has to make tough decisions that usually affect the people closest to her.
I’m actually looking forward to these next few episodes and interested to see what happens with her new found confidence, her relationship with Margaret, and what she will do when faced with even bigger obstacles.
Season 1, Episode 5-8 (S01 E05-08)
The Crown streams on Netflix
Kiana is a self-proclaimed pop culture connoisseur that loves live music, breakfast in bed, and hiking. If she were a TV character she’d be a hybrid of Tina Belcher and Liz Lemon.
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Kiana G. | Contributor