Netflix’s The Crown contradicts the perception of a strategically-detached royal family by displaying the grievances and gains during Queen Elizabeth II’s early years. Through passionate performances by a talented cast, understanding the woman behind the crown is made easier than ever.
Starring Claire Foy as the young Queen Elizabeth II, the series reveals the young queen in her most documented moments, as well as her most personal, as she navigates leading the monarchy as a young newlywed. Foy gives an apt performance in this role, as she demonstrates the careful decision-making process Elizabeth had when acting in best interest of her family, country and self.
The ten-episode period drama succeeds with extravagant cinematography that is complimented by lavish, yet sleek costumes that prove there was exhaustive research by costume and set designers on the show. But the posh setting cannot distract from the sometimes dull subplots that prevent individual episodes from rising to a captivating level of drama.
In one episode, the young queen is faced with the problem of giving her children her husband’s surname. This issue does little to add depth to the series and serves as banal character development for the royal family. The male leads of the show are charming but sometimes work as bulwarks between the queen’s desires. Matt Smith stars as the young Prince Philip, who asks the queen to bend the traditions of the monarchy in a sometimes grossly paternalistic manner.
Much of the series feels like deleted scenes out of a royal drama film, as the queen quickly moves through demanding social and political circles. John Lithgow plays the rigid Winston Churchill, who maintains an uneasy relationship with the queen. In the series’ first episodes, we watch Foy delicately present the anxieties of Elizabeth II as she deals with the conservative principles of Churchill, while at the same time balancing the demands from her much more vibrant younger sister Margaret (played by Vanessa Kirby).
The characters of the show retain the difficult task of serving their royal duties while also maintaining amicable personal ties, eschewing the typically stoic presentation of the figure in the media. Here is where The Crown nails the miniseries, as the show refreshingly demonstrates how public figures are often reduced to their actions in public and successfully depicts the forgotten humanity of the royal family.