I finally finished watching the final season of The Crown and I have thoughts.
They got it right
I'm William's age, so I totally remember Diana's death, the funeral, and the way the attention on him ramped up once she was gone. And I remember the insanity amongst certain teen girls about him (one of my friends in high school was semi-obsessed with him. I visited Windsor on a family holiday and mentioned to her that I could see some Eton students playing football in the distance and she Freaked. Out.) So, yeah, the intensity of that was definitely as crazy as it is in the show.
On a similar note, those fan letters to William really were a good mix of creepiness and teenage narcissism. 'Oh, William, you must be soooo sad! Make sure you cuddle my favourite teddy bear every night and think of me--it'll make you feel better!'
A+ on the casting of the young Elizabeth and Margaret. The actresses do really look like younger versions of Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby.
At the risk of sounding like a prude, I feel I should point out that Princess Margaret was 14 years old on VE day and Prince Harry was 13 when he and William accompanied Prince Charles on his trip to Canada. I know the actors who play them on the show are muuuuch older (and look it), but knowing the actual ages, did anyone else find it weird that nobody batted an eye over both of these actual children swigging whisky? Again, 13 and 14 years old! And they were doing it in front of Elizabeth and William, who the show keeps reminding us (in those very episodes, no less) are The Responsible Ones. It felt really out of character that neither of them said a word about their siblings hitting hard liquor when they've barely entered their teen years, even if Margaret and Harry are being presented as the 'wild ones' of the family.
(And on a similar note: are we really to believe that these two teen boys would have been put in a hotel room by themselves with a fully stocked minibar? On an official visit? When they have to be on their best behaviour?)
Life in the bubble
Elizabeth's bafflement over the Middleton family eating dinner in their kitchen ('Why? Don't they have a dining room?') is a bit much considering she saw Margaret installing an open-plan kitchen/living room at Kensington Palace back in the 60's, but William's response ('I...think they do?') amused me, because I do believe a lot of these people are very clueless about how the middle classes live. To them, it's like, there are people who live in bedsits and people who live at Blenheim and anything in between is this vague grey area.
They really did Carole Middleton dirty, didn't they? She was almost a cartoon villain, all but pimping her daughter out to a royal, which puts a very sinister twist on the Wales's marriage that I'm not sure the show fully intended. Are we supposed to think that Catherine's just a golddigger who was pushed into this relationship by her mother (and is now kind of trapped there)? Because that's pretty dark. It's also likely untrue and only exists in the public mind because of some very nasty, classist, unfounded stories that appeared in the more awful tabloids years ago, before Meghan Markle came on the scene and they found someone else to dump on.
Speaking of being done dirty...
Carole's in good company at least. This show's poorly served several people, including:
The astronauts who landed on the moon
The Queen Mother
Should we talk about those last four?
Prince Philip: For the first two seasons he's a whiny, entitled, maybe unfaithful, bored jerk. Also, an emotionally abusive father. At the end, he only seems to exist to keep telling people how great Elizabeth is at her job. And he drives some carriages and maybe has an emotional affair. If you were going off this show, you'd be forgiven for thinking he was THE WORST. And look, I'm not going to defend Philip, he was definitely problematic in some ways. But he also did some interesting things, like create the Duke of Edinburgh's award, which is pretty great. Never even mentioned, not once.
The Queen Mother: Apparently, just a nasty, petty piece of work and a dreadful parent. If you're going off the show, that is. And, at the end, just an annoyingly deaf person (for one scene). Ha ha, old people, amirite?
Prince Harry: Yikes. Scene after scene of him complaining about how everyone expects him to be a screw up. Which is ridiculous, because no, Harry, nobody expected or wanted you to be a screw up. Why would you think that? I feel like he could have been an interesting character, especially with everything that's come out about him lately, but he mostly just seems whiny and annoying. Missed opportunity. (There's also no mention of his and William's closeness to the Queen Mother, which might have given her death more emotional heft. Instead we just get him and William rudely chatting through her funeral like they couldn't care less.)
Diana: I'll just say it: this show spent too much time on Diana. I don't really blame them, because both Emma Corrin and Elizabeth Debicki were brilliantly cast, but the hyperfocus on her really started to make the show draggy and repetitive, particularly in the first few episodes of this season. And those episodes didn't do her justice. Her last summer was busy--she went to the Met Gala, she auctioned her dresses (William's idea, I heard, and that could have been an interesting scene between the two of them that could have balanced out the scenes of her parentifying him). She went to Versace's funeral. She got really into her landmines work, and yeah, she went on some holidays (as many of us do over the summer!) but for some reason the show ignored most of that and gave us episode after episode of Sad Diana sitting on yachts and doing not much of anything at all. I feel like that was a real misstep, not only because it made those episodes dull, but also because it sort of robbed her death of some of its real-life poignancy and tragedy. One of the reasons it was so sad was because it seemed like she was finally getting out from under her marriage, getting out there, hitting her stride, and really living her best life (despite the media). So, when she died, it just felt extra tragic. A life cut short in so many ways.
This is an issue I have with the series as a whole. It felt unfocussed at times, and they missed out on so much interesting storytelling, ignoring important things in favour of events that may never have happened (Philip cheating), were not as big a deal as the show made them out to be (the Margaret-Townsend affair), or were depressing and familiar to us all (the misery of Charles and Diana's marriage). The show is called The Crown, which implies it's about the Royal Family and the people around them, and yet you'd be forgiven if you totally forgot Princes Andrew and Edward even existed. They barely figure into any of it, even though their stories are pretty important.
