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‘The Crown’ season 4 is its most dazzling yet

‘The Crown’ season 4 is its most dazzling yet

‘The Crown’ season 4 is its most dazzling yet
November 19
11:00 2020

It is a bit daunting to create a show about Britain’s most powerful family, but creator Peter Morgan has no qualms about it. His Netflix series “The Crown,” a six-season project that changes out its casts every two seasons, explores the drama behind the Windsors while chronicling the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Season four hit the streaming service on Sunday, finishing its final foray with the middle-age cast.

Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed in season three, which was the first time this newly-aged cast hit the screen as the Royal Family. I’m not sure if this was at the fault of the actors or if it is because I am naturally predisposed to dislike casting changes. But here, in Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) and company’s last season before the final cast change, they delivered a bit of a masterpiece. “The Crown” season four is the best the show has ever been, and one of the best of 2020.

With around 70 years being packed into a six-season format, there is a lot of ground to cover, and Morgan does that by giving each episode its own plotline based on real-life events. These ten episodes showcase some of the strongest and most potent stories across the four seasons, covering events between roughly 1977 and 1990 like the South African apartheid, IRA terrorism and a Buckingham Palace break-in. But perhaps what makes this season stand out from its predecessors is it’s the first time we really have an overarching theme or storyline woven throughout the individual episodes, and it’s a compelling one at that. At its core, season four is about the threat of change — a cold and at times dogmatic conservative Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) attempts to create a more individualist and self-preserving nation, while recent Royal Family addition Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) yearns to break from rigid tradition. This layers the show with a deeper sense of purpose that offers context to the sovereign’s societal function.

This is what makes the show so fascinating. Morgan doesn’t just create a retelling of events (with embellishments for entertainment, of course), but infuses those events with a pensive and insightful analysis of the help and harm the monarchy does. He manages to tastefully navigate the stories of Royals who are still very much alive without falsely painting them in a positive light. We are meant to recognize their cruelty and indifference, their excessive consumption while much of the nation lives in poverty, and the frivolity of their statements asserting, “We’re just like everyone else.” But amid their pompous entitlement, we’re cued into the misery the Crown has caused them and the humanity that makes them worthy of our sympathy. Ultimately, their comfort comes at the price of their freedom, and no one has any autonomy over their lives. It seems the monarchy is not good for anyone, not even the monarchs.

In the first three seasons, we see this most plainly illustrated through the Queen’s sister Margaret (formerly Vanessa Kirby, currently Helena Bonham Carter). But this season, all the doom and gloom goes to Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Diana. The former was neglected as a child and forced into a marriage he did not want, and the latter was wildly misled as a young teen and left to grow up in the most unwelcoming company. Their story is the heaviest the show has explored, especially knowing the real-life Diana’s fate which will be seen next season.

As somber as it is to watch, their scenes are probably the most electrifying, as the roles could not have been more well-cast. O’Connor gave a memorizing performance that captured how terrible Charles was and how surprisingly terrible we could feel for him. Newcomer Corrin was hands-down the MVP, and it seems as though she actually is the late Lady Diana Spencer. The resemblance is uncanny, not just in looks but in every last mannerism — Corrin achieved a voice nearly identical to Diana’s, and in the show’s engagement announcement I could have sworn I was seeing the actual video all over again. She’s absolutely magnetic, exuding playfulness and charm while also capturing hopeless despair.

Not to mention the costumes Corrin wore are the spitting image of real photos I’ve seen countless times. Every last costuming and set detail is completely engrossing across the roughly two decades that are captured. The score is more gorgeous than ever and features some really intense, almost dark thriller-esque moments. Everything about this show is brilliant.

And in addition to O’Connor and Corrin, I have to give a nod to Colman. Last season, I was not as impressed with her as I was the original Claire Foy, but she absolutely delivers here in her understated yet multifaceted portrayal. I can’t imagine a more daunting role, yet everything here felt believable not just as a Queen, but as a complex human being. Carter was probably the smoothest transition from original actor and she’s just as commanding again here. Anderson is unbelievable as the U.K.’s first female prime minister and deserves every award possible. Tobias Menzies (Phillip) and Erin Doherty (Anne) are incredible as well.

I have nothing bad to say about “The Crown’s” fourth go-around. I was enchanted from front to back. Along with “Darkseason three, this is by far the best show of the year and I can’t foresee anything else eclipsing it in this awards cycle. Give “The Crown” the 2021 Emmy for Best Drama Series, and long may she reign.

Final rating: 5/5

Featured image: Courtesy Netflix

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Haley Arnold

Haley Arnold

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