As The Crown moves into its second and third episodes, the high drama shows no signs of stopping. Despite sometimes slipping into some melodrama, there was plenty of romance, torment and stunning costumes to please every period drama fan.
These episodes set up Elizabeth and Philip’s married bliss as they tour through Africa, far away from the constraints of Buckingham Palace. Matt Smith and Claire Foy have a wonderful chemistry, balancing each other so well that it’s all very romantic. Unfortunately, that’s not to last as the news of the King’s death reaches them and suddenly they’re having to make some very difficult decisions.
The Crown is still well paced, with carefully crafted sequences as relationships develop – notably between Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and royal equerry Peter Townsend (Ben Miles). We also get the introduction of Prince Edward, the king who famously abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. He’s always been a rich character when played on screen, clearly dividing writers between those who see him as a genuine romantic and others as a childish arrogant figure. He’s definitely the latter in this adaptation and Alex Jennings brings him to life in fine form.
The plot begins to really ramp up when Prince Philip starts to feel constricted by Elizabeth’s new oncoming role as monarch. Viewing his frustrations over a lack of authority and significance in the marriage seems slightly less justified through a modern lens where we’re hopefully more equal, but in the context of the 1950s period, you can still understand why he might feel the pressure and judgement of watching eyes.
Matt Smith continues to give a nuanced performance, although the writers slip in a cultural insensitivity whilst abroad to link him to the Prince Philip we’ve known through the press. Despite that, he’s definitely a sympathetic figure in this portrayal, coming from an uncertain upbringing and facing preconceptions from those in close circles. Smith fangirls may also be interested to know that he bares quite a surprising amount of skin in the first couple of episodes. I suppose that’s where the 15 rating came from!
The episodes continue to be strong, although at times they become slightly melodramatic. Queen Mary’s advice for Elizabeth was fascinating and delivered perfectly, but later scenes slightly overdo the message that was powerful enough on its own. Still, for rich visuals and a fascinating (theoretical) insight into the world’s most mysterious family, The Crown remains a treat so far.