The Crown (Netflix 2016 – Review)

the-crown

Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth, to give ordinary people an ideal to strive towards, an example of nobility and duty to raise them in their wretched lives.”

(Quote from The Crown – Queen Mary)

5 Kernels

Yes, as one article stated in The Guardian, the Americans will be highly fascinated over Netflix’s new series – The Crown.  We will eat it up like candy amidst our 2016 election sours, which has given most of us nausea over the thought of who will win on either side of the ticket (I’m staying neutral on this topic). Perhaps it will make us miss the good ‘ole days of being a colony under the British empire, wishing for all the beauty, jewels, and pomp and circumstance compared to our current affairs of mud-slinging politicians vying for the office.  Of course, that’s not to say that the British empire hasn’t had its own share of scandals on the green side of Parliament during elections. Somehow, though, it doesn’t sound so bad when you call your opponent corrupt while using a British accent.

Nevertheless, I flipped the switch on Netflix last night and sat my derriere down to watch the first five episodes after a boring day’s work.  Today, I watched the remaining episodes. I’m sure my stomach fat increased, according to the latest research (Read Here). Regardless of being harmful to my health, I glued myself through hours of television, stuffing my mouth with food and occasionally crying like a baby.  (I have been watching too many period dramas of late and it has wreaked havoc on my emotions.)

The Crown is unique and deeply entrenched into the meaning of the monarchy and rightfully focuses upon the meaning of its title.  The crown is merely not a bejeweled head ornament that a monarch wears, it is an ancient belief that whosoever wears it has been ordained and anointed by God. Throughout the production, the crown takes precedence over one’s private life, whether it be the monarch or the family.  Anyone who strays from its innate purpose places the monarchy at risk.

Netflix has done a stellar job in all aspects of this production from the authenticity of the times to the costumes, settings, and trappings of the royals.  Even though they spared no expense, they have not left its audience with fluffy cotton candy.  On the contrary, they have presented a well acted, well written, and not to mention educational peek into the House of Windsor post-World War II.  Each character, from the staff to the queen plays their roles meticulously well.  If I were a fortune teller, I would say that a few Emmy’s will definitely be forthcoming.

Claire Foy must have spent hours studying the mannerisms and voice inflections of Queen Elizabeth as her portrayal is uncanny. John Lithgow has reincarnated Winston Churchill (if he doesn’t get an Emmy for his performance, I’m going to be extremely disappointed).  Matt Smith does an interesting portrayal of Prince Philip.  He looks very much like the young prince.  I don’t think there is a performance in the entire cast that I can find fault, from Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margret, Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary, Victorian Hamilton as the Queen Mother, Ben Miles as Peter Townsend, Jared Harris as King George VI, and many others including Jeremy Northam.

The first few episodes are emotionally charged and quickly engulf the audience into the younger years of Elizabeth and her father who is falling ill.  The early episodes, up to Elizabeth’s coronation, had me glued to the television set.  In fact, my cat jumped on my lap, and a few hours later, I finally realized he was there.  The other episodes walk the audience through historical events, which definitely sent me to Google to check if they were true.  Finally, toward the end of the series, it’s the continual struggle of love and duty, which is the resounding theme that underlies much of the story.

A few of the historical points covered are:

  • Edward VIII’s abdication and his love for Wallis Simpson is a focus of early episodes. His continued ill treatment for having given up the crown and the shunning of his wife takes a different slant. Much of the family’s disdain comes from their own lips, but quite a bit of Edward’s own bitterness is center stage and vocal.  Unwelcome at Elizabeth’s coronation, his recitation to his house guests while watching it live on television, regarding the symbolism behind the coronation, is fascinating. I never realized us “mere mortals” couldn’t watch certain aspects of the divine unfolding.
  • Winston Churchill’s role as prime minister in his later years is another large focal point. Frankly, it had me hitting Google a few times afterward to check the timeline, as well as his artwork and the famous portrait commissioned for him on his 80th birthday.  And yes, what his wife did to it was apparently true.
  • The episode called, “Act of God,” is an incident that I had never heard about regarding the great smog of 1952 where London fell victim to fog/pollution trapped in the city.  Apparently, it resulted in thousands of people dying from inhaling the airborne pollutants.
  • The exhausting world tour that Elizabeth and Philip embarked upon in the 1950’s (sorry, I must have been only three years old, so I missed that news).
  • The love affair between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend.  One can only wonder what her reaction would be today if she knew how many of her family members have since divorced and remarried. It only goes to prove that the ancient traditions can soften and change.
  • The Queen’s love of horses, not to mention her Corgi dogs underfoot.
  • The Queen Mother purchasing a castle in Scotland.
  • The surprising revelation that Elizabeth received very little formal education beyond the how-to of being a lady and understanding the constitution.

Of course, intertwined behind the public episodes, are the private lives of the royals and their staff. It’s interesting to watch Elizabeth grow into her role as queen and embrace the crown. Unfortunately, loyalty and duty, of course, have a price as the story tells of its straining relationships between Philip, her mother, and sister.   Whether the marital tension between Elizabeth and Philip is factual, I have no idea.  However, one can only wonder what it does to a man’s ego to kneel before his wife and swear allegiance. Both Philip and Margaret struggle to find purpose in the shadow of Elizabeth.

Yes, some of it does degrade into a soap-opera type mentality but it’s tolerable.  I thought the series started strong at 5-kernel bravo review for the first five episodes, but six through ten are much more cloistered and focused upon their private lives, slipping my kernel take down to 4.

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Regardless, this undertaking by Netflix is well worth the watch.  The only criticism I can muster about the series is that the cinematography is sometimes murky and dark, especially in the large rooms with dull lighting.  They almost look smoky in appearance and unclear. Whether that was an honest attempt to portray the royal residences, I’m unsure, but I found it a distracting and disappointing that I hadn’t a clearer picture of the opulence.

As far as the music, leave it up to Hans Zimmer to stir the audiences’ emotions with his wonderful soundtrack.  Below is the official intro at the beginning of each episode.  The visual effect of silver molding into a crown with Hans Zimmer’s score gave me shivers.

If anything, after you watch this series, I think it will give you a better understanding of the monarchy and its inherent meaning, whether or not you agree with that form of government.  Nevertheless, in November of 2016, it certainly was a breath of fresh air for this American, which helped to raise my current wretched existence living through the presidential election.

Bravo Netflix!  When does Series 2 start?  My popcorn is popped.

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