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Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ fails to reign supreme in penultimate season

Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ fails to reign supreme in penultimate season

Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ fails to reign supreme in penultimate season
November 17
13:00 2022

Netflix released its fifth season of “The Crown” on Nov. 9 with 10 new episodes chronicling the life of the British royal family in the ‘90s.

As the first season to air after Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, fans believed the new cast and plot would become more relevant and connected as the series continued. However, creator Peter Morgan’s decision to extend “The Crown” to a six-season series seems to have deadlocked writers in monotonous storylines dependent on the show’s previous successes.

A majority of season five depicts the infamously the unhappy marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, played by Netflix newcomers Elizabeth Debicki and Dominic West. While the storyline attempts to convey how their arrangement and eventual separation affect members of the royal family, its impact is damaged by a prolonged runtime.

“The Crown” is yet another series to fall victim to trends of drawn-out productions. With 10 50-minute episodes to complete, writers work to grab the audience’s attention with half-hearted filler. These various attempts at distraction, like anti-”When Harry Met Sally” divorcee montages that bulk up episode nine, only further emphasize the season’s core drudgery.

Additional “inside looks” at the lives of other secondary characters serve little to no purpose throughout the series. Although interesting, choices to focus on figures like Sydney Johnson or the returning Peter Townsend take focus away from the main plot points. As a result, time and details are taken away from the stories of more impactful characters, like the Queen, Prince Phillip and Camilla Bowles.

The substance “The Crown” lacks puts further pressure on the performance of its cast, which is seen at its weakest this season. Accurate, dynamic portrayals are still seen in shining moments from Debicki, West and Imelda Staunton’s Queen Elizabeth. However, when standing next to previous seasons’ executions, season five’s characters fade into the background.

Despite its numerous blunders, one thing season five does perfectly is its selection of the main antagonist: the media. While the storyline could’ve easily focused on the failures of Prince Charles and the royal family against Diana, “The Crown” decides to shine its brightest light on the British tabloids and news.

Former BBC journalist Martin Bashir, a figure somewhat overlooked in Diana’s history, takes the helm of season five’s misfortune. Bashir’s deceitful persuasion, with the aid of fabricated documents, coerced an already vulnerable Diana into her famous 1995 BBC exclusive.

While several accusations made in the interview were damaging to certain royal members, “The Crown” shows how it also led to further antagonism of Diana by both her former family and the media. Such related scenes give Debicki an invaluable opportunity to display Diana’s innermost fears and sorrows surrounding her eventual departure from royalty. The additional increased power and influence of the media over Diana’s life also hauntingly foreshadows her untimely death.

The antagonistic efforts of the media are also depicted as advantageous for secondary antagonists Charles and Camilla. Charles uses public newspaper polls to further push for his abdication from the throne, while Camilla hires public relations executives to keep her afloat in the face of their royal affair.

While oversimplified in the terms of season five’s plot, these comparisons further comment on Diana’s unfavored position. Unlike Charles and his chosen bride-to-be, Diana was one of the few to never truly benefit from her relations with the monarchy. Had this been a more in-depth focus throughout the season, “The Crown” may have been able to live up to its promised relevancy and influence.

With the series’ latest lackluster performance having to satisfy audiences through November 2023, the reigning legacy of “The Crown” is now at risk. Morgan’s recent direction failed to captivate many longtime viewers, even in a season focused on the fan-favorite Diana. This evidently points toward the show’s increasing struggles to meet increasing expectations, as often seen by shows that refuse to reach a timely end. 

As Netflix prepares to touch on the lives of Prince William and Kate Middleton, fans can only hope heartier storylines are in the works. If season five blunders continue into the show’s final episodes, the shining reputation of “The Crown” may remain tarnished for good.

Samantha’s rating: 2/5

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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