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‘The Crown’ season four: The beautiful annihilation of a fairy tale

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

The newest season of The Crown, which aired on Netflix on November 15, follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) and her family from the year 1979 to 1992; exploring love, and lack thereof, frustration, and – to some extent – also joy.

This season, we are introduced to the premiership of Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) and the growing tension in the marriage between Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin).

In the first episode, Lord Mountbatten (Charles Dance) says to Prince Charles: “Someday, dear boy, you shall be King,” possibly mistaking the word “King” for “royal pain in the ass.”

I think that pretty much sums up where I stand with Charles this season.

Don’t get me wrong, I sympathise with him. I understand his bitterness over having to constantly be an obedient, dutiful lad, who falls in love with someone he can (as far as he thinks, for a while) never be with. It doesn’t strike me as a particularly fun life.

But the way Charles acted in season four, especially towards Diana – that is, like “a spoiled, immature man,” as the Queen herself puts it – had me raging at the screen.

…At first. Then I calmed down (temporarily), feeling rather helpless and sad for the poor, mismatched pair. It was a vicious cycle of happiness, anger, and misery.

Although much of the show is fictionalised and dramatised, and we don’t know what really happened away from the public eye, the Charles and Diana scenes were painful to watch; knowing what happens in real life only adds to it. Josh and Emma’s acting range and chemistry are phenomenal.

Honestly, I get shivers down my spine just thinking about it. Some of my favourite episodes this season were with the two of them. Especially that one scene in the finale.

Besides Diana, though, the new season welcomed another significant figure of the 80s – Margaret Thatcher.

And, as is typical of The Crown, the resemblance between Thatcher and Gillian truly was uncanny. Her voice, her hair, her body language. The transition was surreal. I struggled to realise that it was not, in fact, Thatcher herself.

We don’t see that much of her character, but we receive enough to get a feel for what she was like – not only in front of an audience, but also behind the curtains.

First, in The Balmoral Test, we see her for the rather serious woman she was; lost between the royal family protocols. The secondhand embarrassment was astonishingly high watching her unpreparedness for anything they had planned at the castle.

Throughout the rest of the season, Thatcher is depicted as the headstrong, divisive woman, whose time in office started with war and recession and finished with mass riots.

I particularly enjoyed the episode titled Fagan. This one was from the point of view of a working-class man, Michael Fagan (Tom Brooke), whose life was a reflection of Thatcherism. Everything was a mess, and no one bothered listening to how bad it has really gotten.

So, he did what any rational human would do: he snuck into Buckingham Palace to be heard by the Queen.

I found it refreshing to see the effects of Thatcher’s premiership and the unbelievable stress that she caused from a working-class perspective.

While I overall enjoyed this season to the fullest, I wish we saw more of Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter). Her hilarious comments and fun attitude were deeply missed.

That is because, although in previous seasons Margaret was the life of the party, an interesting shift had occurred in season four.

Now divorced and even hospitalised, Margaret’s previously glamorous life, filled with unlimited booze and cigarettes, slowly began to slip through her fingers. The solemn episode, The Hereditary Principle, focuses on this, as well as Margaret trying to find a new meaning for herself.

It also sheds light on the family’s “dark secret”: the lesser-known Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, cousins of Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth II, who are estranged from their family and institutionalised in a psychiatric ward.

I’m glad the producers didn’t shy away from including this in the show, as not many, myself included, knew of these women before watching this episode.

Similarly, with Diana’s bulimia – I feel it was important for this to genuinely be a part of the story rather than something that was simply alluded to.

This is one of the things I have enjoyed about The Crown before and something I definitely enjoyed now: the complexity of the plot reflecting on the complexity of the characters.

It rounds the characters; instead of putting them into a “bad” or “good” category, they are a part of both, making them neither completely loveable, nor completely hateable – it makes them human, and therefore more relatable.

Featured Image Credit: nbcnews.com

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