To acquire wisdom, one must observe

‘The Crown’ season 5: God save the queen

I’ve been watching “The Crown” since 2016, because every 15-year-old should be watching a drama about the British royal family. While “The Crown” isn’t one of my favorite shows, I do enjoy using it as background noise while I’m folding laundry or doing other chores. 

The series has received critical acclaim, having received both Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Drama. It has also contributed Emmy wins for Olivia Colman and Claire Foy, both women who have played Queen Elizabeth II during different seasons of the show. That being said, “The Crown” has also received its fair share of criticism as it borders on the line between fact and fiction, especially since this season was released just eight weeks after the death of Queen Elizabeth, making the British nation still sensitive to any criticism of her reign—deserved or not. The show revolves around the British royal family, following the reign of Queen Elizabeth II starting just before she took the throne from her father King George VI. 

While portraying the lives of real people in a drama setting there is of course going to be some backlash over how events are portrayed. The show digs deep into the royal family and shows pivotal moments in the Windsor family history without leaving out any bit of the ugly. The show includes the marital chaos, the impacts of the family on individual’s mental health and scandals of infidelity leaked to the public. Heck, the show even refers to being in the family as being part of “The System”—as evidenced by the title of episode 2 in season 5.

That being said, while it is nice that the show doesn’t gloss over any of the unsavory parts of the royal family’s history under Queen Elizabeth’s reign, it does sometimes feel a bit strange to watch knowing this was someone’s life and it is being dramatized for people’s enjoyment. I felt similarly when “Diana: The Musical” was brought to Broadway. These are real people who really experienced these things. On another note, these people live in the lap of luxury. They have castles and money and never have to want for anything and all they truly are at the end of the day are figureheads. 

The show does make you understand the struggle of having to play a part and the cost that comes with bearing the title and the crown. But hey you get pretty dresses so… (I’m joking… for the most part.) “The Crown” as a whole has done a great job of both humanizing the royal family to remove this facade that treats them as gods among men and also othering them by showing how their problems seem trivial in comparison to the very real problem their subjects face. 

I did enjoy the first couple of the seasons of the show—for the same reason why everyone loved “House of the Dragon” (if you know you know and you should know this is a joke). And I think I maybe liked those earlier seasons better because they felt more removed from the royal family that we know now. I mean Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952, just think about how different the world was then compared to the present day. So I always had this inkling that I may like the show less as time progressed because it was delving into content I wasn’t interested in seeing dramatized—also I hate Charles. This point isn’t at all relevant to this sentence, I just thought it needed to be in here somewhere. 

I also didn’t know how much I would love the Diana years because of how controversial they are and I think there is a very fine line to be walked when portraying Diana’s life. It also just makes you wonder if the royal family has seen the show and what their thoughts on it are.

The show definitely does make me respect Queen Elizabeth because Miss Ma’am really does commit to the bit—maybe I shouldn’t refer to someone’s reign as the bit. But what I mean is that she always puts duty above everything else. This is a theme that has been carried from season 1 to season 5. She chooses duty even when any other human being would understand why she wouldn’t. Is it always the best idea to choose duty? No. Does she cause harm to other people and their well being because of it? Yes. But she really does stick to her guns. 

In this season most especially I think we see this turmoil and the toll that it takes on her to have to handle the responsibility of the crown while also being blamed by her children and family for their unhappiness. But Elizabeth didn’t create the system, she is simply a piece in it just like every other member of the family. It is easy as an outsider to say she could change things, but in truth what power did she have? She was a figurehead. The entire point of a figurehead is to sit there and look pretty, it is supposed to represent an unachievable ideal. I’m not saying that this is an easy role to fill, but it is a role you must fill when you are given every other privilege in this life. Oh, also Imelda Staunton aka Dolores Umbridge is playing Elizabeth this season which is a bit trippy because you just expect her to go all wizard-y at some point which does not happen. 

This is the penultimate season of “The Crown,” and we end off the season just before Diana’s death. In this season we get a glimpse into the failing marriages of the queen’s children, with a heavy focus on Charles and Diana. We also see this growing disconnect between Phillip and Elizabeth who are being characterized as these two contrasting personalities. “The Crown” also threw in a clip of Diana in the ever so famous revenge dress, which is iconic. Then we get to episode 6 and things take a turn for the dark side. “Episode 6: Ipatiev House” focuses on the royal family’s connection to the Russian czars. Now remember, royal families are innately incestuous, and in some familial relation both Elizabeth and Phillip are connected to the Russian czars by blood. The show delves into the role that British royals played in condemning the Romanov family to a horrific death by not offering them refuge in England. Once again, things are not as plain as they seem; the first instinct would be rage towards the British royal family for not providing aid to the last czars. But logically, when one remembers that duty to the crown comes first, it is clear that providing aid to the Romanovs would be asking for turmoil to come to England and risk the country’s stability. Elizabeth is the one to explain the role of duty in the decision and I think this ties back to her firm belief in duty over personal feelings. Is it heartless maybe, but they don’t give you a tiara to have a heart. 

One last thought I think it was really interesting that the first episode of season 5, “Queen Victoria Syndrome,” focused on how the queen was becoming out of touch with British society. The show uses The Britannia—a yacht gifted to Queen Elizabeth at the start of her reign—as a metaphor throughout the season as the ship is seen in disrepair and not modern. Throughout the course of the season, there is this underlying narrative of members of the royal family trying to save the yacht and get funding to repair it to a working state while other members try and move towards a new yacht model that could be put in place of The Britannia, a great metaphor for how some felt about Queen Elizabeth and her son Charles. However, the show ends on “Episode 10: Decommissioned” with The Britannia being decommissioned instead of being replaced or fixed, which was very symbolic. 

Good background noise, would recommend while folding laundry or using the arm bike in the trainers’ room.

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