Review of “the Crown” Season 5: the Monarchy and the Program Struggle to Remain Relevant
Every time a new season of The Crown hits Netflix, the news follows a pattern. Someone says Peter Morgan’s long-running series should state it’s fictitious.
The streamer responds with its own statement on how events are acted out, and people watch the show regardless. Rinse.
Even though the teaser indicates the tale is “inspired by historical events,” the long-running show is in unexplored terrain after Queen Elizabeth II’s death. Nobody watches The Crown to understand history, though.
It’s hard not to find parallels between one of the monarchy’s most vocal opponents, presented in painful detail in the show’s most recent season, and her own son’s decision to quit the system he was born into.
Season 5 boasts a new cast, with mixed results. Some performers try to become the real-life individuals they’re playing, while others just speak with the royals’ accent.
Dominic West’s Charles seems more charming than Josh O’Connor’s in Season 4. His ambition to replace his mother isn’t malicious, but it’s odd to see Charles urge for modernisation in the monarchy, which is still an old-fashioned institution.
In the wake of a big scandal, he’s lost most people’s favour, and with only one season left of this show, it’s unlikely he’ll regain it.
Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) wonders if her work as queen serves any purpose or if, like the decommissioned royal boat Britannia, she’s a remnant from another time.
Staunton embodies the Queen’s steady solidity in her later years, and the few times she shows vulnerability are sobering.
Jonathan Pryce’s Philip alternates between supporting his wife and seeking comfort elsewhere. This emotional affair is never ended by season’s end.
Jonny Lee Miller’s John Major is less political than Margaret Thatcher. He and Imelda Staunton’s Margaret Thatcher couldn’t have conversed as well as Olivia Colman and Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher last season.
Season 5 belongs to Elizabeth Debicki’s Diana. Early social media clips may make it appear like she’s merely imitating Diana, but there’s much more to her act.
Debicki understands the distinction between Di’s public and private personas.
There’s a lot of depth and care placed into the portrayal of a woman unsatisfied with everything, not just her marriage, which is just a name while Charles’s genuine feelings are for Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams), but with the monarchy as a whole.
The Crown’s portrayal takes creative licences. Charles and Diana didn’t discuss divorce over scrambled eggs. There are events that can be confirmed, such when Diana stands up for herself in Andrew Morton’s biography or in Martin Bashir’s 1995 tell-all (Prasanna Puwanarajah).
Debicki’s Diana’s suicidal thoughts and mental health difficulties remind us of Meghan Markle’s 2021 Oprah interview. It’s also impossible not to compare the two ladies, who both spoke up about unfair treatment.
Even if manufactured images and family trips provide the impression of contentment, the monarchy “system” is not happy. This is especially true when marriage is perceived as a duty rather than a loving act.
How the Queen’s children handle this issue in their own relationships is a major plotline this season. Charles’ predicament is more problematic because he is the heir to the kingdom.
Diana was also popular, which isn’t mentioned. You can’t help but think the royal family needs Di to keep people pleased, but only to a certain extent and if she’s willing.
The play criticises the monarchy, but only so much. Morgan’s scripts alternate between mocking the royal family’s out-of-touch behaviour and questionable financial choices, such requesting taxpayers to pay for the Britannia’s renovation, and showcasing their philanthropic efforts or being empathetic to their “plights.”
In the same episode. Even if there’s a disclaimer, the series is still pro-monarchist, despite the biggest voices of criticism.
At this point, and knowing what the sixth and final season will undoubtedly be about, it’s unclear if The Crown will conclude on a high note or, like the monarchy, fight to stay relevant till the end.