November 9, 2022
The fifth season of the drama about the modern history of the British royal house.
In general, it is difficult to know what else can be said about the fifth season of “The Crown” that was not said about the previous season.
If you’re still not convinced that this series is worth spending time in, it might not help you much to say that the craftsmanship is still as great as ever. There is subtle and meticulous British craftsmanship throughout all stages of production, from photography, costumes and scenography to script, editing and directing (two episodes were also signed by Norwegian Eric Richter Strand, who also did “Sønner” and “Valkyrie”).
Or that excessive gossip, speculation and quilt-raising alike keep the fervor, which this time takes place in the very turbulent years of the royal house in the 1990s.
Then perhaps there is no point in saying that changing the set into age-appropriate actors is going as smoothly as before, but more so if possible. Or that fleeting look and subtle facts of the new 65-year-old Queen Elizabeth, Imelda Staunton (known from many films by Kenneth Branagh and Mike Lee, but perhaps most famous as Professor Umbridge/Offert in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”), bestows warmth and coolness. For a picture of a king clenched lips and written.
That Jonathan Price (“Brazil”, “Game of Thrones”) is Prince Philip’s most lovable and least spiteful companion to date. And this Dominic West’s interpretation of the pathetic, righteous, forever surpassing Prince Charles almost makes you forget that he was McNulty with the thick Baltimore accent in “The Wire.” That Elizabeth Debicki (“Tenet”) is so dominant as Diana that her face rather than the original one would henceforth appear if I were to imagine the princess ethereal and decisive, sympathetic and narcissistic, gentle and vengeful, fragile and relentless (at least that’s how the series portrays her).
If you have already decided to leave it, perhaps I can justify your choice by saying that despite all this quality, the season is not quite up to the previous one.
That there are no individual episodes here that mark the same signs as previous peaks. After fifty hours of television there had to be a certain reuse of conflicts and issues: royal duty versus personal dreams. Innovation versus tradition. Building an image, managing crises and consolidating power, the couple helped sabotage the dance with the media on the mined public dance floor. Marital sparks that come and go, parents and children in a satisfying confrontation. Not least the feeling that time is up – both as a person and as an institution.
I might also add that these injuries from wear and tear are felt more clearly by the fact that the season – for obvious reasons, given the factual background – focuses a bit more on tabloid intrigues within the royal family than before, to the detriment of the plots that It deals with political and diplomatic games at the national and international levels.
And if you feel a bit inconsistent about the whole project, that’s not weird either. In this case, you can be sure that the series, as usual, takes liberties with real events, speculates on what might happen behind closed doors, and imposes alleged motives on both the dead and the very living, which will turn them into villains or heroes in the eyes of future generations.
Real people who – even if they had the opportunity to defend themselves – might not have had nearly the same terrifying effect anywhere with their version of history as “The Crown”.
Because it is fair to think that the series’ greatest strength – how convincing it is in its cinematic narrative – given the series’ success has also become a very legitimate objection to this kind of fiction of our recent history.
Because when the sixth and final season catches up in a year or two with the present, there is every reason to believe that “The Crown” will continue to be the definitive narrative of the second Elizabethan era, and perhaps also the sunset of what once called itself the British Empire.
Then one can object that series author Peter Morgan has at least noble intentions when he speculates on motives and flips reality. That he wanted something more than entertainment, he embarked on the most humane exercise of them all: building a meaningful narrative out of a chaotic world. In this case about the events of the recent past that affected us all.
It says something universally valid about the people behind the gruff smiles and tabloid headlines. It gives us insight into the possible motives behind seemingly heartless words and deeds, which perhaps do not justify, but at least explain, and with them insights into the hopeless paradox of “modern monarchy,” and how poor people who are born or married fall behind.
We may sometimes meet our own gaze in the gilded mirrors of Buckingham Palace.
It might even be appropriate to shake one’s head in frustration and claim that anyone consuming popular culture in 2022 should have learned that a feature film would not be able to give a true picture of reality. These facts and truth are two different things, just like telling stories and writing history. Only in the face of many stories about the same thing, from different points of view, will a kind of representative simulation of reality take shape.
that what is needed perhaps is a higher degree of literacy in the face of imagining reality, rather than the artists treating it with respect and kindness.
With that in mind, I dare say the series is well worth it. But it is easy for me to say. After all, it is easier to live with modern Shakespearean tragedies than to live them.
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