When season one of Netflix’s The Crown is still hitting the streaming service, I —along with everyone else— became royally hooked. The show, which depicts the private lives of a young Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), Prince Philip (Matt Smith) and those around them was met with huge praise thanks to a gripping first series. Unsurprisingly, fans quickly turned their sights to season two.
As the show is about to return on December 8th for a second season exclusively on Netflix, I have already seen the first two episodes at the Worldwide Premiere in London and I can say it’s amazing.
This second series, which begins with the Suez Crisis in 1956 and ends with the birth of Prince Edward in 1964, is likely to sit less well with the Windsors. It opens with fissures in the marriage between the Queen (Claire Foy) and Philip amid reports of the Duke of Edinburgh boating around the globe with Australian equerry Mike Parker.
"Foy and Kirby are brilliant"
There is also Margaret’s fiancé, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, aka Lord Snowdon (Matthew Goode), luxuriating in bisexual ménages-à-trois and several accusations (including one from Jackie Kennedy) that the Queen is out of touch and living in a stagnant sort of hinterland. Each episode provides another angle of consideration for the monarchy, which is at a more certain place as the determined Elizabeth is growing up and in full command of her position and the weight it holds. There is something missing with the loss of Winston Churchill, an indomitable figure in the first season (brilliantly portrayed by John Lithgow), but its fitting that Elizabeth no longer needs her mentor of sorts. Instead, her meetings with the new Prime Minister (and the next) have an entirely different feeling to them. In fact, on more than one occasion, Elizabeth staidly roasts them to let them know that she knows what they’re up to.
As their characters continue to grow in depth, Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby are brilliant as ever as Elizabeth and Margaret.
With the Queen coming to terms with her marriage issues and Margaret struggling to cope with her relationship with Peter Townsend having come to an end, the sisters are united in turmoil, and Foy and Kirby act their joint sadness beautifully. Watch out for the pair’s stilted lunch together in episode one, it had me feeling emotional. The Elizabeth of series two is practical and confident, but she is not rigid
Through the first seven episodes (before I forced myself to break away and write this review), The Crown races through time while still finding the margins to zero-in on the most minute but beautiful —or sad, or angry, or telling, or mystifying— moments for its characters. Like its first season, each new episode makes its mark and tells its own complete story, all while staying linked to Elizabeth’s journey as a monarch, mother and wife. It’s another exceptionally strong season of television, full of compelling drama and sweeping grandeur.
"another exceptional strong season"
A year ago, journalists were rubbing their hands in anticipation of a right royal scandal. US streaming service Netflix was about to commit an outrageous act of lèse-majesté and Buckingham Palace would go into meltdown. Except that this didn’t happen as The Crown is a remarkable piece of quality drama which skilfully humanised the British Royal Family.