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“I’ll Battle ‘Till the End”: The Crown Season 5

Last week, Netflix released the highly anticipated fifth season of one of their most-watched programs, The Crown. After the fourth season caused a renewed discussion of the monarchy’s treatment of Diana, Princess of Wales, how the writers would handle the 1990s was highly anticipated. Viewers waited with bated breath as disagreements over respecting the recently deceased sovereign and potentially adding disclaimers centered the discussion of the next season’s release. With all this in mind, Peter Morgan et. al delivered with a season of television that is enjoyable in several ways but one.

What Season 5 Does Right

  • LocationsThe Crown is one of Netflix’s most expensive programs to make, and one can understand why. The sets portray the opulence of the royal family’s palaces extremely well and the on-location shoots in Italy transport the viewer into the extravagant lifestyle of Her Majesty.
  • Casting – Elizabeth Debicki is nothing short of outstanding as Diana. Although Dominic West does not resemble Charles, he more than makes up for it through his voice and mannerisms. Even people who immediately recognize Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter will be amazed by how well she portrays an Elizabeth who is at her wit’s end.
  • Costuming – Diana’s iconic revenge dress, the Queen’s skirt suits, Anne’s equestrian outfits, and Charles’ suits are all nearly identical copies of the real life garments.
  • True Events – For non-Brits and Generation Z viewers (some of whom are both), watching The Crown can be a semi-educational viewing experience. Of course the conversations that took place within palace walls are imagined, but the news stories are nonfiction. Some of them are so truly outrageous that they inspire a late night researching spiral with the episode on pause.
  • Details – Rather than solely focusing on Elizabeth, The Crown delves into the lives of people who were associated with the royals. The episode “Mou Mou,” which follows Mohamed Al-Fayed’s assimilation in British society, does well to show how important a seemingly extraneous person can become to the world.

What Season 5 Does Wrong

  • Diana – For a season that is focused on the royal family in the 1990s, Diana is remarkably absent; when she does appear, she is often crying at home. I find this to be a massive disservice to how Diana actually spent the final years of her life: she continued advocating for AIDS charities, called attention to landmines in Angola, and spent quality time with her children amidst a very public and upsetting divorce. Furthermore, her openness regarding the suffering she had endured throughout her marriage – including infidelity, self-harm, bulimia and postpartum depression – was a tremendous act of bravery considering how private the royal family was supposed to be and how infrequently the latter issues were discussed in that time period. The omission of the tremendous work Diana did makes her fictional counterpart fail to reflect the incredible woman she was.
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