Andrew and Fergie's marriage was also falling apart in tandem with Charles and Diana's. Fergie, too, had a hellish time with the press (for different reasons than Diana, which could have been an interesting contrast). Fergie and Diana had a somewhat fraught relationship--they were friends (in fact, distantly related) but things between them broke down, and the press frequently ran stories that pitted them against one another (sound familiar?).
Princess Anne competed in the Olympic Games and fought off a kidnapper. I will never forgive the show for not showing us any of that. (Or the assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth. Taken with the kidnapping and the IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten, those events could have provided an interesting air of danger and understandable discomfort with the changing times and volatile political situation that may have resonated better than privileged people whining about how haaaaard their lives are.)
Prince Edward tried to have an actual career outside the royal family. He tried the army but quickly dropped out (the press claimed Philip was furious, but apparently he wasn't and wouldn't it have been nice to see him as a better dad to one of his sons? Like, maybe he'd grown as a person, or something?). Then he founded a TV production company that he just couldn't make work, in part because his position sort of got in the way. He actually sent a crew to St Andrews to film William when he was at Uni, and when Prince Charles found out he absolutely tore his brother a new one. Edward finally gave up the TV business to become a full-time working royal. So much opportunity there! To show Charles as a good, protective father. To show how challenging it is for people to actually break out of these roles and forge identities beyond being royal (a better way of doing this than young Harry sadsacking about how he's not expected to do anything).
You see? These are dramas that keep repeating again and again down the generations, and they ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Instead, we got to hear Margaret throwing tantrums about how her sister sank her relationship with the 'love of her life'. Sigh.
Death becomes her
We should all definitely plan our funerals, or at least tell our loved ones what we want after we die, but man, it must be bizarre to see the whole thing laid out in detailed miniature, right?
And on the subject of deaths on the show--I've watched the episode where George VI dies (Hyde Park Corner) many times and it never fails to get me to tear up. But when Margaret and the Queen Mother died I felt...nothing. Odd, considering I spent a lot more time with those characters than George. Am I just made of stone? Or did anyone else feel a little flat? (Seeing Margaret's decline, though, was quite sad.)
American soldier to young Princess Elizabeth: Come join our party! We Americans are very chill and totally don't separate people in any way that keeps power in the hands of one group at the expense of another! Unlike you Brits, with your class system!
The fact that they had a black soldier speaking lines that implied this was so, so tone deaf.
Also: I find it hard to believe that any party being thrown by American military personnel would have been so racially mixed. The US military was VERY segregated during World War II. The Brits were actually kind of surprised by it.
William: Wearing a swastika doesn't make you a Nazi.
Our future king, everyone! Also the guy who insisted the royal family were totally not racist at all. Yes, yes, I know that this is fiction and we don't know if that's something the real Prince William said, but he did willingly and happily attend a party that was Colonials and Natives themed and, according to reports, he and Catherine had no issue with Harry's costume and thought it was funny, so...
(And lord, the family's handling of that situation in The Crown was bad. Philip blamed the kids who took the photo more than Harry? And then berated the very young employees of the costume shop because the costume was inaccurate? As if they're the ones choosing which costumes to stock? And all of this was amusing to him and Elizabeth, both of whom, let's not forget, FOUGHT ACTUAL NAZIS. You think they'd be a little more disturbed by this. Strange.)
Ok, that was funny
That Titanic moment in The Ritz, when we cut away from the wild party downstairs to poor Porchy being bored to tears by some old rich guy at the posh party upstairs! (Also: it was nice seeing Porchy again. I'm glad he was a bit of a through-line for the series, he seemed lovely and sweet.)
William is bored of his course after just one term at uni, poor thing. Everyone just shrugs and tells him to switch to something else. Obviously, because it's not like it matters what he gets a degree in, does it? Not like he needs it to get a job or anything.
Elizabeth fully approves of Berkshire because that's where she keeps her horses. Hee!
I cracked up when one of the footmen just walked off when the bagpiper was preparing to play inside. Yes, I know he probably went to shut one of the interior doors, but I prefer to think he just went, 'Sorry, no, I did not sign up to be deafened by indoor bagpiping. I'll go find another rich person's doorway to stand in, thank you very much.'
Elizabeth's speech at Charles and Camilla's wedding was cute.
In a prestige drama with as massive a cast as this one, there's going to be a lot of overlap with other prestige dramas, but even so, I'm amused by how many of the actors in this have played royals (in some cases, royals who also appeared in The Crown).
Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth, Seasons 1-2) played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall
Olivia Coleman (Queen Elizabeth, Seasons 3-4) played Queen Anne in The Favourite
Imelda Staunton (Queen Elizabeth, Seasons 5-6) played the Queen Mother in Cambridge Spies (which means she's played a mother-daughter pair, and she's not the only one)
Jonathan Pryce (Prince Philip, Seasons 5-6) played King James in The New World
Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret, Seasons 3-4) played the Queen Mother in The King's Speech (so, another one playing both mother and daughter). Also, Lady Jane Grey in Lady Jane and Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII.
Eileen Atkins (Queen Mary) as Eleanor of Aquitaine was the only good thing about 2010's Robin Hood. Interestingly, she also played Queen Mary in Bertie and Elizabeth.
Victoria Hamilton (The Queen Mother, Seasons 1-2) played Queen Victoria in Victoria and Albert
Jared Harris (King George VI) played Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl
Alex Jennings (Edward VIII/Duke of Windsor, Seasons 1-2) played Prince Charles in The Queen (so, he's played both great-uncle and nephew)
Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher) played Wallis Simpson in Any Human Heart
Eve Best (Carole Middleton) played Wallis Simpson in The King's Speech
And, as you can imagine, there's a LOT of Game of Thrones connections in here.