Olivia Colman taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy for The Crown season 3 has possible been more anticipated than the actual series itself.
Thankfully, the expectations are met in the new, 10-episode season of the highly talked about look at our modern monarchy – even though the Queen herself is not the major role she used to be.
Don’t get us wrong, she’s definitely a present force in everyone’s lives, but the course of season three sees the focus shift somewhat, to less about Elizabeth’s adjustment and issues with the throne, but rather just how much everyone else’s lives is affected as a result.
At this stage in her life, Elizabeth has settled into the role, and as such, The Crown season three deviates away from her and in turn marks her as a puppet master to the other members of the monarchy, who become the key players.
It almost veers into melodrama worthy of soap land’s Albert Square, if we’re being totally honest, as artistic licence is used to fill in gaps between what goes on behind closed doors to a degree that isn’t entirely faithful to its reality. But they toe the line well, and while it’s a lot, it’s never too much and it’s always watchable.
Helena Bonham Carter as the bolshy and bored Princess Margaret is the true gem of the early episodes, batting and forthing between being the party girl who wants more regal responsibility, to the jealous younger sister, to the embittered wife whose marriage verges on collapse.
Then there’s Josh O’Connor’s performance as Prince Charles, who as hapless as he acts is desiring a form of validation by any means possible – and it’s his tear between duty and desire that becomes one of the more interesting parts of the final episodes as he meets Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell).
We all know at this point their love affair becomes a vital role in Charles’s life story, but it also displays the cruelness and snobbery of the monarchy as they vie to stop the relationship before it truly begins. It’s a good propeller for season four when we know he’s due to meet Diana Spencer.
Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip is becoming more dislikeable as he becomes embittered by constantly playing second fiddle to his wife’s, and the nation’s, wants and needs. But that’s not a negative thing to watch because it’s relatable in some ways, while extremely baffling in others.
But while each character has their own fascinating story to tell, the episodes retelling of major moments in British history remain as the jewel in the crown, as it were. It doesn’t deviate from history, no matter how bad their subject matter looks as a result.
One poignant episode is dedicated to the Aberfan disaster, where 144 people were killed by a coal tip landslide that wiped out almost an entire Welsh village. It’s handled delicately, with love and the help of the residents of Aberfan. It shows.
They don’t stray from the fact that it took the Queen eight days to make an appearance in the village, while Prince Philip arrived to pay his respects the next day, and it’s a triumphant piece of television that will no doubt be the most talked about episode of the series.
Running from 1964 and ending in 1977, the show does have a bit of a chop and change when it comes to running through the years, with some completely overlooked or zoomed through while others take several episodes. It’s a weird pace to keep track of, but that’s a small gripe.
Then there’s obviously some missing moments from the show, where they’ve picked and chosen what to ignore and what to hone in on, but at the end of the day it’s a fictionalised version of history, not a day-by-day reconstruction, so you will just have to overlook it or lump it.
Overall, the series is great, and is veering in a new direction ahead of season four. It’s an interesting take, but we like it.
The Crown season 3 launches 11 November on Netflix.
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