The Crown Season 2 review: This opulent Netflix show gets smarter, saucier
Even with the merry-go-round that are the first three episodes, The Crown more than redeems itself with some impressive character work and by giving much-needed attention to other characters.
Crown Season 2 : “It can’t go on like this,” Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth says to Matt Smith’s Philip at one point in second season of The Crown. I understood later what she meant, as The Crown went on and on about the troubles in the marital relationship between the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Okay. But who cares? It takes three episodes to explain the opening scene, in which the two have a tête-à-tête over their relationship on board the Royal Yacht, even as events of global significance unfold. The episodes are not exactly boring, but all the magnificence (indeed, The Crown is still one of the best-looking small-screen productions currently) wears thin at one point. Too soon, actually.
If the first season of this ultra-gorgeous period drama series The Crown was about Elizabeth’s coronation and subsequent developments in her life and the world at large, the second season focuses on hitherto sidelined (and probably more interesting) secondary characters: Queen’s husband Philip and her younger sister Princess Margaret. Thematically, too, there is a major shift. Whilst the first season was about a young queen just getting the hang of the whole Queen thing, the second season is about an older queen tackling the looming irrelevance of monarchy.
Thankfully, with the fourth episode, titled Beryl, The Crown gets its groove back. I have no qualms in saying that I prefer the younger one among the two royal sisters. Vanessa Kirby, whose character Princess Margaret is Beryl all about, puts on the role like a trusty old pair of jeans and delivers perhaps the best performance this season. Even when she is being crabby, one finds it hard not to sympathise with her position, as the sibling with the natural queenly temperament deprived of attention and completely overshadowed by her elder sister. Or at least that is what she claims. There is a slight downward curl at the corner of her mouth, as though she has seen the world and did not find anything very much interesting. She does see something worthwhile in Matthew Goode’s maverick, good-looking portrait photographer, however, whose charms prove too much for the Princess after her former lover Peter Townsend tells her he won’t be marrying her, after all.
Matt Smith, too, gives a fine performance as the show addresses Prince Philip’s, um, rumoured liaisons. But he is, truth be told, nowhere near as interesting as Princess Margaret. Claire Foy remains absolutely flawless, and even though her role is slightly diminished in order to give room to others, she shines. It is not so much in what she expresses as it is in what she withholds. Or tries to. It ain’t all sunshine, being a monarch. She does get to play a part in influencing a major event, though.
Even with the merry-go-round that are the first three episodes, The Crown more than redeems itself with some impressive character work and by giving much-needed attention to other characters. I did not even miss John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill, who was such a towering presence in the first season, and that is saying a lot about the cast, especially the new additions like Matthew Goode. And, of course, the visuals. The costumes are immaculate, the sets, well, regal. The money does show.
As mentioned earlier, The Crown’s second season also deals with the relevance (or the lack of it) of monarchy, even if the duties of this particular monarch are purely ceremonial. Do queens and kings really belong in today’s world of equality, freedom and social justice? There is a great scene in the show summing it all up. A journalist tells the Queen that the age of deference is over. The Queen defiantly says, “What is left without deference? Anarchy?” The journalist replies without a moment’s hesitation, “Equality.” Well played.
Do not miss The Crown Season 2. It streams on Netflix.