Netflix: “The Crown, Season 5”
Season 5 of “The Crown” (Netflix) makes it clear that the British monarchy took a turn for the worse in the 1990s. The eight episodes cover a fairly grim period that includes the fire in Windsor Castle (1992), which among other things led to the infamous “Annus Horribilus” quote uttered by Queen Elizabeth (now played by Imelda Stanton).
What’s more, QE 2 seems to have been pushed to the sidelines in season 5, as her children have taken center stage with a vengeance. Both Princess Anne (Claudia Harrison) and Prince Andrew (James Murray) are divorcing their spouses, which flabbergasts their mother, who imagines her own marriage to Prince Philip (the gentle Jonathan Pryce) to be if not perfect then pretty close to it.
The real dramatic focus in Season 5 is the unraveling of the Prince of Wales and Diana’s marriage. Charles (played sympathetically by Dominic West) is openly courting the true love of his life, his married friend Camilla Parker-Bowles (Olivia Williams). Diana (played by Elizabeth Dibecki who captures the princess down to her eye makeup and shy smile) is clearly unhappy at being tethered to the Royal Family and wants out.
The writers seem to have it in for Diana. She is portrayed most unsympathetically: as a selfish, whiny young woman with no sense of duty who is seeking revenge on her royal in-laws. She begins giving interviews to authors and reporters about her relationship with Charles that once aired shake the Windsors to their royal breeches. After she is separated from Charles, Diana decides to step out with a young Pakistani doctor (Humayun Saeed) to combat her loneliness.
Most critics have panned this season outright but there is much to like about it. Stanton is outstanding as the Queen who rarely lets her unease at the ugly turn of events disrupt from her royal cool. The writing of several of the episodes is absolutely superb: perhaps the best was the introduction of Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla) into the mix as the son of a self-made Egyptian billionaire. I also quite liked the episode which juxtaposes the divorces of middle-class Brits with the pomp and circumstance surrounding the divorce of the Waleses.
Whether you are a Windsorphile or not (I am most definitely in the latter category), you would do well to give Season 5 a chance. It provides the perfect setup for Season 6, when the drama comes to a head. Stock up on your Skinny Pop while you can.