The last 3 episodes of THE CROWN get real. Margaret is being a bratty little sister, the Queen and Phillip are having marital problems, and the Queen Mother is feeling useless. It feels like all of the stress is finally coming to a head. The show started off with characters that were comfortable in their roles, but their worlds are turned upside down after the death of the King and these last episodes are the result of the changes they all have to accept.
In Pride in Joy, the Queen and Phillip go on a world tour that puts a strain on their relationship. The Queen is trying hard to meet the expectations of the Crown and spreads herself thin. Phillip advises that they stop or slow down the tour. But the Queen refuses because she desperately wants to live up to the expectations of the Crown even if it means not obeying her husband. Meanwhile, Margaret is still holding a grudge against the Queen for sending Peter away. So while she’s temporarily filling in for the Queen she uses her platform for attention and lashes out making off-color statements.
The Queen Mother is dealing with not having anything to do. Once Elizabeth became the Queen, the Queen Mother she was stripped of all her royal duties. And what’s worse than aging than feeling like no one needs you anymore? She goes to visit friends in Scotland and looks into purchasing a castle from a man who doesn’t even recognize her as royalty. In the end she’s called back to the castle to deal with Margaret’s shenanigans.
The Queen and Phillip’s marriage continues to be tested in Assassins, when we meet Porchey, the Queen’s childhood friend and horse breeder. Porchey and the Queen could have been married but the Queen choose Phillip instead. The Queen seems to love Porchey as a friend but has a hard time realizing he’s moved on with his new fiancé and he no longer pines over her the way he did before.
Churchill celebrates his 80th birthday, which would be considered ancient back then, by having a portrait of him painted. Churchill, being an avid painter, tries to appear dominant over the young painter. But the painter see’s through Churchill’s confident exterior and paints him as he sees him, an aging and vulnerable man. This obviously doesn’t go over well with Churchill and he makes a fool of the painter in public. But when the painter confronts Churchill he realizes he needs to accept the painting has a mirror not a distorted depiction of him. This prompts him to finally resign as Prime Minister and let foreign secretary Eden take over. Who isn’t in much better shape than Churchill.
In the season finale episode of Gloriana, shit hits the fan. Margaret turns 25 and is legally able to marry Peter but still has another hurdle: the church. The Queen is told she still must deny her sister’s marriage or ask her to essentially be banished in order to be with Peter. The Queen goes back and forth with herself and realizes she must choose the Crown. She also asks that Phillip go overseas to fulfill one of her royal duties on his own in order to help adjust. Phillip doesn’t want to go but realizes it’s just another sacrifice he has to make for the Queen. Secretary Eden is dealing with his new role as PM and is trying to keep the relationship with Cairo civil, but his efforts to keep the peace is taken as an insult. This now puts the country in an uncompromising situation.
I think you need to watch every episode of The Crown in order to really appreciate the show and the story arch. The characters naturally evolve throughout the season in response to their new roles. All the characters, with the exception of Margaret, want to appear strong and composed, but all of that changes toward the end of the season when tensions run high. They can no longer appear stoic and unemotional, we see these people in positions of power for who they really are: human beings. There is subtle foreshowing with all of the characters in the beginning. It’s seen in the stares between Margaret and Peter that turn into a royal scandal, Phillip renouncing his background in the beginning and then starting to resent all the sacrifices he’s made, Elizabeth seeing her father’s struggle with ruling and now she has to make her own tough decisions, and Churchill going from being the stubborn newly elected Prime Minister to accepting his age and resigning.
The struggle for the Queen is always between her protecting her family and protecting the Crown. She tries to make everyone happy except herself. This is the struggle of most women in power. She wants to make rational decisions but not be seen as cold or unkind to those she loves. Her uncle/former King, tells her that she will always be part Queen and part Elizabeth. But the question is: which comes first?
The season left off with some interesting cliffhangers; Margaret and Peter have to deal with being split up, Phillip and Margaret are starting to resent the Queen, the new PM may have just passed away, and the Queen is having some serious identity issues. I think this season set the stage for the next season (fingers crossed) in a big way. Once you get over the slow pace of the first few episodes you get to see some great storytelling, complex characters, relevant themes, and beautifully shot scenes.
Season 1, Episode 8-10 (S01E08-10)
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