The Crown 5×07 “No Woman’s Land” features Diana moving on in earnest, and we’re here for it. The pressure is still building in the series’ second half. There’s a pervading sense that absolutely everything is about to explode. Perhaps this is the most authentic aspect of the series so far. This episode also features a deeper exploration of the family dynamics of the Windsor family in a way that’s both heartbreaking and infuriating.
The introduction of Dr. Hasnat Khan (Humayun Saeed) comes not a moment too soon. The choice to play this character with subtlety is the right one. Saeed gives an incredibly grounded performance. He’s a stark contrast to the royal mess that is the British royal family. In real life, many argued that this was the man Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) was always meant to be with. This doesn’t necessarily translate to these characters, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there are more opportunities to explore these understated performances.
It may not have been the best choice to show Diana as a love-struck schoolgirl. It’s frankly a distraction. While the intention may have been to show just how desperate for love Diana was, her chasing of Dr. Khan devolves into white woman nonsense pretty quickly. Her fascination with becoming a “Pakistani wife” and insisting that Dr. Khan must have had an arranged marriage comes across as incredibly gross. It is smart to show that as much as the real woman was loved by so many people, she was still steeped in imperialism and colonial garbage.
The Crown 5×07 “No Woman’s Land” delves further into William (Senan West), and his relationship with his mother. Spoiler alert, it’s not always a healthy one. No one serious would ever opine that the real Diana didn’t love her children fiercely. West portrays William as a lost little boy, who only wants his mother to be happy. The character of Diana is clearly still struggling with her mental health. It makes her unable to be fully present for her children, who are her whole world. Unfortunately, her relationship with her sons, especially William, was often characterized by dysfunctional emotional dependence.
For those unfamiliar, dysfunctional emotional dependence is when a parent seeks emotional support from their child, that would be normally provided by another adult, typically a partner. Diana the character is clearly suffering greatly. There’s evidence to support the fact that so was the real woman. Because she is so desperate for love and validation in a system that was never going to give it to her, she needs that emotional support from her child. It’s equally infuriating and heartbreaking to see William as a child have to bear this burden.
With this being said, it’s endearing to see that William has his grandmother Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) in his corner. The character of Elizabeth II evidently cares deeply for her grandson. Her character is able to see that William is in an unhealthy and untenable home situation. It’s frankly difficult to imagine that the real woman possessed such self-awareness about what was happening in her family. It’s also a little difficult to believe that this character would be that aware of what’s happening in her own family too since she’s so often been portrayed as alarmingly naive when it comes to family matters. However, William needs an adult, so if his grandmother is the one, so be it.
The infamous Martin Bashir interview is being teed up as a massive bombshell. It’s too bad that it’s only given a one-episode leeway. Already, the stage is being set for the sleazy manner in which this interview was arranged. In the context of the show, it’s clear that Diana isn’t so much naive, as she is desperate for her voice to be heard. When your voice has been silenced for so long, you will take any venue you can to use it again.
The Crown 5×07 “No Woman’s Land” presents Diana in a very problematic light. In many ways, this makes her character far more human. It’s an effective way to cut through the sensationalism that characterized the real woman throughout her entire life. It’s another sympathetic look at Elizabeth II, which isn’t necessarily a great look. With the tinder box that is the British royal family about to explode, the chaos is just beginning.
The Crown Season 5 is available to stream on Netflix.