The final review of The Crown – William’s time at university is a peculiar romantic comedy set on campus.
What purpose does the monarchy serve? What is the purpose of The Crown? These two inquiries run parallel as Netflix’s visually stunning biographical series concludes the tale of Queen Elizabeth II. However, the overarching theme remains consistent with Peter Morgan’s writing throughout: a life of serving the public is a heavy responsibility that comes with significant personal sacrifices, including sacrificing one’s own happiness. Your belief in this notion will ultimately shape your perception of The Crown’s conclusion.
The show experiences a significant improvement after a shaky start to the season, during which Princess Diana dominated and resulted in some unconventional choices, most notably “ghost Diana”. The most daring scene in the recent episodes is a dream sequence in which the Queen envisions her monarchy being overthrown by the incoming king, Tony Blair. During the coronation, the choir performs a haunting a cappella rendition of “Things Can Only Get Better”.
The Tony Blair episode begins with a scene that is commonly used to focus on a single issue. The rise and fall of Blair is the most successfully portrayed issue. Blair’s popularity rises while the Queen’s decreases, resulting in a moment where she seeks his advice. Blair’s dedication to modernization leads to the royal family considering drastic measures such as publishing full financial records, toning down lavish displays, and dismissing specialized staff who manage napkins and swans. Eventually, the Queen realizes the truth about Blair and his motives. Bertie Carvel’s portrayal of Blair is convincing, capturing his distinctive speech patterns and wide grin that reveal him as an opportunist rather than a true leader. Despite the changing traditions, the wise Queen understands their importance. It is a clever moral tale.
If Blair is portrayed negatively in this scene, let’s also consider the situation of Carole Middleton (played by Eve Best), whom we see shopping with her daughter Kate. They spot Princess Diana – but don’t worry, it’s just a flashback – at a public event with Prince William. After that encounter, Carole sees William as a potential future husband for her daughter.
Years later, when William (played by Ed McVey) enrolls at the University of St Andrews, Kate (played by Meg Bellamy) is also attending the same course, thanks to Carole’s efforts. The Crown’s focus shifts to a college romcom as William navigates his frustrations of being unable to party without being hounded by the paparazzi, but finds solace in the attention of a sensible young woman who is not swayed by his royal status. However, it becomes clear that Kate is not immune to William’s charm when she dates someone else and her parents, especially Carole, express their disappointment that he is not William. Kate also deliberately wears a see-through dress on the catwalk at a student fashion show to impress William. The Middletons are depicted as avid supporters of the throne who seize the opportunity presented by Kate’s relationship with William.
William is on the brink of becoming the main focus of this season, as he struggles to come to terms with a future filled with constant public scrutiny. Harry, on the other hand, is portrayed as a one-dimensional troublemaker, causing embarrassment to the family by indulging in drugs and dressing up as a Nazi for a party. Luther Ford delivers a strong performance in the role, along with McVey and Bellamy, despite their lack of acting experience. However, the reasons behind Harry’s resentment are not delved into.
The focus shifts back to Elizabeth (played by Imelda Staunton) in The Crown. While it may seem like another episode centered on Princess Margaret’s (played by Lesley Manville) disappointment with her hedonistic lifestyle, it is actually about her sister. The episode includes a flashback to VE Day in 1945, where the princesses dance with American soldiers. This is the last time Elizabeth can truly be herself. In her final years, after the deaths of Margaret, the Queen Mother, and eventually herself, Elizabeth begins to question the purpose of it all as she even has to help plan her own funeral.
The last episode features bold conversation, with even the Queen recognizing that the concept of monarchy is strange and outdated. However, when it comes to the emotional aspect, The Crown has always focused on the struggles of living in lavish palaces. This idea was somewhat understandable when applied to individuals who were not born into royalty. However, hearing the actual Queen lament about the difficulties of not abdicating is quite ironic. Elizabeth questions, “What about the life I had to give up? The woman I had to set aside?”
The younger version of herself – played by Claire Foy – responds on our behalf with a simple question: “What kind of question is that?”