The Crown season 3 dropped yesterday, and I have managed a four-episode binge as of this writing. While I’m less than halfway through, what follows is a glowing recommendation.
Where to begin? I guess the Queen. Olivia Coleman as Queen Elizabeth II is a pure work of art. The thing is, they don’t look anything alike. (To think that Helen Mirren once played the same Elizabeth is now such a weird, little memory.) Yet Coleman captures the Queen’s confidence and vulnerability, awkwardness and grace, with such virtuosic flare and sympathy that’s just purely engrossing to watch.
I’ve seen Coleman play another queen, in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favorite alongside Emma Stone, and truth be told I didn’t really find it to be either a charismatic character or a particularly stirring story. (It’s probably just me, I know, although I do concede that it has many good bits, Nicholas Hoult’s wigs among them.) But here, I’m completely sold. I want to see everything Coleman has ever done.
Another shining star right from the beginning is the singular Helena Bonham Carter playing Princess Margaret. Apart from the foundational character established by Vanessa Kirby in earlier seasons, I don’t really know much about her. It is amazing, I thought, how Bonham Carter plays a character that is rife with paradoxes, a volatile bubble of both inner pain and outward flamboyance, with such a poignant humanism that is just a joy to watch.
The episode Aberfam, about a tragedy in a mining town in Wales, was just simply soul-crushing. Peter Morgan uses the confidential, private meetings between Queen and Prime Minister to artistically explore and speculate on the goings-on in the cavernous trenches of the Queen’s psyche. The episode ends with a note saying that the events of Aberfam remains to be one of the Queen’s greatest regrets.
The Princess Alice episode “Bubbikins” is a favorite. The odd monastic figure in the background during the wedding episode of Season 1 had always been a curious figure for me and I’ve read a little more about her since.
In the episode, the filming of the royal family’s infamous reality TV show is juxtaposed with the arrival of Princess Alice in Buckingham Palace, after having to leave her convent in Greece due to political unrest. Jane Lapotaire’s portrayal of her as a cheeky, voraciously chain smoking woman of faith was immensely endearing.
I have yet to see Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles and I’m very much looking forward to that.