The Crown is Netflix’s newest original series and its most expensive production to date. The series starts at the very beginning of Elizabeth II’s reign from her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947 and continues throughout the 1950’s. The series delves into hot political scandals of the day from the former King Edward and his wife trying to make their way back into the London social circles t0 Princess Margarets relationship with a commoner.
The main relationships at the center of the season are between Claire Foy and Matt Smith as Elizabeth and Prince Philip. A large part of the season revolves around Prince Philip grappling with being second in command to his wife in all matters. Matt Smith evolves well as the slightly restless and naive Philip to loving husband and confidante who is willing to play second place to the queen. Claire Foy achieves a touchingly subtle performance as Elizabeth, while holding her own against established actors like Jared Harris and John Lithgow. Some of the most moving scenes involve Princess Elizabeths relationship with her father King George as he helps to prepare her to take on the hard tasks as regent. Jared Harris shines as King George, who in the last years of his life struggles with lung cancer and balancing political alliances with Winston Churchill (John Lithgow). Regardless of the petty fights and hierarchal trials, I developed a slight lack of empathy towards the cast of characters. As it is always quite apparent that they are living a life quite privileged from that of most, as seen in the episode “The Great Smog”. Churchill’s secretary Venetia Scott acts as a stand-in for the struggling public when she finally gains his attention and compassion after the smog affects his relationship with her.
The plot is quite slow which helps to highlight the extraordinary production value as well as the top quality acting. The production value extends to the great directing and cinematography that underscores the postwar mood. This involves capturing the old establishment that Elizabeth and others are trying to breakup for more progressive change. The show grasps onto some historical events and timelines making it a treat for history nerds and anglophiles alike.
The Crowns’ first season shows that Netflix has been able to expertly evolve in the production of their original shows. While the Crown rivals the production value of other historically based originals like Marco Polo it does not feel as weighed down by their factors, relying on the subtle acting of its leads and light dialogue. It will be interesting to see if it can continue to evolve with season two as history unfolds.
The Crown is available to stream on Netflix with subscription.