The Crown Season 5 is back, giving viewers an inside look at one of the world’s most dysfunctional families. For those who harbor staunchly monarchist views, this season may be a tough one to watch. More than any previous season, this one delves deep into the rot that has always existed within this system. With an entire new cast, and a new decade of royal chaos, this show had the opportunity to critically analyze a destructive institution that continues to operate today. The results are varied.
Every new season of The Crown inevitably comes with a bizarre response from a certain group of royalists, that the series should come with a disclaimer that this is in fact a fictionalized version of true events. Not only is this incredibly insulting to viewers, it’s also such a strange statement to dig in one’s heels over. The British Royal Family is one of the most extensively documented families in the world. It’s not accurate to say that everything portrayed here is made up. The infamous ahem, intimate phone call, actually happened. Really, it’s online for anyone to listen to.
This season also continues an…interesting pattern with the show, which is the resurrection of actors from the first season. It’s not necessarily wrong to show the torch being past from one cast to the next. Unfortunately, too many viewers will see Claire Foy being amazing, and think that she’s the only one who’s capable of playing this role. Re-introducing former versions of these characters pulls focus from the current cast, and distracts from the fantastic job Imelda Staunton is doing.
On that note, Staunton may be the best version of Elizabeth II that the show has ever seen. She’s both completely out of touch, and a sort of Every Grandma combined into one. This character is the perfect way to reflect the legacy of the real woman. Staunton plays a woman who is both unbearably devoted to a misguided sense of “tradition”, and who is viscerally devastated as her family falls apart around her.
Getting Diana right was always going to be among the most prolific challenges for The Crown Season 5. In many ways, Elizabeth Debicki isn’t given nearly enough time and space to show off her true talents. She has the voice and the look nailed down. Unfortunately, this character is always shown in relation to others (mostly men), which makes it hard for viewers to get to know her. It’s a shame, because there are so many glimpses of brilliance.
One major flaw of The Crown Season 5 is that it is far too sympathetic to Charles. He’s shown this season to be a practically revolutionary force, compelling the powers that be to re-consider the monarchy’s role in the modern world. While it’s true that there’s documentation of Charles voicing concerns about the environment before it became vogue, that hardly makes him a reformer. It doesn’t help that Dominic West is far too pretty to play Charles. Josh O’Connor brought an awkwardness to the character that’s sorely lacking here.
The cool-ification and girl-bossification of Anne is an odd choice. She is another royal who in the show is presented as incredibly down-to-earth, and very in touch with the real world. As with Charles, this character could have been an opportunity to interrogate how the system in which the monarchy operates. Claudia Harrison’s performance is incredibly fun to watch. There is just so much more that could have been done with this character as well.
The pacing of this season is odd at times. The jumps between the characters and stories aren’t always smooth. Some scenes absolutely work better when they’re allowed to be slow. Unfortunately, others just drag on with no idenifiable purpose. The dialogue, too, comes across as stilted in certain moments. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the chaos that the show is trying to capture this season. If not, it’s simply disorganized in places.
When The Crown Season 5 works, it works spectacularly well. In many instances, however, it falls flat. This show is a venue that could be used to prompt viewers to think about the impact of the actual family detailed here. This season doesn’t always live up to its potential. With an incredibly talented cast and a decade of dissaray, this should have been a slam dunk from the beginning. Maybe the weight of expectations were too much to keep this season from coming together completely.
Other Royal Thoughts:
-The Revenge Dress moment. Chef’s Kiss.
-Color this writer surprised at getting a little bit too into John Major. Jonny Lee Miller is entirely to blame.
-Charles breakdancing is an image burned into my mind for all of eternity. If such a thing actually occurred, and you were present, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
-Tony Blair is…a choice. The show should have just called Michael Sheen and called it a day.
The Crown Season 5 is available to stream on Netflix.