The Crown Season 3 Review
The 1960s were a decade devoted to change, and while that change would seem to embrace the world, the British monarchy seems even more stuck in the past. Things are gloomy nonetheless.
For Elizabeth II, the passing of the years have become more affecting to her. In the premiere of Season 3 of The Crown, Elizabeth pays a visit to Winston Churchill (a fitting farewell to John Lithgow) before he passes, and deals with the upcoming state funeral by feeling out an unnerving rumor: is it possible the newly elected Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins) could be a Communist sleeper agent? The theory floats throughout the palace, until something far more unsettling comes about: there is a Communist in Buckingham Palace, and it happens to be the Queens art curator. This is horror for the Queen to undergo, and even more unsettling is the fact that he must remain on staff rather than reveal a horrible embarrassment to her majesty government. The man remains unrepentant, even refusing to let Prince Philip force him into resigning.
As new obstacles arise, Britain faces economic ruin and requires a bail from the new President Lyndon Johnson, who ego refuses to allow him to accept a visit from the Queen. Saving the economy lands on the shoulders of Princess Margaret, whose tortured life in the shadow of her sister continues to play out. Her marriage to Tony continues to be more cantankerous to the point where Elizabeth urges her on her state visit to ‘be kind to each other.’ The Queen can’t help but be envious as to how much her sister is loved in America, and when she is called to a state dinner with the President, her brashness and vulgarity end up managing to safe the nation. Something which makes neither sister happy: Elizabeth because she can’t deal with how she is not loved the same way, and Margaret for her having to live in the shadow of a job she can clearly handle the trappings of better than her sister.
The Crown is still one of the most remarkable accomplishments on Netflix, and perhaps remains more remarkable even though it’s done something few, if any, series would dare do: completely change the actors and actresses playing the leads to reflect the passage of time. One could see Claire Foy, Matt Smith et all, wearing the appropriate makeup to look older, and one could understand the benefits of keeping them on for the duration. (The Emmys, for one, have been very kind to the cast in particular.) But Peter Morgan and his crew soldier on with a new group of actors who step into very big shoes and fill them more than admirably.
Olivia Colman, one of the great actresses of our time before she won her Oscar for The Favorite earlier this year, is more than up to the task of playing someone who must forever be subdued, and who has now grown comfortable enough in her office so that he can make jokes about, but still yearns for the life she could have had. Tobias Menzies is exquisite as Philip, who seems more accepting of his role as he has grown older, and who now seems closer as a partner than he could’ve been before.
But if there is a brighter star on this horizon, it is Helena Bonham Carter as Margaret. If Vanessa Kirby played the young Margaret as someone who was also chafing as the constraints of the monarchy on her life, Carter plays her as someone who is now old enough and cynical enough to know longer give a damn about what the family thinks of her. She seems more than willing to play to the camera, and act as someone who is explosive, yet always with a sense of pain. When she meets with LBJ, she manages to win him over by comparing his role as Vice President to her role as ‘shadow queen’. This is a woman who lost the love of her life because of her sister. Unfortunately, things will only get worse for her from here on, and Carter relishes every bit of it.
The Crown remains impressive, even as we know so much of history will demean it. The empire will decay and crumble, Elizabeth will become a mother again, and her children, which had only small roles in the first two seasons, will become front and center as the show progresses. Peter Morgan has clearly found his life’s work in detailing the life of Elizabeth II, and even if she never watches The Crown, it does the monarchy justice.
Note: This series is rated TV:MA, and once again I raise the question: Why? This may involve an actual Game of Thrones, but there’s no violence and precious little nudity. Considering everything Netflix puts on the air, it seems ridiculous to give this series the same rating as Black Mirror when its biggest crime is having the characters use language that would barely raise a hair on FX or AMC. Teenagers may not be as drawn to this series as they would be Stranger Things, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to watch it without their parents worrying.
My score: 4.75 stars.