Stephen Daldry, Philip Martin, Benjamin Caron, Julian Jarrold
Peter Morgan, Tom Edge
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II
Matt Smith as Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Vaness Kirby as Princess Margaret
Jeremy Northam as Anthony Eden
John Lithgow as Winston Churchill
Peter Morgan has a unique take on Queen Elizabeth and has made a star out of Claire Foy and should be an awards contender for Netflix.
There will come a point in the next few years when Game of Thrones will end with one of our beloved characters on the Iron Throne. Everyone will be encouraged to believe that the pursuit of power is going to be more fun than the reign itself.
But it does lack dragons and nudity and all the bloody stuff, Netflix’s new series The Crown will put a solid argument for excising power as part of a compelling drama. The very first chapter of Peter Morgan’s chronical about the rule of Queen Elizabeth II remains to be a gripping drama across the 10 episodes that have been made available to critics, which have found both unexpected suspense in matters of etiquette and courtly protocol and emotional heft in her youthful ascension. Led by a star making and complicated performance by Claire Foy as well as a unique ensemble that will fill Emmy categories, The Crown in Netflix’s biggest push into an awesome drama category.
Morgan begins this story in 1947 with King George VI in power but coughing up blood in a really ominous way. On the verge of a really controversial marriage to Philip, Elizabeth is barely even considering the crown, but it doesn’t take long before she is thrust into the monarchy.
The first season goes until 1955, when the world was on the brink of the Suez Crisis, and it continues to build drama on various fronts, balancing episodes with a few spikes of actions such as the Great Smog of 1952, where there are numerous continuing struggles that include the bad health of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Philips feelings of being marginalized, periodic intrusions of Prince Edward, who is still adored by the country, even if his abdication nearly destroyed the House of Windsor, and sister Margaret’s rule breaking love life.
This is a true story of relatable dilemmas and overwhelming privilege, but Morgan’s gift is actually the character’s choices that feel quite universal. You may not think that you would care for the wealthy residence that Elizabeth calls home, or whether her children have their father’s last name, but The Crown makes you understand the stakes for Philip and for England. Morgan shows a lot of empathy for these characters, even if it just a theoretical type of empathy for those who don’t exactly confess their insecurities to the public.
These are the characters that are symbols for most in Great Britain, and unique people for those in The US, and Morgan has made them complicated, sometimes unlikeable, prickly and sometimes justifiable in their own minds, to benefit the actors who portray them as well as to their hero worshipers.
Foy begins the series as more of an intentional cipher, unknowable and unreadable because the world needs her to be a wife, daughter, and princess. In those first episodes, The Crown is overall dominated by Harris in a powerful performance that really improves and builds on George VI from The King’s Speech.
Whenever Foy becomes queen, it is seen that Elizabeth keeps her reginal name, and she is able to split into two different Elizabeth’s, who are constantly in conflict as the crown and the woman. She is constantly the deer in the headlights, as she was educated mostly on horses and the constitution, but she is instinctual and ready to learn. Foy is able to punctuate certain moments of unique and complete fierceness with an uncanny uncertainty and those moments of untamed doubt with a reserved coolness as well as cleverness and she fits in well with all of her co-stars.
Just like Elizabeth in the first season, as she is never entirely the queen that she will become, Philip is also in flux. Smith doesn’t shy from making Philip have gnawing insecurity and slithery ambition, traits which have kept him from coming across as a know it all, since the script have shown him to be a populist and forward looking in ways that Elizabeth isn’t able to be. He gets to shine simply by being emotional and feisty which is a contrast to Elizabeth being calculating and tentative.
The Crown’s towering performance that comes from John Lithgow, which was a great choice for Churchill. Perhaps it is because of his nationality and built are wrong and you can tell he is at least a foot taller then Churchill, Lithgow manages to go for emotional evocation of Churchill’s diminishing and blustering might. He is great throughout the whole season, as he manages to lock down some nice trophies with the episode that he stars with Stephen Dillane who plays Graham Sutherland, a modernist painter who is supposed to be painting Churchill’s 80th birthday portrait.
This cast has no weak links, Jennings who plays the indignant and vindictive Edward, Pip Torrens who is the royal secretary Tommy Lascelles, Eileen Atkins is Queen Mary, and the wonderful Victoria Hamilton who plays Queen Mum is revelatory to those who known Elizabeth’s mother from her later years and Anthony Eden who is played by Jeremy Northam is ready for the spotlight in the second season.
The Crown is a constant reminder that awards bait isn’t always bad. Sometimes it is just something that will lure award givers and The Crown is awards bait. If Lithgow, Foy and Smith don’t win Golden Globes, then Netflix will have dropped the ball. When it comes to Emmy’s, Harris and Jennings should be getting an Emmy for guest acting field. The Crown should be an awards player for their performances as well as various technical categories.
The Crown is basically a costume drama that is done right. Morgan’s fascination has been the clash between institutions and individuals. He favors brainy intimacy and even coronation and a royal wedding is a negotiation of power. That is why he left Kirby, Smith, and Foy to carry out the aspects of a fairy tale romance. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip talking dirty isn’t something that really worked, but Morgan shows that they are real people and yes they had sex.