The Crown (Season 1) – Review

So, for my first blog post, I decided to do a review of the first season of Netflix’s The Crown. Why? After all, if Englishmen believe anything begun by the Queen will be prosperous- they can’t surely be wrong can they?

I’m just kidding. I have no idea what they believe about their monarch.

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A Star Cast With A Solid Plot To Boot

Cast: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Eileen Atkins, John Lithgow

In a Line: Netflix’s highly anticipated 100 million-pound gamble is totally worth it.

When taking on a historical documentary of sorts, one expects it to be filled with excitement- bloodless coups, military plots to overthrow democracy and the like. So taking an institution that has been as stable over more than four centuries as one could ask for like the British monarchy, and putting it to the average television viewer over a ten-episode series is a bit of a risk.

There isn’t much to say about the plot per se but more about the way the plot has been depicted. But just for those who aren’t familiar with the premise of this story, The Crown deals with the initial years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign from her ascent to the throne following her father’s death till Sir Winston Churchill’s resignation and his successor Anthony Eden’s mishandling of the Egypt crisis.

Like I mentioned earlier, the British monarchy has been one of the most stable institutions in the entire globe. However, Peter Morgan (who wrote the 2006 film The Queen and the 2013 stage play The Audience) manages to find drama where seemingly none exists. He expertly amplifies the problems of the Queen’s household- like Prince Phillip having to live in the Queen’s shadows (most notably exemplified when he objects to the process of having kneeling down before her at the coronation) and Princess Margaret’s insistence on being her exuberant self while representing the monarchy at important events when she represents the Queen while the Queen herself is off on a goodwill tour around the Commonwealth. Morgan and his team of writers and directors manage to weave a plot of subtle struggles for supremacy and one-upping that exists between various members connected to the Royal Family (they didn’t even spare the butlers).

Credit must also go to the actors themselves. Claire Foy does an immaculate job of enacting the various phases of Queen Elizabeth- from trusting daughter who believes in her father to that of an uncertain Queen who initially struggles to balance (and who till the end never quite gets a grip of) being a sister, wife and daughter with that of being the Queen. She also portrays beautifully the difficulty of having to deal with the dichotomy that British society – including those within the Family itself- often views the Royal household with- either you are too traditional for a Queen in the middle of the 20th century or you are too modern for Royal liking.  Matt Smith also compliments her hand-in-hand as the husband who envisioned a life full of joie de vivre suddenly thrust into the restricting role of the Queen’s husband seeking to try and channel his inner passion for life into the claustrophobic environment that is the Buckingham Palace- often leading him to seek entertainment at gentleman’s clubs later in the show with his close friend.

Special mention must be made of Vanessa Kirby who, by far, stands out among the support cast. Playing the role of Princess Margaret, she brings an almost-ethereal feel to her character. With her facial expression and body language, she plays the role of a sister living in the shadows, a lover-in-exile, and a woman masking her own personal insecurities and shortcomings with an indulgent exterior persona with a panache that is often missing in television these days.

The production values and the sets of the show are beyond human imagination in their vivacity and while to some, it may appear slightly on the surreal side- it seemed perfectly in sync with the lavish environment of the Royal Family and the British political establishment.

The only negative, if anything, is that the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne-played by Alex Jennings) comes off as a bit snobbish and even borderline vile even though there are not-so-subtle indications that the writers intended to do the opposite and show a man who left the highest position in Britain for the woman he loved. His dialogue delivery too, often seemed monotonic with limited variation in expression through speech.

All in all, The Crown is a show that required the highest level of planning and execution and the whole team of the show- from the writers to the actors themselves- were definitely up for the challenge and the end product of the million pound project is beyond doubt one of the best shows of modern day television.

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