The Crown, season five opens within a new decade, and it is probably the most anticipated season, long before the change of monarch. After witnessing what should have been the start of the hopeful fairy-tale that was supposed to be Charles and Dianna. Viewers get a front row seat to the dissolution of the fairy-tale that the nation had hoped for. Ever since Princess Dianna was brought introduced in the previous season, it was all most could talk about, and rightly so, given the impact Princess Di had on the world. Of course, this being the first season after the Queen’s death, it was always going to be the most controversial with the scandals that took place during that time and how the ripple effects are still felt in today’s Britain.
With a new season and decade, comes a new cast of actors. As Queen Elizabeth II approaches to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her accession, it is a series of reflections amid public favour dwindling for the monarchy and their queen, with not only state affairs troubling the country, but also the state of the younger royals and their declining reputations with the British public. Taking on the role of Queen Elizabeth II, Imelda Staunton takes on that iconic role and she is flawless in her deliveries. From the stoic, distant queen that many had thought of Queen Elizabeth during that time, to more tender moments with Prince William and Prince Phillip, it is a treat to see Staunton deliver in more ways than one as the former queen. You can’t think of British 90s without thinking of Princess Dianna. While Emma Corrin delivered a good performance as the Princess of Wales, Elizabeth Debicki embodies more of the princess than I have ever seen in any production. It is hard not to compare actors when they play the same role, just seasons apart. Debicki truly captures Dianna’s ease and natural warmth with people and her sons, something that wasn’t seen too much last season. The Crown, season five opens within a new decade, and it is probably the most anticipated season, long before the change of monarch. After witnessing what should have been the start of the hopeful fairy-tale that was supposed to be Charles and Dianna. Now viewers will get a front row seat to the dissolution of the fairy-tale that the nation had hoped for. Ever since Princess Dianna was brought into The Crown last season, it was all most could talk about, and rightly so, given the impact Princess Di had on the world. Of course, this being the first season after the Queen’s death, it was always going to be the most controversial given the scandals that took place during that time and how the ripple effects are still felt in today’s Britain.
During the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong, the British monarchy are facing the very thing they had been fearing, change. Prince Charles (Dominic West) is pressuring the Queen to grant him a divorce while attempting to turn prime ministers and the public against her, in favour of him. There had been many reports that the new British King, Charles III did not want season five to air due to the worry it would have to his new queen consort, Camilla. While the show does handle Camilla with respect, it is the new king that will not be happy with the portrayal, and not just because of West’s painful attempt at imitating him.
England and many other countries are still mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II as she was the longest reigning monarch and a constant in an ever-changing world. While I agree that the monarchy needs to change and have more of an active role in the world, such as politics and the climate crisis, Charles has some good ideas this season but his execution of those and his impatience will have views angry at not only the treatment of Dianna, but also how he treats and disregards his own mother for his own ambitions. Meeting with two different Prime Ministers in secret to move his ascension to the throne closer while fanning the flames that the Queen is just like Queen Victoria, depriving her son the chance to rule and make a change while she is too old and stuck in her ways to further the monarchy. King Charles III will not find anything forgiving about his portrayal in season five, as he is nothing but a greedy, impatient, and disrespectful man, though he does have a vision that many would probably agree to, but unfortunately the latter is the only redeemable quality of this portrayal.
The theme of this season is clearly marriage and change. What happens when you have a partnership that has gone on too long, or when the view of the British public starts to change? In terms of partnership, the series shows all the Queen’s children (Prince Phillip, Princess Anne, and Prince Andrew) all separate or divorce from their partners as the Queen’s country seems to be slipping away from her. The series shows Prince Phillip and Penny Knatchbull’s friendship and partnership blossom during their grief, and while nothing romantic or sexual is expressly said, it is not hard to believe that the show writers where hinting at such a relationship. What makes it different is when it is compared to the triangle of Charles, Dianna, and Camilla. Neither Charles nor Camilla had any respect for Dianna. She was the approved wife and a means to an end, which left Dianna miserable, isolated, and alone. Penny, on the other hand, has the greatest respect for the Queen and the Monarchy itself.
While Dianna must suffer the indignity of everyone knowing of Charles’s affair and love of Camilla, she is pushed to a breaking point and Debicki shows a complex Dianna. She shows a woman hurt and angry at this betrayal but also a woman who was in love with her prince, who was pushed to the breaking point of book deals and tricked into interviews that left her more alone and isolated than ever before. When the BBC Panorama interview first came out, many had said the Princess of Wales was acting out of spite. This season shines a light on her isolation and desires to be loved and simply listened to.
The Crown, Season Five sets up the events of next season perfectly. It slowly introduces the Fayed family and how they rose within British Society, mostly through the experiences of Mohammad Al-Fayed (Salim Daw). Of course, the world knows the fate of Dianna and Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), but they writers perfectly set this up in season five, without making it glaringly obvious. Daw’s portrayal of Mohammed Al-Fayed was a breath of fresh air on the show as it allows the viewers to see the British monarchy through an outsider. While the character had some problematic behaviours at the start, Daw perfectly portrays a man who changes throughout the years while wanting the best for himself and his sons. He is treated with disrespect in Britain and by the queen herself but his scenes with Debicki will have you convinced these two were friends for many years, with their natural warmth and ease with each other, it was a delight to see them both on the screen at the same time.
Some things in the show feel a little misplaced, and nothing is highlighted more than the tragedy of the Romanov Imperial Family. It is interesting to see how the royal family dealt with such a tragedy, but other than that, it feels misplaced with the going all the way back to 1917 and King George V. That and an episode cantered around the divorce of other random couples does throw up the pacing and plot of the episodes. Normally, the writers build things brilliantly, but these two episodes feel out of place within the series, despite the attempts to make those plots relevant to the season overall.
Overall, I think The Crown Season Five, will be a success, perhaps more so than its past seasons. From going full circle from episode one to episode ten, the writers highlight the problems that the monarchy still face today but with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many viewers who loved the Queen and the British monarchy will look at this series with sadness. As the Queen reflects on her past forty years in season five, viewers will reflect on the Queen’s overall rule and the impact her death has had upon society.
I do want to clarify somethings. As I write this, I am not a Monarchist or Royalist, but British History (more so Medieval history like King John, William Marshall and Richard the Lionheart) is an interesting topic. While The Crown does not feature anything from the period I enjoy researching, it is an interesting watch. If you dislike the monarchy and its monarchs, you will enjoy watching British rulers struggle to navigate a changing world while Royalists will enjoy the reflection of Queen Elizabeth II and her reign.
One thing that had stuck with me was John Major (Johnny Lee Miller), the conservative prime minister. John Major presents as a calm and stabling presence to the monarchy as he aids the Queen in many things, from her royal yacht to overseeing the Wales’s divorce; his words from the first episode had stuck with me. John Major explains how the senior royals are dangerously deluded while the younger royals are feckless, entitled and lost. It’s a situation that will affect the stability of the country and how he felt things were about to erupt. Since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the ever-changing conservate prime ministers, a new king and queen consort that have split the nation, one can’t help but feel these words resonate more so in today’s climate in Britain just as much as they did in the 90s.
For the MVC, the title goes to Mohammed Al-Fayed. He character starts off horribly but learns the error of his ways and is shown as compassionate and warm to Princess Dianna as British Society try and push them out. He presents as one of the most caring characters in the show.
‘The Crown season five arrives on Netflix on November 9th, 2022.
The Crown season five was screened for review.