The Crown isn’t just one of the most anticipated shows of the year, but if the rumors of its budget of £100 million an episode are true, it’s also one of the most expensive. This is Netflix’s attempt at trying out something more traditional yet different (at least by Netflix standards) at the same time, aiming to reach for a different kind of demographic. After watching the show, one conclusion you immediately draw is that Peter Morgan’s take on young Queen Elizabeth is a superb triumph for Netflix.
The show revolves around Queen Elizabeth accepting her destiny and stepping up to lead the country. It’s interesting to see her stripping more and more of her individuality for the sake of the country as time goes on. From simply choosing a personal secretary to responding to her sister’s request to marry someone not approved by the Church. It’s an intriguing position to be in and one that’s engaging to watch. At one point, Churchill sums it up with the quote “No one wants you to be you. They want you to be it.”
We see all the major players of the time, the different events as they play out and how everything flows and connects together. The crown, in a compassionate piece of work, gives a brilliant depiction of the Royal Family and humanises them in a way that has never been seen before. It is a portrait of an extraordinary family, an intelligent commentary on the effects of the constitution on their personal lives, and a fascinating account of postwar Britain all rolled into one.
The performances are all excellent. Claire Foy is great as the young Elizabeth, giving a portrayal of someone who’s soft-spoken but tough. Just by looking at her face, you can see that her pretty and playful smile hides the weight of the world borne on her shoulders. Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith also gives a stellar performance as Prince Phillip, a man of ambition and gnawing insecurity, traits which keep him from coming across as a know-it-all. The two share a touching and easy chemistry that makes the longevity of the union easy to understand, and renders the couple not just sympathetic but human.
Going through all the cast members would take too long but suffice to say, everyone is giving it their all and gives layered and nuanced performances. Jared Harris as King George is a particular standout, giving an even more impressive performance than Colin Firth did in the King’s Speech. He is a doting father but a tough monarch, not afraid to make the hard decisions that needs to be made.
The Crown is one of Netflix’s most expensive shows for a reason; the money is there on the screen, as it needs to be to truly capture the wealth and scope of the monarchy. You can hear the ticks of the grandfather clocks, and even the shift of weight in every piece of furniture as characters are granted an audience with their queen. Everything looks brilliant and is simply stunning, from very public moments like the coronation to more private ones like Philip taking flying lessons over the British countryside.
Many people seem to want and crave for power. While that may not necessarily be a bad thing, this show ultimately makes a strong and riveting argument for the ways in which the cost of the throne isn’t worth its benefits. The Queen Mother talks about how her husband was really two different people, before and after he took the throne. And when it’s Elizabeth’s turn to take her father’s place, Queen Mary writes her a letter warning of a similar dichotomy between Elizabeth Windsor and Queen Elizabeth.
The history of the Royal family in the 20th century is, of course, well documented but Morgan keeps the story interesting even in episodes without big historical events. The coronation and Elizabeth’s 1953 world tour make for rich hours, but Morgan is as confident building an episode around Elizabeth studding a prize horse or the Queen Mum’s trip to Scotland. The first season is definitely worth watching and incredibly binge worthy; though of course, it only makes the wait for season two even longer.