Welcome to the sixth season of The Crown, also known as The Diana Show. In the past, a 10-episode season would cover a decade of royal drama, including political events and changes in palace customs. However, the first three episodes of this season focus on only the last eight weeks of Diana’s life, while the fourth episode centers around The Crash and her funeral.
If you are not currently reading this while surrounded by a self-made shrine dedicated to Diana, then these few months are depicted in great and meticulous detail. The Crown has always strived to balance between a prestigious drama that can convey emotional struggles through a single scene or line from the queen, and a dramatic soap opera. However, in season three, it began to waver and in the following two seasons, it completely lost its footing. Despite the exceptional performances from the entire cast, particularly Elizabeth Debicki as the beloved queen, the show is now spiraling downwards. Imelda Staunton’s portrayal of the Queen and her ability to add depth to even the simplest lines is a true talent, but The Crown no longer deserves her or her talents.
In a style reminiscent of a Hallmark movie, Diana is constantly in danger of losing her life – just in case one forgets the fate of the world’s most famous woman and the overwhelming grief that consumed the nation after her passing. In The Crown’s portrayal, she is portrayed as a nearly perfect saint: advocating against landmines, engaging in normal middle-class activities with her sons, and falling in love with Dodi Fayed. As she heeds the sensible advice of her therapist and vows to start a new life away from the intrusive paparazzi in Paris, her concerned expressions are highlighted. The aftermath of her death is reduced to a mere expectation. By the time she speaks with William and Harry, the impending tragedy has been emphasized so much that it might as well have been flashing in bold letters at the bottom of the screen: “TUNNEL APPROACHING! SHE WILL DIE HORRIBLY!”
After her passing, the situation only worsens. Ghost Diana appears to Prince Charles and then to the Queen, serving as a comforting presence and guiding them towards the best way to attend to the people’s emotions. She acknowledges Charles for his vulnerability and attractiveness when he visited her in the hospital. My notes at this point are illegible, which is probably for the best, as I suspect they contain inappropriate content. As Ghost Diana takes the Queen’s hand and softly reminds her to embrace her British identity, she also encourages her to give in to the media’s demand for a display of care. I find myself in a state of detachment as this occurs.
But Ghost Diana is all of a piece with what is now simply a crass, by-numbers piece of film-making, with a script that barely aspires to craft, let alone art, any more. “She doesn’t get to keep the man of her dreams,” says Diana to her ex-husband as they achieve detente. “But the friend of her dreams.” “Look what you’ve managed to achieve in the year since your divorce!” says Dodi at the beginning of The Last Night. “A global anti-landmine campaign! Raising millions for charity! And yet you’re still not happy.” “It’s the story of my life,” sighs pre-Ghost Diana. “Dashing around, losing sight of myself in the process.” It is the very definition of typing-not-writing.
The feeling it evokes is solely derived from the impact of insignificant moments – moments that thankfully fade away into silence – like witnessing the boys being informed of their mother’s passing by Charles, or Harry penning the “Mummy” card that will rest on top of the coffin. However, even this can be seen as nothing more than voyeurism.
Despite its technical flaws, the later episodes of “The Crown” are hindered by the fact that they take place within recent memory. Even if there were something to captivate the audience, the flood of memories and lingering questions would make it impossible to fully engage. Was Prince Charles truly aware of the impact of Princess Diana’s death so soon after it happened? It seems doubtful, based on what we knew at the time and what we have since learned. Additionally, we can confirm that Prince Philip did not whisper an explanation to Prince Harry about the emotions of the crowd during the funeral procession (“They’re not crying for her. They’re crying for you”) because we were there. The suspension of disbelief is unattainable as the ghost of Diana continues to haunt the ruins.