The hugely anticipated season 4 of The Crown is finally here and it's yet another series from Netflix that is so good I actually watched all 10 episodes of it in a row. It's the show's best season yet and it's about to catapult it to new level of popularity for the obvious reason - it introduces the iconic Princess Diana.
Previously in the series the writers made an effort to explain and excuse the royals' cruel behavior. But watching Diana's tragedy unfold and how the royal family was treating her was like watching an innocent prey captured by carnivores. Peter Morgan even thew in a thinly veiled comparison to the wounded stag the royal family is gleefully hunting. I loved the audacity of that. It was soul shattering to witness this girl's loneliness and how she was looking for comfort and was offered none. The scene where she forgets the order of curtsy and they all make such a big deal of that as this poor girl is standing there with tears in her eyes was a horror to behold. Morgan throws them a lifeline though - there's a scene where Princess Margaret is the voice of reason telling the family not to force Charles to marry and another scene where the Queen urges Charles to focus on Diana's happiness instead of his own. Of course no one listens.
At this moment Diana and Margaret are the only main players from the series who have died in real life - both left heartbroken because they fell in love with the wrong man and they were left with no emotional support from the royal family. One looked for solace in alcohol, another in attention and it led to their premature demise. The series didn't shy away from showing Diana's flaws - she was immature and she did like all the fuss about her. She did take lovers, but honestly who wouldn't in her situation.
This season did such a great job at showing the hysteria around Diana. She was the first member of the royal family to act so human, warm and friendly towards the public. Her outfits were sensational. And she had a kind heart. The only bad thing about the series is that you cannot possibly show all of that in great detail in only 10 episodes that also include other events. So we didn't get to see the wedding - probably because Morgan thought it was redundant considering how famous the footage is, we didn't get to see Diana dance with John Travolta in 1985 and most importantly we didn't get to see Diana shaking hands with AIDS patient in 1987. That was the moment that I hoped they would include - back then people thought that touching someone with AIDS may result in getting infected. And then the most famous woman in the world did that and rid the world of some of that stigma. The show includes Diana hugging a child suffering from this disease but doesn't depict the impact Diana's action had on society. I don't know what the reasoning for that was, maybe Morgan thinks everyone is aware of that but I fear the younger generation isn't. Of course there's still plenty of time in the next season to show how much good Diana has done.
Episode 3 Fairytale is outstanding. With the benefit of knowing what happens later Morgan shows the inverted myth - in the stories the prince rescues the girl from the loneliness of being locked up in the tower. But here, in reality, it was only when Diana agreed to marry Charles that she got locked in the palace where she was all alone and so unhappy. Diana's story shows how toxic and dangerous this whole fairytale/prince charming myth is. Perhaps if those nonsensical stories weren't so popular and glamorized, had Disney not made dozens of films about them that little girls grew up watching, had women not been told constantly they need to marry, she would have got out of this nightmare before it started for good.
There's a scene where Camilla invites Diana to a restaurant called Ménage à Trois and says "I don't mind sharing" when they split the bill. The cruelty at display here is astounding. Charles and Camilla better brace themselves for whole new wave of hatred coming their way. While Josh O'Connor does an outstanding job in trying to humanize Charles there is no denying that even if half of those events are true he was a terrible husband. By the end of the series Charles is scheming to catch Diana on her infidelity and when he does he immediately runs to The Queen. But so what? He is supposed to be the future king, he cannot divorce. He is depicting insane selfishness but there's an incredible hypocrisy from the Queen here - encouraging Charles to marry for duty when she herself was able to marry for love.Olivia Colman is much better than in last season, lighter and very entertaining in her scenes with Anderson's Margaret Thatcher. She also gives an outstanding performance in the fifth episode revolving around the incident in which a desperate man broke into the palace and had a conversation with the Queen in her bedroom. It does backfire a little though - the Queen appears to have more sympathy for this stranger than for the mother of her grandchildren. Regardless, while watching the series you cannot deny how much empathy Peter Morgan has for her.
The episode where Thatcher is invited to hunt shows the most amusing clash of sensibilities since The Kennedys messed up the greetings in season 2. God, that corgi's reaction was hilarious. Gillian Anderson is superb as the first female prime minister - icy, focused and ruthless. Sometimes she takes the voice and the expressions a bit too far but she is at all times incredibly fun to watch.
Emma Corrin as Diana looks more like young Jodie Foster than Lady Di but from the very beginning you only see the Princess of Wales and she steals the show completely. She depicts so much emotion, such naivete and gradually such a will to retaliate. It must have been an astonishing challenge to play this part as a 24 year old unknown actress. Much like Vanessa Kirby, I predict Corrin will become a star thanks to this show. Helena Bonham Carter is yet again superb as Princes Margaret. She had such a spark but was never allowed to shine. At least Diana experienced the love and admiration from the crowds. And Erin Doherty is a delight as Princess Anne.
It's also the best scored season yet, the music is so beautiful and they chose a lot of popular songs to capture the 80's. And there are so many inspired choices here - introducing Diana dressed up in costume and staring at Charles through the window, the montage featuring the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, the phone call between the women in the royal family about Charles' engagement and many, many others.
For me this season beats both The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Queen's Gambit as the best release of the year. The last shot was haunting and it will be such a long wait for season 5. I cannot wait to see what Elizabeth Debicki does in this role and what events will they show. I imagine that her tragic death will be show either at the end of season 5 or the beginning of season 6. It's a tricky situation because Morgan did such an astounding job showing the aftermath of Diana's death in The Queen, but I cannot imagine the show skipping any of the events portrayed in the movie. There's no one in the world right now whose death would be met with such an outpouring of grief. Her funeral was watched by 2.5 billion people around the world. That's nearly half the population of Earth at that time. Imagine that.
In any case the royal family is probably no longer enthusiastic about the series now that the world is reminded of Diana's story. And Morgan, by some miracle, manages to be objective - giving the Queen warm moments but also framing Diana between the trophy stags' antlers right before she descends the stairs to join her "family". And the real war between her and them is just beginning.