The Crown delivers its most captivating season yet

Image Courtesy of Netflix

By Yoan Dzhugdanov

Netflix’s royal period drama helmed by Peter Morgan has finally returned for its much anticipated fourth season. Season 3 saw Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Josh O’Connor and Helena Bonham-Carter enter the fold, yet that season served as a transitional period of sorts, giving viewers time to adjust and adapt to these new cast members. With this new season, the show dives straight into the eighties. We’ve now reached the good stuff, the juiciness of a decade filled with so much tension whereby the characters are plunged into all sorts of crises. On top of this, the arrival of two particular women: Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), unleashes a conflict that could unsettle the very standards of the Crown.

Season 4 opens in 1979 and sees Margaret Thatcher assume office. The first audience between the Queen and Thatcher is directed with such precision, boasting cinematography and lighting that just exudes pure brilliance. Anderson embodies Thatcher’s physicality rather effortlessly, nailing the woman’s incredibly headstrong and steadfast nature whilst also portraying her with a nuance that Meryl Streep never quite got the chance to capture in The Iron Lady. Despite this, I would add that Anderson’s vocal portrayal of Thatcher was a tad bit too ashy and hoarse for my liking – definitely took some getting used to. Never before has a season of The Crown dissected the sheer tension between the institutions of government and monarchy as closely as this season does. Each scene between the Queen and Thatcher is directed and acted with such vigour – they are quite simply among the best in the show’s history.

Olivia Colman owns the role of Queen Elizabeth in this season, showing why she is perfectly suited to portray the monarch in this middle period of her life – she is mature, experienced, but also capable of a ruthlessness that will leave viewers stunned.

The season also devotes its time to Princess Diana and her tumultuous relationship with Prince Charles. Perhaps the most difficult casting and performance task for the series so far, Emma Corrin radiates the youthfulness and innocence of ‘the people’s princess’, although there are few moments that frustratingly border on mimicry. Josh O’Connor is a very different Prince Charles to the one we saw last season: far more tougher and meaner, bringing forth a brutality in which you can’t help but also sympathise with him in certain moments as we see his humanity retained. The chemistry between Corrin and O’Connor is unmatched as we see the loneliness and desperation that both are ultimately driven to.

The issue of the destruction and deterioration of the self in all its forms is extremely prominent in this season. “In time, she will give up her fight, and bend, like they all do,” says the Queen Mother. “And if she doesn’t bend, what then?” asks the Queen. States Margaret (Bonham-Carter) from experience: “She will break.”

The other members of the royal family fare rather well. Both Prince Phillip and Margaret are given lighter presences. Tobias Menzies remains confident and excellent as Phillip – the season’s penultimate scene between Diana and he is, dare I say, sinister and threatening. Bonham-Carter is side-lined to such an extent that she is granted only one episode in which to shine, but even then, the vitality she brings to the role has her paling in comparison to Vanessa Kirby’s extraordinary portrayal of Margaret. Erin Doherty is for me, the unspoken gem of this show, her portrayal of Anne is as authentic as it gets.

The fourth season of The Crown takes the principles of acting, directing, production design and cinematography to new heights, proving that this show is nothing short of a masterpiece. For the first time in the show’s run, Morgan is able to carry an excellent narrative consistency across ten full episodes, making The Crown the most cinematic and classiest period drama to perhaps ever grace our screens.

All seasons of The Crown are available to stream on Netflix.

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