Compared to its predecessors, the fifth Season of “The Crown” is a huge disappointment. The tone is trashy, and Morgan’s treatment of Charles reeks of sycophantic propaganda.
Not being a fan of The Royals (I’m Irish!) I was as amazed as anyone when I became addicted and binge-watched Seasons One to Four of “The Crown.” A soap opera based on real people, with a feast of acting talent, all wrapped up in a superb package by “The Queen’s” Peter Morgan. What’s not to like?
However, the tower has come tumbling down with a disastrous Season Five.
We have had a changing of the guard before with some uneasy takeovers. However, the great actors who played the Queen, Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh, and Princess Margaret in the second round were all comfortably entrenched in their respective personages before the end of their first episode. Add to this the inspired casting of Josh O’Connor as Charles, Emma Corin as Diana, Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher, and Season Four was as good as Season One.
Not so this time. The Queen and Princess Margaret match up, but there is no connection between Princess Diana/Prince Charles/Duke of Edinburgh portrayed in the previous series and their counterparts in this one.
My binging of all ten episodes of “The Crown: Season 5” marks Wednesday, November 9th, 2022, as my dies horribilis. As a result, I need to unburden myself.
Here are ten points or moments that linger with me:
- One of the few things the series got right is the casting of Imelda Staunton as the Queen and Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret; they match up nicely with their predecessors, Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman and Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham-Carter, respectively.
- However, it’s a pity that Staunton and Manville did not have more time together. The scene where Margaret is astonished and hurt that three of Elizabeth’s children are allowed to either divorce or separate in the same year (1992) and lashes out at the queen is one of the best of the entire series – Elizabeth, in collaboration with the Archbishop of Canterbury, had prevented Margaret from marrying the man she loved, Captain Peter Townsend, twenty years earlier, in circumstances that were identical to those of Princess Anne’s in 1992. Incidentally, we get a lovely cameo by Timothy Dalton as the older Townsend, who does not have long to live.
- If the overall tone of the series is borderline trash, Morgan’s treatment of Prince Charles (now played by Dominic West, whose good looks and virile charm are oceans away from the whiney, spoilt, and needy Charles that Josh O’Connor superbly impersonated in Season 4) is positively sycophantic. Repeatedly, he is presented as the voice of reason within a family that is increasingly out of touch with the Zeitgeist. EPISODE 4: THE WAY AHEAD is little more than an arse-licking publicity stunt as Charles hops from one speech to the next, one charity to the next. And, if you happen to be in a coma during the transmission, there is an extensive credit scroll at the end giving you all the monetary details – let’s be clear here. I am not disputing any of the decent work that Prince Charles has done over the decades, particularly with The Princes Trust. I am saying that, although “The Crown” is historical fiction and not a documentary, Morgan’s fawning sycophancy becomes an irritation and eventually a liability.
|SEASON||Queen Elizabeth II|
|One and two.||Claire Foy|
|Three and four.||Olivia Coleman|
|Five and six.||Imelda Staunton|
|Do they match up?||YES/YES|
|SEASON||The Duke of Edinburgh|
|One and two.||Matt Smith|
|Three and four.||Tobias Menzies|
|Five and six.||Jonathan Price|
|Do they match up?||YES/NO|
|One and two.||Vanessa Kirby|
|Three and four.||Helena Bonham-Carter|
|Five and six.||Lesley Manville|
|Do they match up?||YES/YES|
|Three and four.||Josh O’Connor|
|Five and six.||Dominic West|
|Do they match up?||NO|
|Three and four.||Emma Corin|
|Five and six.||Elizabeth Debicki|
|Do they match up?||NO|
- Morgan takes the opposite approach to Diana. In Season Four, she was hugely sympathetic, and Emma Corin was sensational, using Diana’s mannerisms in the context of a fully rounded and profoundly compelling characterization. Not so with Debicki. Usually, she is a fine actress (“Widows”), but here, she is all surface detail. Nailing Diana’s nonverbal cues like tucking her chin down and looking up through her eyelashes, she is little more than a caricature. It doesn’t help that, to complement his Charles encomium, Morgan has transformed her into a revenge-seeking shrew. We are treated to the country’s reaction to her biography and then the Martin Bashir interview. However, was it necessary to include a fictional and gratuitous hospital scene where Diana, comically but viciously insensitive to the needs of her friend whose husband is undergoing cardiac bypass surgery, cannot stop talking about the physical attributes of the cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Ahman Kahn (a sweet performance by Humayun Saeed) – they eventually had a clandestine two-year relationship (1995-1997)?
- It’s with Jonathan Pryce’s woeful characterization of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, that several problems collide. Pryce, like Debicki, is an outstanding actor, but his Phillip is sad and contemplative. We all change over time, but there must be a primary persona at the root of every character. Unfortunately, Pryce is on a different planet relative to his predecessors, Smith, and Menzies, and, as a result, he’s not believable.
- The series could have been whittled down to seven episodes since three of them hold no interest for us and are poorly made.
- It was Prince Phillip’s DNA that clinched the identification of the Romanovs after their bodies were discovered near their last lodgings at Ipatiev House (EPISODE 6) in the city of what used to be called Ekaterinburg in Siberia. This interesting tidbit, the information of which should have been conveyed as part of a dinner conversation, is given an entire episode to itself, complete with a laughingly mediocre reenactment of the 1918 massacre. Very trashy and very sleazy. What’s more, Morgan plays with the facts to a degree that should upset anyone who has reached high school. We are told that ALL the Romanov bodies were identified during Queen Elizabeth’s 1994 State Visit to Moscow. Wrong. The bodies of Maria and Alexei were not identified until 2007.
- In the unfortunate Queen Victoria Syndrome (EPISODE1), Prince Phillip has a close relationship with another much younger Royal, a. Mrs. Penny Knatchbull (Natashia McElhone), after her daughter’s death. Pure conjecture, this should not have become exposed.
- EPISODE 3 (Mou-Mou) is devoted entirely to the life of Mohamed Al Fayed! I am going to sleep now!
Cheap and poorly made, spreading itself too thin on several topics, Season 5 of The Crown is rated D.