Can I let you in on a little secret? Come closer, so nobody will hear. Ready? (Whispers) I really like The Crown.
I know: crazy, isn’t it? A guy who has a professed dislike of the monarchy has quite happily sat and watched both seasons of Netflix’s lavish period drama about royal scandal and rich-people problems? Hard to believe, but true.
Though it’s far from perfect, The Crown’s creative team share a particular skill with one Clint Eastwood: both understand how to use image-making to examine the fame foisted upon an individual, whether they like it or not. I’m sometimes put off by how sympathetic the series can be towards Queen Elizabeth II and her family, but it can make for a pretty stunning dissection, and even a compelling history lesson (see: my open jaw when I found out the Royal family had once fraternised with Nazis).
The cast is where the series really lucked out. All the period detail in the world (and make no mistake, this series has it) wouldn’t make up for performances. There’s not one here, at least in the main cast – Michael C. Hall’s flat portrayal of JFK was a series 2 low point, uncharacteristic of the great TV actor. Everyone else – Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, the gamut – is exceptional. It’s appropriate that Smith would be involved, then, because for season 3, arriving on November 17th, the whole main cast is getting a regeneration of its own.
Stepping into Foy’s pink blazer is Oscar-winner and all-round national treasure Olivia Colman, fresh off her performance as Elizabeth’s distant ascendant, Anne Stuart. It’s such an obvious choice, it’s actually quite brilliant. Foy, for all the poise and cracked steeliness she brought to the role, still feels like a young version of the Queen. Colman, on the other hand, is older, and appropriately seems tougher as well. By 1964, which is when the new season begins, Elizabeth has been a little weathered by her time on the throne. Colman is surely a perfect fit.
Elsewhere, Smith is being replaced by James Bond alum Tobias Menzies, in probably his most high-profile role, while Prince Charles finally grows up into Josh O’Connor, a scarily close likeness to the then-young heir to the throne.
This is all well and good, especially considering that Camilla Parker Bowles will make her first appearance stirring the royal pot. But what I’ll confess I’ve stuck around for the most with The Crown is the politicking, the chance to see Britain’s prime ministers in action. The show’s retelling of the Suez Crisis, for example, was excellent, and John Lithgow’s Churchill took a startling amount of the bad with the good qualities of the former PM.
This season will see Jason Watkins, likely best-known for Nativity! and W1A, doing, per The Guardian, a “chameleon-like” impersonation of two-time PM Harold Wilson, AKA one of the best to ever do it. Okay, that’s my personal opinion coming out. But under Wilson’s tenure, Britain went through an extraordinary change, ushering in the Swinging Sixties in earnest. Thus, we might be about to get the most tumultuous season of The Crown yet. Just don’t tell anyone I’ll be watching.