The Crown delivers one of the most viscerally uncomfortable episodes of the entire series with 5×03 “Mou Mou.” If you have somehow followed The Crown from the beginning without feeling a modicum of disgust for the Windsors, first of all…gross. Second, this episode will disabuse you entirely of the notion that there is anything redeemable about the rampant imperialism that continues to define this family in real life. This episode features the return of a character we definitely don’t need to see more of. It also introduces a new character who should be the focus of his own series.
What The Crown absolutely doesn’t need is the return of the former Edward VIII (Alex Jennings). This nazi-sympathizing, wannabe-king should serve only one purpose on The Crown. That purpose is to drag the British royal family’s name through the mud. Sadly, Jennings’ version of the character is consistently shown to be incredibly kind and sympathetic, and just a nice old British man who needs his empire. It’s baffling that Jennings continues to be deputized to rehabilitate a man who — let’s face it — really shouldn’t be.
The Crown 5×03 “Mou Mou” showcases who may be the series’ most interesting supporting character to date. Sydney Johnson (Jude Akuwudike) actually existed and was employed as the former king’s valet while he lived in France. Johnson’s story is a fascinating one, and it’s worth telling. It’s heartbreaking to see this man, who clearly had so much to offer the world, be consistently belittled and patronized to throughout his years of service. Even when he’s called upon for his expertise, this knowledge is used for someone else’s gain.
Equally important is the manner in which Akuwudike plays Johnson. There is so much depth to this character. Akuwudike plays him with the gravitas the real man is due. By not focusing on this character more, The Crown continues to send a message that a white family with a frankly questionable genetic history (if you know, you know) is “just trying their best.” It’s so disgusting to see the character of Johnson regulated to a stereotypical servant. He’s full of a vast expanse of knowledge but is never seen as fully human by those around him.
The Crown 5×03 “Mou Mou” also delves deeper into the Fayeds and their backstory. It’s a strange choice to focus on a man who has been credibly accused of several sexual assaults. It also doesn’t make sense in the context of this character as he’s shown here. It would be very strange if the series circled back to him and spotlighted the myriad of conspiracies that the real man heartily endorsed. The character of Mohamed Al-Fayed is being set up as possibly playing the long game against the British monarchy. This may get messy very quickly.
Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla) as a character is played as perfectly sweet and charming. The fact that we never get to see a lot of him is perhaps to drive home the point that he and Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) had a short-lived but intense romance. It’s really hard to get a sense of this from this character, however, since he’s shown very briefly. In the short amount of time we spend with him, we see a man who evidently wants to make his own name apart from his father’s. While this may be an interesting dynamic to explore, it seems that this character is set to cause an immense amount of chaos in as short a time as possible.
Everything about The Crown 5×03 “Mou Mou” is just icky. This is the part of imperialism that never gets any easier to recon with. Sydney Johnson deserved to have his story focused on and told in full. He is emblematic of the parasitic nature of the British empire and a stand-in for the millions of people who were relegated to lives of service for their oppressors. It’s deeply disconcerting, and incredibly necessary, for stories like Johnson’s to be told — and told well. Sadly, but expectedly, The Crown is not the venue to make this a reality.
The Crown Season 5 is available to stream on Netflix.