Reaching episode 10 feels like something of an achievement – not because it’s been difficult to watch, but that the naturally slow pacing of a period drama, where dialogue rules over busy scenes, means that this has felt like quite monumental watching. After all, most period dramas don’t usually exceed around six episodes, so adding on an extra 4 hours feels like quite a jump.
Nevertheless, the show remembers its roots. The episode begins in a flashback, when we witness the moment when the Duke of Windsor declares his intention to abdicate in front of devastated King George. It’s a treat for many reasons, not least that we get to see Jared Harris in action as George for probably the last time.
The show is intelligent in its cyclical nature, since the abdication was a pivotal point for the royal family – not only a moment when protocol was broken, or when the media broke into their impenetrable lives, but also when Elizabeth’s unexpected fate was set forever. This show exists in its form because of the Duke of Windsor and his decision.
This strand continues as Elizabeth finds herself in more hot water regarding Princess Margaret’s relationship. Presented with more ridiculous rules, she has to decide between her duty and her family. In what is probably entirely a work of fiction, yet still thematically effective, she picks up the phone to a slightly tipsy Duke in Paris. His advice is surprising, tinged with bitterness yet with the kind of understanding that the Queen is unlikely to get anywhere else. It’s a sweet, effective moment.
It’s worth noting as well, that the show is careful with the Princess’ relationship with the older Captain. A scene at the party shows the disparity between their day-to-day lifestyles, suggesting that which often happens with clandestine affairs, where the secretive nature is exciting buried underground, but becomes an entirely different creature when faced with dull reality.
The episode also includes yet more marital strife between the Queen and Prince Philip, with Matt Smith’s portrayal having morphed into a far more bitter character than the original charming maverick of the first few episodes. It then ends sadly, with a new prime minister no more qualified or healthier than the previous, a heartbroken Princess, and Philip driving away in a torrent of anger. All that is left is the Queen, isolated and – unlike the others – repressing all her pain, remaining dutiful amongst the mess.
The Crown has been a sumptuous period drama, with no expense spared in terms of production design, costumes and attention to detail. It has to be safe in content due to the still-living inspirations, so it’s not an expose of new gossip, but it is a carefully written character study of the royal family. The writing is done with complete care by Peter Morgan and delves carefully into the nature of the power, including the sacrifice required of a monarch. It’s taken its time, but it’s treated us to standout performances (special mention to Jared Harris, again) and beautifully crafted lines.
As stated at the start of reviewing this series, us period drama fans have never had the treat of truly binging a brand new series. The Crown, in its scale, writing and dedication, has been a true early Christmas gift, although it’s still best enjoyed in the languorous state in which it conducts itself.
We started the series in November 1947 and end in October 1955. The Crown has six estimated seasons in total and expected to cover roughly a decade each. Even better, season 2 has already begun filming – prepare yourself for episodes more next year.
Catch up on our last review of episodes 8 and 9.