‘The Crown’ season 5 review: The Queen, Princess Diana and some splendidly addictive television

Perfectly cast, the new season of ‘The Crown’ is powered by amazing acting, led by a statuesque Elizabeth Debicki

Updated - November 12, 2022 03:02 pm IST

Published - November 12, 2022 02:20 pm IST

 Imelda Staunton takes over as the Queen in The Crown season 5.

 Imelda Staunton takes over as the Queen in The Crown season 5.

The Crown, following Queen Elizabeth II from her marriage in 1947 to reportedly the early 2000s, is not about historical accuracy. Once you get that out of the way, you can enjoy the sumptuous show. Netflix has kindly included a disclaimer in the trailer describing The Crown as a “fictional dramatisation” and “inspired by real-life events.”

The Crown (Season 5)
Episodes: 10
Run time: 47 to 61 minutes
Creator: Peter Morgan
Cast: Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville, Marcia Warren, Timothy Dalton, Alex Jennings, Lia Williams, Claudia Harrison, Dominic West, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Williams, Jonny Lee Miller, Natascha McElhone, Salim Daw, Khalid Abdalla, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Humayun Saeed
Storyline: Between 1991 and 1997, the monarchy is in crisis and the War of the Walses culminates in divorce

The show, however, is so handsomely mounted and beautifully acted, that there is every chance that passive viewers might accept The Crown as historical fact. In this era of fake news and the University of Social Media, there is unfortunately no antidote to laziness in thought or deed.

Following the tradition of changing cast every two seasons, Imelda Staunton takes over from Olivia Colman as the Queen, Jonathan Pryce from Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, and Lesley Manville from Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. Claudia Harrison replaces Erin Doherty as Princess Anne, Dominic West takes over Prince Charles duties from Josh O’Connor, while Elizabeth Debicki replaces Emma Corrin as Lady Diana.

The first episode, Queen Victoria Syndrome, draws a rather obvious parallel between the monarchy and The Royal Yacht Britannia. The cost to refit the vessel, launched by the Queen in 1953, would be £17 million of the tax payers’ money, which brings the question of the monarchy’s relevance in the modern world into sharp focus.

Prince Charles is shown reading a Sunday Times Poll that declares the Queen as old and costly, and asks Prime Minister John Major (Jonny Lee Miller) to convince the Queen to abdicate. The former Prime Minister, incidentally, has dismissed the scene as “a barrel-load of malicious nonsense.”

With Charles and Diana’s marriage in all sorts of trouble, the couple agree to go on a second honeymoon, which is not particularly successful. Apart from tabloid writer Andrew Morton’s (Andrew Steele) book on Diana, the infamous BBC Panaroma interview by Martin Bashir, (Prasanna Puwanarajah) and Camillagate, season five also tracks the rise of an Egyptian street vendor who becomes the owner of Harrods, Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw).

An anglophile, Al-Fayed recruits Prince Edward’s (Alex Jennings) butler Johnson (Jude Akuwudike) to teach him how to be a gentleman. Johnson’s required reading list includes P.G. Wodehouse, who we all know created that legendary gentleman’s gentleman.

The season ends with the Queen bidding farewell to the Britannia, Prince Charles meeting the new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel) during the handover of Hong Kong in July 1997, and Diana getting ready to go on vacation with her sons to Saint Tropez on the invitation of Al-Fayed.

The stage is set for Diana’s fateful meeting with Al-Fayed’s playboy, cocaine-snorting, Hollywood producer son, Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) and that high-speed chase in Paris which ended in the Princess’s death on August 31, 1997.

The Crown is an adaptation of creator Peter Morgan’s 2006 film The Queen and the 2013 play The Audience, which looks at the Palace and the Queen’s reaction to Diana’s passing. There was some talk of ending The Crown with season five, but now Morgan has reverted to the original six-season schedule.

Perfectly cast, The Crown is powered by amazing acting, led by a statuesque Debicki. Whether it is rocking the Revenge Dress or being just a girl asking a “slightly overweight workaholic” heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Humayun Saeed) to love her, she is luminescent, fragile, fractious and funny. Timothy Dalton makes for an excellently rueful Group Captain Peter Townsend, while Olivia Williams gamefully inhabits the thankless role of the “third” in the Walses’ marriage, Camilla Parker Bowles.  

The Queen rightly tells her grandson, Prince William (Rufus Kampa), “Even the televisions are metaphors in this place.” And whatever else it may or may not be, The Crown is splendidly addictive, bingeable television.

The Crown is currently streaming on Netflix

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