We'll be breaking down The Crown episode by episode as you binge along.
Show: The Crown
Starring: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris, John Lithgow
Season One Episodes One & Two
The Royal Family: the Kardashians of the elite. Both families find headlines following them wherever they go, no one’s quite sure what they actually do and you just know your family drama ain’t got nothing on their's.
But saying The Crown plays out like a historical Keeping Up with the Kardashians would be doing the show a disservice. Rumoured to be amongst the most expensive television shows of all time with a price tag of $100 million, The Crown is just another reminder that television is enjoying its golden age.
From the first episode, “Wolferton Splash”, you feel the tensions in the family, and in the centre of it all is quiet Elizabeth. Following Elizabeth’s wedding to Philip (Smith), her grandmother, Queen Mary (Eileen Atkins), remarks, “There wasn’t a single person supported the match […] She [turned] us all on our heads and barely opened her mouth in the process.” But her worries extended beyond everyone's marital concerns. Elizabeth’s struggles show through the most subtle of moments — after her father’s death, Elizabeth’s mother doesn’t console her daughter but rather greets her new monarch. The profound scene of a mother having to curtsey to her own daughter reminds you gone are the warm smiles and hugs, in turn we see a subject bowing down to her Queen.
Something amazing about The Crown is that it doesn’t play out like propaganda. It isn’t scared to criticize Winston Churchill (Lithgow), then prime-minister, for his avid narcissism. It also isn’t afraid to call into view the colonialist past of Britain. Another standout scene is during the second episode, “Hyde Park Corner”, when Philip, accompanying Elizabeth to Nairobi, casually makes racist remarks towards the leaders of the country. Moments like this remind the viewer the dark history that looms over this family.
If I have one criticism for the show this early on it would have to be the CGI. The standard for willing suspension of disbelief with television is quite higher than for movies, but for all of Philip’s heroism protecting Elizabeth from that elephant I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the green screen mess. It’s about time the entertainment industry realizes we don't need to see elephants and giraffes to believe the characters are truly in some part of Africa.
I expected The Crown to give me a solid history lesson. What I got was a relevant commentary on the struggle of being a working woman and having to reconcile a family and a career, a challenge on its own but being the Queen definitely makes it no easier. The sets make history come to life, the dialogue brings the tensions to a forefront and the actors leave nothing to be desired. All in all, the show starts on a great note and I’m excited to see what’s to come.
Sidebar, if I die someone please clear my search history, I don't want anyone to explain to my parents why I was googling "did prince philip save queen elizabeth from elephant in kenya."
Stay tuned for the next review covering episodes three and four.