For three seasons The Queen has ruled The Crown. Sure, she had strong women around her (the Queen Mother and a mischievous Princess Margaret), but they were there to support Her Majesty. But season four of the royally soapy Netflix drama introduces two other powerful women with their own agendas. And these three power centers create royal rows unseen since the War of the Roses.
A Saucy Sovereign, An Iron Lady, & A Scene Stealing Princess
This season power doesn’t radiate solely from the throne. Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, and Lady Diana Spencer aka Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, burst onto the scene. The show does a fantastic job of giving each of them their own power center to play off of and upstage the others.
Thatcher, played brilliantly by an unrecognizable Gillian Anderson, accedes to 10 Downing Street with a chip on her shoulder and an ozone-killing amount of Aquanet in her hair. She is there to deliver tough love to the nation and doesn’t care what any man or Queen has to say about it.
Emma Corrin is a dead ringer for Princess Di. Unlike Liz2, who inherited her position, or Maggie, who fought through the ranks of conservative politics for years, Diana takes time to realize her power. The adulation goes from subtle to over-the-top. She quickly learns that ‘warm and loving’ aren’t exactly the Windsors’ strong suits. So she finds it in her fans, in her children, and in her lovers. She learns her power is being the brightest star, much to the chagrin of the sitting monarch and her husband/heir-apparent.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II finds she can’t wield subtle influence like she used to. Olivia Coleman is back for her second season on the throne and is as brilliant as ever. Her comedic timing to express Elizabeth’s bitchy little comments is so precise, you find yourself going back ten seconds to make sure you heard her correctly and appreciate the work.
The way the writer and actors weave these three strong characters together is a work of art. The men in their lives are not written as afterthoughts, but Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, et al are not anywhere close to being the center of attention. The women rule, even if they don’t have a throne of their own.
As always with The Crown, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. Yes, actual historic events are discussed. But the depictions take some liberties. Yes, Thatcher’s son did get lost during a cross-continent race. But did that stress her out so much that she decided to go to war with Argentina?
And while some of the palace intrigue is backed up by former staffers, those pillow talk discussions, those family-only moments, are mostly what the writer imagines was said.
But don’t worry about that. From superb acting to splashy sets and a strong soundtrack, this show continues to be the biggest jewel in Netflix’s crown.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
If you have an authentic British pub in your neighborhood, go order a couple growlers of cask ale and take a drink every time a royal makes a disapproving comment.