Netflix Review: The Crown


By Heather Beavers

Man, I hate Netflix.

Wait, let me clarify! I hate how addicting it is. I hate how they have so many amazing shows and I hate that I can’t spend all day just vegging out and watching any one of the many offered movies and shows. I have spent a good amount of time recently watching The Crown. And how apropos seeing as it is the Queens 65th year on the throne, making her the first British monarch to reach what they call a sapphire jubilee. Hooray!
So The Crown is a Netflix original program based on the award-winning play “The Audience” by film writer and playwright Peter Morgan, who also happens to be the creator and writer of the television adaption. The Crown tells the intriguing story of Queen Elizabeth II and her life both prior to becoming one of the most beloved monarchs in history and it follows her to later times. There are 10 episodes that run an hour each. This was the only slight fault that I could find. There are a lot of intertwining stories in one hour and it seemed a bit overwhelming at times. Although I do despise drama in my day to day life, I love it in my shows. And The Crown does not disappoint. Royal romances, political alliances, family plots and heartbreak, just to get started. So, if you’ve got the time let me tell you a little about this marvelous show.
The first thing I talked about with a friend is the cast and their performances. Claire Foy plays a lovely Elizabeth. I had seen Claire Foy in Vampire Academy so I thought it was so interesting to see her in this kind of role. Prim and proper but with such an undercurrent of strength, how she handles her quick and rather unexpected ascension to the throne is beyond admirable. After her Father King George, played by Jared Harris, and who I will always see as Moriarty From Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, dies, she, at 25 years old is the next heir. Her Father’s brother, The Duke of Windsor, played by Alex Jennings, has abdicated the throne, causing a great deal of scandal in the process. She rarely shares anything very personal but in one scene while having breakfast with The Duke of Windsor, she confronts him honestly but gently about never having gotten an apology from him, he begins to stutter a reply about apologizing to her father, but she insists she deserves one from him and his actions that affected her life so profoundly. It would have been far easier for her to grow up out of the spotlight she says. He is quiet for a moment and then apologizes, appearing sincere. I almost let him fool me but, the Duke of Windsor is no gentleman. She however balances her personal and public life well. Always thought to be more of a private person she manages finds the right place between duty and personal conviction. She embodies grace and determination in the face of expectation and with the world watching her, she rises beautifully to the occasion. Being the head of state is more of a decorative title and she realizes that but always wants to do what is best.
Luckily for her she has Matt Smith, well, Phillip Duke of Edinburgh. If you don’t know who Matt Smith is then I’m not sure we can be friends. Just kidding 😉 The former Doctor from doctor Who is brilliant. Philip is a strong, stable presence. He is a steady support for Elizabeth yet commanding in his own way, he is the ultimate compliment to Elizabeth. He challenges her in many ways. He wants to learn to fly, and he wants to be the head of Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony. She grants him this on one condition, “Don’t go mad.” It would seem to most that he does indeed go mad. He wants Elizabeth to televise her coronation ceremony.
Quite shocking for that day and time. He wants Elizabeth to be a different kind of monarch. One who lets people in, one who is well loved. He knows firsthand how people can turn against a monarchy. He understands the need for change when everyone wants to stick with tradition. But he may be one of two people who helped Elizabeth the most.
Winston Churchill being the second person mentioned. John Lithgow is Winston Churchill. I’ve always considered John Lithgow a kind of goofy character in a lot of his roles. In this role, however, he floored me. His ability to emulate the entire character of Churchill is remarkable. He is such a forthcoming and admirable man and addition to the cast. His famed speech after King Georges passing was incredibly moving. As Prime Minister to England and a loyal advisor to the Queen he makes a for a wonderfully strong character. Whatever your thoughts on the real Churchill’s life or character, this was impressive to see. I definitely recognized the things that were controversial about him. The episode “An Act of God” was one of the most moving episodes and it covered this topic. In this episode, he refused to face facts about air quality in London until it was too late. The Great Smog of London in 1952 was one problem he refused to acknowledge the severity of. Historically, around 12,000 people died from the effects of the fog that covered London for four days. Even though too many people died, he vowed to set in motion acts that would make sure London never had anything like that happen again. That vow eventually became The Clean Air Act of 1956. Despite his flaws, Elizabeth seemed to value his opinion on several occasions and things turned out alright.
The supporting cast performances are very noteworthy as well. Vanessa Kirby is Princess Margaret who adds plenty of drama to the royal household considering her romantic attachment to the man who was the Kings closest adviser, Peter Townsend who is played by Ben Miles. Mr. Townsend is not only a “commoner” but he is also *gasp* a divorcee. That stirs the royal pot quite a bit. Other names you might know that would entice you to watch, Jeremy Northam, Victoria Hamilton, James Hillier and Harriet Walter to name a few, round out the cast of The Crown. With talent like that it’s no surprise to know The Crown show and cast was nominated for several awards.
The second topic my friend and I discussed was the fact that even if I was not able to use the cast performances to recommend this show I would most certainly be able to solely based on the writing, the sets and the costumes alone. Everything from Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress, to everyday dresses and riding pants, from bow ties and coattails to the coronation gown was so beautiful. There was a great deal of work I’m sure, put into set designs, filming locations and costume creation. I’m sure that even a genuine historian could appreciate the attention to detail shown in this program. I must give major bonus points to the show for using actual coronation day footage of Queen Elizabeth II. Watching real history always make my inner nerd super happy.
To end, my time was well spent, I believe, watching The Crown, as would yours.

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