Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Crown, Season 4

Season 4 of The Crown pulls no punches as it opens: narration from Sinn Fein rallies and a montage of black-and-white scenes from Bloody Sunday protests overlay Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher in her home, at her dressing table, rehearsing her statement of confidence that she will deliver to the press. The scene with Anderson echo a similar scene featuring Elizabeth I in a movie, and it works just as well here as it did there; woven against the stark uprising in the north, it might actually be better than the scene in Elizabeth. 

Anderson is phenomenal. 

The writers took a great many liberties with history this season, and I'm not a fan of that, but on every other front the season is a success. The careening toward the infamous anus horriblus unfolds like a train wreck in motion. Every mention of Charles and Diana as the perfect fairy tale couple has a slight beat of silence to allow us to wince, all the while showing the union of crown prince and young lady in context of the titular focus: the crown. Nothing and no one matter but for the crown, and when Margaret suggests that perhaps we ought to stop telling people whom to marry and whom not to marry, there is a sense of wistfulnes, as though we all know its a good idea but one that simply cannot be. 

The story of the love triangle with Charles as the apex could take over the show, but it doesn't. Anderson becomes prime minister and the country falls further into social decline including an assassination; the young couple go to Australia (and New Zealand, though we don't actually see any of that) as part of their state duties; the Crown keeps calm and carries on. 

Olivia Colman has inhabited the role so thoroughly it seems impossible to think of her in anything else, and when the vignette of Claire Foy from and earlier era graces the screen, it seems she is now the interloper. Colman is pitch-perfect.

Season 4 undeniably belongs to the women, but keep your eye on Josh O'Connor. His range delivers a Prince Charles that we believe through a spectrum of emotions and attitudes, each of them distinct and undeniably royal.