Is anyone binge-watching Season 4 of “The Crown”? Available on the 15th of this month, I was happy to see the release date ahead of the new year. This fourth season deals with some of the rougher history of England’s royals, i.e. 1977 to 1990, in what is truly an engaging look at the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, in the latter years essayed by Olivia Colman.
Although the Crown series is produced by Left Bank Pictures (British) and Sony (American), it was created and mostly written by Brit Peter Morgan, who seems to have taken a dim view of the palace royals in season four. Beside historical license, which would invite routine outcry from Whitehall and Buckingham Palace, the script paints all four of the Queen’s children as entitled little rotters, and Prince Charles, a whiner, the most entitled of all. It’s led to an outcry at home that this season of the series might impact Prince Charles and Camilla’s future when he ascends the throne.
However, though some of those scenes were indeed cringe worthy, what gave me the most pause was the casting of Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher. They had right Thatcher’s signature hair, which looked a force to be reckoned with. She was, after all, known in the press as ‘the Iron Lady’–mostly for her reluctance to compromise. But Anderson’s portrayal involves a weak chin and a mouth set in a downward spiral that looks as if it might drop completely off her face during her incessant lectures.
More troubling is Morgan’s allusion to any disagreement Thatcher may have had with the Queen, over the Falklands or over Thatcher’s lack of interest in supporting sanctions for South Africa over apartheid. She was not at all interested in the third world status of the Commonwealth nations. His writing of those meetings inevitably left the Queen looking diminished. And there were several of those scenes.
I thought at first Morgan must have handed out some episodes to a team of writers, there is so little attempt at transition. One is about the Michael Fagan break-in at the palace. This one is about Charles and Diana’s Australia trip. That one is about the Queen’s sister, Margaret. This one an odd attempt to sum up the queen’s relationship with each of her four children. And, of course, one is devoted to Princess Diana, the proposal, the wedding, the bulimia, the constant that was Camilla.
Emma Corrin comes as close to emulating Princess Diana as I’ve seen before, but let’s face it, no one is going to pull that off. Really, no one can successfully pull off playing such high profile personalities in a project this size. Claire Foy as the young Elizabeth I thought more believable than is Colman. And, oddly, Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten, Charles’ father figure.
I know the years covered in season 4 were hard years for the royal family. But I fear that with each episode, Morgan may have accomplished nothing more than add fuel to the fire for the anti-monarchists. I’m quite sure the Buckingham palace press office is working overtime.