SPOILER-FREE! Same monarchy, new faces – but are they up to the task?
After two exceptionally long years, Netflix have finally released the highly anticipated third series of The Crown. The extravagant show is undoubtedly the jewel in the streaming giant’s collection of original series and focuses on the lives and dramas of the British Royal Family. Olivia Colman replaces the brilliant Claire Foy in portraying Queen Elizabeth, while Tobias Menzies replaces Matt Smith as Prince Phillip. We are also introduced to Helena Bonham-Carter as Princess Margaret, after a fantastic portrayal by Vanessa Kirby, as well as the now grown-up characters of Prince Charles (played by Josh O’Connor), and the delightfully sarcastic Princess Anne (played by Erin Doherty), who quickly became one of my favourite characters in the show.
In fact, all of these ‘second-generation’ actors are as impeccable as one would have expected – not an easy task after the excellent performances from their predecessors in series’ one and two. Olivia Colman is a triumph, once more giving an incredible depth to the Queen, especially in Elizabeth’s relationships with her family. Everything from her relationship with her husband to her sister to her children is covered this series, which is understandable given that we, as an audience, need plenty of character development from this entirely new cast (and the older characters that they are playing) but it also means that we are treated to powerful scenes in each episode – a particular one that springs to mind is the interaction between her and Prince Charles at the end of episode six, ‘Tywysog Cymru’.
Helena Bonham-Carter elevates the character of Princess Margaret as we see her relationship with Lord Snowden come to its tragic end, while Tobias Menzies gives a brilliant performance as Prince Phillip-a-la-midlife crisis. We are also introduced to Camilla, played by Emerald Fennell, nicely hinting at a later storyline for Prince Charles in series four. Although there are many fantastic scenes this series, the focus appears to be very much on building the relationships between characters now so that storylines can be adequately set up for the next – such as the aforementioned Charles-Diana-Camilla saga and the Thatcher years. That is not to say however that this series is dull in terms of plot; I challenge anyone to have a dry eye by the end of episode three (‘Aberfan’), or to not feel for Prince Charles and Princess Margaret respectively throughout the ten episodes.
The Crown‘s use of artistic license also ensures that episodes are made as interesting as possible without going into the realms of the absurd – for example, Colin Morgan’s character in episode four, who was appropriately dubbed ‘the hot journalist’ online (thank you Twitter) sadly did not exist in real life, nor did his scandalous front page article in The Manchester Guardian. However, it does make for an excellent episode that also gives us the Windsor’s being uncomfortably filmed together for their documentary, and Prince Phillip’s touching relationship with his mother, Princess Alice.
The Crown series three is therefore able to have solid storylines and plot because of this character and relationship building at its core. But there’s more good news for audiences, as they will not have to wait two whole years before series four drops – filming is well underway, having started in August. With the incredible Gillian Anderson confirmed for the character of Margaret Thatcher, it’s safe to say that although series three has been fantastic, we can expect bigger and bolder plot-lines in the coming series.
Words by Yasmin Bye