Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Plot: Queen Elizabeth II faces many challenges as she copes with Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s failing marriage while the British public begins to question her capacity to rule a modern society.
Context: Fans of the award-winning Netflix series The Crown have waited two years for the release of Season 5. Was all the anticipation worth the long wait? Some reviews have been harsh and critical citing miscasting and boring execution, while others deem it one of the best seasons of the show so far. It cannot be denied that this is by far the most controversial season of the series. The period covered between the years of 1991 to 1997 of the late Queen’s reign was the most tumultuous personally for her inclusive of the year that she dubbed her “Annus Horribilis” which is the Latin phrase meaning “Horrible Year”.
In this season the aging Queen Elizabeth II along with the royal yacht Britannia feel as though they are being put out to pasture. She struggles to hold onto the old ways and rules that were passed down to her by her beloved grandmother Queen Mary. However, they don’t stand the test of time in the modern 90s society. The British public begin to question the relevance of the Royal family as an institution amid the scandalous failed marriages of the Queen’s offspring. In the midst of it all, it is depicted that Elizabeth and her husband Prince Phillip have no common interests. While Phillip is inquisitive and relishes the joy of reading for research to gain knowledge on certain subjects, Elizabeth is designed to accept what is presented at face value rather than risk delving and questioning which may open up the proverbial can of worms.
While the series does use actual historical figures and events as the inspiration for their script, the audience must remember that it is not to be seen as fact. Because whether or not the Netflix producers want to admit it there is more than a fair share of dramatisation and sensationalism being created using media publications and witness statements as their source of information. Some degree of empathy and sensitivity should be observed at times because many of the public figures being portrayed in the series are very much alive. So, there’s no judgment from me on the negative reactions by members of the Royal Institution. With that being said, I am just putting it out there that I’m an impartial reviewer who’s going to call it as I see it with an honest review.
Review: The casting this season is not satisfactory. Actress Imelda Staunton takes over the reins from Olivia Colman as an older Queen Elizabeth. I have to say that her facial expressions were a bit of a turn-off for me, and she just portrayed the late Queen as being stubborn and haughty. Her performance wasn’t all bad, but it definitely wouldn’t be among the best for the series. Jonathan Pryce (Prince Phillip), Elizabeth Debicki (Princess Diana), Jonny Lee Miller (Prime Minister John Major and Dominic West (Prince Charles) were the strongest of the cast but by far Debicki excelled in her role. She was leaps and bounds ahead of the pack by managing to capture the essence of Lady Di’s personality. Her emotional fragility and need for affection, as well as her defeat in trying to attain a new love.
A special mention of the actor who played the role of controversial Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw). Daw’s portrayal manages to add a spark of humanity and likeability to a not-very-well-liked public figure. Over the years the businessman has been associated with many shady business deals and has been accused of sexual harassment by several women. Episode 3 titled “Mou Mou” was the depiction of Al-Fayed’s friendship with his valet, Sydney Johnson (Connie M’Gadzah). The episode showed Johnson’s relationship with the Duke of Windsor and Al-Fayed as their valets. Johnson is at first fired then re-hired by Al-Fayed when he discovers that Johnson was once the valet of the Duke of Windsor (the ex-King of Britain). The news raises Al-Fayed’s curiosity in Johnson, and he ends up re-hiring him to teach him how to become a proper English gentleman so that he can eventually be included in the Queen’s inner social circle. The two develop mutual respect and deep friendship for each other, so much so that when Johnson becomes sick, Al-Fayed is seen tending to him and sheds tears for his friend when he dies. Al-Fayed also meets Princess Diana for the first time during a horse racing event, when she has to switch seats with the Queen who refuses to sit next to Al-Fayed. Al-Fayed instantly charms Diana, and they share a mutual kinship both professing to be the outcasts. This sets the foundation for the season finale cliffhanger which would finally put Diana within Al-Fayed’s inner circle and prepare the audience for what we know as the doomed fate of Al-Fayed’s son Dodi and Lady Di.
Where the drama was uninteresting would be the flat portrayal of Princess Anne by actress Claudia Harrison and some of the political material involving ex-Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair. But I understand why they needed to be addressed as they both had a significant impact in Britain during that time of the Queen’s reign.
Season 5 was a lot to unpack within just 10 episodes. As we all know what the future holds it would be interesting to see how they would handle Lady Diana’s death with the Queen’s delayed reaction in the public’s eyes.
Overall, this season was particularly captivating and won’t be a disappointment for avid fans of the series. The next season will usher the end of the series and will cover the late 90s to the early 2000s of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The main cast will be returning save for a few new additions to depict Prince William and Kate Middleton. So, calling all Anglophiles, you’re not going to want to miss out on this one!
Score: 7 out of 10
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Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. Read More