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‘The Crown’ Among Netflix Royalty

Sarah Trebicka, Editor-In-Chief

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Season two of “The Crown” once again succeeds in allowing its audience to indulge in a delicate blend between the stately portraiture of public affairs and private dealings in the Buckingham Palace. We watch Queen Elizabeth II, portrayed by the nuanced lip pursing and subtle jaw clenching of Claire Foy that sometimes manages to crack the monarchical mask she puts on, as she becomes even more hardened by the crown. Her husband, Prince Philip (Matt Smith), even tells Elizabeth, “The stuff used to wear you, but now you wear it.” However, contrary to the character dynamics of season one, season two very deeply illuminates the internal conflicts of tempestuous Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and sullen Prince Philip, respectively. It also portrays one of the show’s greatest strengths: its ability to magnify the significance of even the tiniest grievances.

The season, which spans from the 1956 Suez Crisis to the 1963 Profumo affair, opens in media res on a tense interaction between Elizabeth and Philip that takes place during a thunderstorm before promptly flashing back five months to expose the series of events that brought them there. Britain is descending into war as Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser (Amir Boutrous) catalyzes growing contempt towards the British and seizes control of the Suez Canal. The royal couple, too, engages in warlike conflict as Elizabeth comes to terms with her husband’s potential infidelity and insecure temper.

Philip notoriously spent most of season one resenting his wife for daring to become a confident leader; his inability to stand being belittled or undermined by a woman is only amplified and further explored in season two. He’s a caged bird incapable of separating himself from the freedom to which he had become accustomed during his time spent in the Royal Navy.

Surprisingly, as annoying as it sounds to watch a man hate a woman for outranking him, I think tuning in to what makes Philip tick is actually valuable because it helps to prove one of the most important points made in “The Crown.” Especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you could literally be the Queen of England, admired by your entire country, and a man will still regard you with condescension and bitterness because you’re a woman, and men think they know better. Philip can’t stand the humiliation of being a permanent second to his once obedient wife, and like an entitled infant he refuses to work for the admiration and esteem he feels he deserves just for being the Queen’s husband. However, he soon learns that while there can be shortcuts to power, there are no shortcuts to respect (and receives an extremely disdainful “you’re pathetic” look from Elizabeth).

Margaret also oozes humanity in the second season as she attempts to emotionally recover from the pain of being denied her lover, Peter Townsend (Ben Miles). Kirby’s brilliant portrayal compels the audience to sympathize with Margaret as she pursues complex photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode), even though I really can’t help but feel irritated knowing that 99 percent of her problems would be solved if she just gave up the royal life that is slowly stripping her sister of her humanity and personality.

Finally, we witness the essential character development of Elizabeth as she drifts into her mid-30s and the rolling tensions of the ‘60s force her to find a way to make the monarchy relevant in a world of social change and upheaval. As a result, she faces criticism for her imperious dedication to preserving tradition. She’s a woman fully grown into her sovereignty, and just like last season, she continues to put duty before family without blinking an eye at the expense of everyone she’s supposed to care about (I’m still salty about Margaret and Peter).

All in all, the international politics and familial conflicts of season two certainly don’t disappoint. The audience is even more exposed to the humanity (or lack thereof) of the royal family as they grapple with the weight of the crown and all the responsibility that comes with it. Philip complains some more about being a man outranked by his wife and eight-year-old son, Margaret becomes entangled in a new romance with a curious character, and Elizabeth eventually expresses some envy towards the glamor of President Kennedy (Michael C. Hall) and Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour).

Next season, the show will be entirely recast with older actors (Olivia Colman will be portraying Queen Elizabeth), and rumor has it that the Princess Diana and Prince Charles drama will be introduced towards the end.

I guess all that’s left to say now is long live “The Crown.

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‘The Crown’ Among Netflix Royalty