The fifth season of "The Crown" starring Imelda Staunton as an aged queen Elizabeth was released on 9th November 2022. This series covers the queen’s reign in the 90s, with a series of events preceding the failing relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana and the events preceding her untimely death in 1997. Whilst the show has always been under scrutiny by staunch royalists who are adamant enough to overlook the visual spectacle and the excellent storytelling, this season certainly seems to have fallen down the viewer's eyes. To the fans of the show, "The Crown’s" ideology of showcasing events from another time, now shows a very familiar set of royals, in a known world. With the show covering more and more about Charles and Diana, the writers seem to forget who the show’s central character really is. Whilst most of the cast shine, with Imelda Staunton and Jonathan Pryce (Prince Phillip) delivering the best performance, a few cast members seem to be out of touch with the work of their predecessors. Elizabeth Debecki fails to capture the innocence and shyness of Diana and showcases a more aggressive portrayal. Whilst Dominic West nails his voice modulation and acting, fans around the world seem to feel like his lack of resemblance with Prince Charles makes the character feel incomplete in contrast to the performance of Josh O’Connor in season 4.
The Season Summary
The fifth season of the crown starts with the Queen’s Royal Yacht, Britannia in requirement of servicing. Much like the Britannia, the Queen is portrayed to be from a different time and out of touch with a suddenly fast-paced modern world. Prince Charles and Princess Diana are shown to maintain appearances as they spend time with one another on a second honeymoon. The first episode gives a feeling of a clicking time bomb waiting to explode as viewers are already aware of the scandals that will follow during what the queen termed as annus horibalis or her worst year (1992).
The episodes that follow show the storyline of Prince Phillip and his enthusiasm for chariot racing, and his friendship with the wife of his godson, Penny Knatchbull. Prince Philip this season is shown in a more positive and pragmatic light, than in contrast to the previous season as he expresses his love and support to his wife, whilst maintaining his individuality – something which the queen feels threatened by in her marriage with him. The Prince’s storyline also showcases his distrust for his own son and his support for Diana.
One of the most touching storylines in this season is that of Princess Margaret. As she reunites with Peter Townsend, her old love, viewers sympathise with her knowing the fact that she never got her happy ending. Princess Anne on the other hand, unlike Margaret, fell in love a second time and divorced her first husband to marry Timothy Laurence.
Mid-season, we see Diana develop into a force that takes the royal family apart. Exploring her romantic affairs and her infamous interview with Martin Bashir, the Diana storyline forms the central crux of this season. The Queen who has been portrayed as strong and poignant is now depicted to be weak and vulnerable. This is also shown with Charles plotting an alleged coup to take over the throne and the link between the British Monarchy and the Tsarist Regime of Russia which led to Tsar Nicholas II and his family’s assassination.
However, the best episode of this season is easily episode 3 titled “Mou Mou.” This episode features the Fayed family, especially the desire for Mohammad Al Fayed to develop royal connections. The episode showcases his rise to wealth and fortune, and his beautiful relationship with Sydney Johnson – the former valet of King Edward VIII. The episode ends with him befriending Diana, thus fulfilling his dream, and also teasing the ‘soon to occur’ relationship between Diana and his son, Dodi Fayed.
The season ends like how it started, with The Britannia being decommissioned, thus depicting the end of an era of the Queen’s reign. The freshly divorced Diana and Charles scramble to pull themselves through their own vices and the viewers are left to only wonder what might be next for the Queen and The Crown.
The theme that follows Season 5 centres around the aged Queen grappling to come to terms with the new world around her. As a firm believer in the old faith and virtue of service, she seems lost in contemporary Britain. She comes out as an out-of-touch monarch in contradiction to Britain’s Prime Minister John Major who is used cleverly as a vessel to portray what the viewers are already feeling about the Royal Family. The theme can also be shown through the relationship between Prince William and Queen Elizabeth, as the Queen struggles with simply changing channels on a Television. The Old vs. New concept can also be showcased through the characters who portrayed BBC journalist Martin Bashir (played by Prasanna Puwanarajah) and BBC Chairmen of the Board of Directors, Duke Hussey (played by Richard Cordery). Whilst Martin Bashir looks to expose the harsh reality that follows Diana’s life, Duke Hussey is a staunch royalist and a man of the old ways and expresses his disappointment towards Diana’s Panorama interview.
The relationship of the Royal Family with the media is also a central storyline this season. Diana’s personal struggles as she continues to seek the love and support of the Royal Institution but to no avail, the ever-glaring and unforgiving media that is ruthless and cutthroat symbolising the toxic relationship the Royal family has with them is brutally explored. The media is shown as a powerful vessel for the royal family as they believe that they can control the narrative but in truth, it is the media that controls them.
Charles and Diana’s ever-worsening relationship and the impending foreshadowing of Diana’s death are also showcased through a haunted light.
Overall, the fifth season of “The Crown” is still a visual treat for the viewers albeit lacking the touch of previous seasons. With mixed reviews of the performances of the actors despite the excellent screenplay and direction, it is perhaps best if the viewers try to view this season independently rather than a continuation from season 4. Perhaps that way, we can still reconcile with the show during season 6.
Edited By: Whitney Edna Ibe
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