TV Review: The Crown, Series 4

Whereas I was sad that the cast of The Crown had to regenerate at the end of Series 2, I’m kinda glad that Series 4 is the last we’ll see of this second generation  

“Let’s just say, I can’t see it ending well for you”

I sampled the first few episodes of Series 4 of The Crown on release and whilst still appreciating much of the quality of this prestige drama, I couldn’t help but feel that it just isn’t quite up to par. An element of that is certainly personal, I just have zero desire to see depictions of Margaret Thatcher in anything. But there’s also something more nigglingly fundamental awry here, as we move to closer to the current day and increasingly feature people who are still alive. 

Whether royalist or republican (do republicans watch The Crown…?), there’s something fascinating about the way in which Peter Morgan’s writing has challenged conventional notions of myth-building around the British Royal Family. What might previously have been called decorum has been jettisoned with little seeming sacrosanct now, particularly as we delve into the marriage of Charles and Diana and his enduring relationship with Camilla, plus going deeper into Thatcher’s psyche than one could ever care to.

The result is a series that paradoxically goes further into trying to portray the Queen as a real live human being whilst also retiring her from the forefront of her show, she’s basically a co-lead with Diana and Thatcher here. And that means that an already humungous cast list is under yet more pressure for limited screen time, pushing so many more of the interesting side characters and some excellent actors into the role of glorified cameos.  

In the case of Erin Doherty’s Princess Anne, this is a veritable crime. Each of her appearances has to be accompanied with a huge bio-dump as we’re caught up to speed with what’s happened to her over the last xx weeks/months/years. Even Tobias Menzies’ Prince Philip is reduced to a couple of walk-ons at best, it’s curiously done. In terms of the actual cameos, Gemma Jones as Princess Margaret’s psychotherapist, Janet Suzman’s canny editor and Tom Brooke’s interloper stand out.

For me, Olivia Colman still doesn’t quite work in the role in Elizabeth, I never quite shake the feeling that I’m watching Colman rather than seeing the intense interiority that Claire Foy brought to the part. And Gillan Anderson is so painfully strained, deliberately so I think, as Thatcher that she is difficult to watch. Against them, Emma Corrin offers up something much softer as Diana, though I think Morgan’s sympathies lie a little too heavily in her favour. 

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