I don’t think there will be any spoilers here, unless you are newly hatched or just learning about history, or living in a cave. Thrilled that Season 4 had finally arrived, I settled in to binge watch with George, but he only made it through the first three episodes then fell asleep. I stayed up all night to finish it. The show flies by.
Overall, I thought the season was okay, but it just didn’t feel as great as the first two seasons when the Queen was younger and played by Claire Foy and her sister Margaret was brilliantly portrayed by Vanessa Kirby. That said, seasons 3 and 4 don’t have any slouches cast. I have no complaints with Olivia Coleman and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen and Margaret, respectively, but during season 3, I really missed the old cast. I thought they could have squeezed another season out of the first cast, but then, I’m not in charge.
So it took me a while to warm up to the second group. But I have now. Helena in particular took some getting used to as Princess Margaret went even more wild and savagely struggled to stay afloat while searching for that elusive creature called personal happiness.
The casting of John Lithgow as Churchill was amazing. The rest of the prime ministers kind of blended for me. Maybe because I’m American. But that ended when Margaret Thatcher – played by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame – took the stage. (I’ll get to Diana’s casting later).
I’m sure Gillian Anderson studied Margaret Thatcher. I’ll bet she worked really hard at it. And while her performance might be deemed brilliant by some, I wasn’t sure that I recalled Margaret Thatcher being quite so tight jawed and preposterously hard to understand. Her perfectly coiffed and hair-sprayed helmet didn’t move as her slight frame hunched through her day… from cabinet meetings to the kitchen where she crazily cooked all the time. Maybe the cooking and ironing relaxed her, but it was brutally uncomfortable to watch the head of state multi-tasking her ass off as the only person in the world who could do anything right. I tried mimicking the speech by not opening my teeth more than a tiny bit while speaking. It’s hard to do, and yet, it’s the only way I could get to a sample interpretation of the entirely weird and cartoonish character that she came across as. I learned a bit about Margaret’s politics too. I knew her and President Regan had been buddy buddy, but her moniker as the Iron Lady served her well for not only the chastity belt she strapped onto her jaw, but for the coldness she revealed having toward all her fellow man. Even the Queen thought so! What? That bundle of warmth? Yes! Margaret Thatcher was a cold mother too, choosing one of her twin children—the boy, over the other twin—a girl. (She claimed her preference was due to merit – but as a mother myself – I don’t give a shit). Margaret wasn’t a girls girl either. No champion of the opposite sex she.
All in all, the Margaret Thatcher thing felt weird. Now let’s tackle Diana, our Queen of Hearts. Swooning here!
Elizabeth Debicki was cast in the role of our beautiful Diana and sometimes her looks were way off, and at others, spot on. The hair was perfect, the body too thin, and at times, I felt like I was really watching Diana. But there were other times when Ms. Debicki went way overboard on the expressions of shyness. The batting eyes, the looking at people from under the lashes, the constant head tilts. The scene where Charles and Diana announce their engagement with the big blue ring is one of them. I thought it was wayyy over the top. But then, I got over it.
Here’s the thing, the royal family does not come across well. Again. Charles in particular was wildly cruel to Diana. They all were! A bunch of incredible snobs who didn’t care anything about her as human and in fact accused Diana of faking her warmth toward others as publicity stunts. Okay, we all know the story, I don’t need to tell you. Camilla, you damn bitch. Why didn’t you just go away? You could have allowed Charles room to be with his wife. I really think they might have made it, and history would be different (obviously) if not for you. Charles, who had been unloved and bullied all his life and had come to his meeting with Diana as a sympathetic-type character, then throws it all way as he abandons Diana and sets her up to fail.
At the end of the day, I feel kind of sorry for all of them. Prince Philip—never, ever, ever a likeable guy, kind of pegs it. They are all superfluous, all miserable, all damaged and back-biting at one another because of the Crown. They protect the Queen. And maybe that’s the way it always was and will be. Courtiers of old, falling on their swords, pushed aside, thrown to the gallows, put in institutions, prisons, and laid under the executioner’s sword, because of the crown’s desires and needs.
In Season 4, as through quite a lot of the series, the writers do what they can to minimize the damage to the Queen herself, but she’s there, in the mix, with history, and now the entire world is judging her again. She must be exhausted.
They ran through the years fast in this season. So much of what that happens in real life, does so off screen.
Would I watch it again? Absolutely yes. And I will. Is it fascinating? Yes. Is it sad? Definitely. On so many, many fronts. Diana, for all her glamor, spent a lot of time with her head in the toilet, and they did a wonderful job showing the pain of bulimia and why, in her case, it may have happened. Did I learn things I did not know before? Yes, I did. Most definitely. I think back over the many seasons and all the little stories I knew nothing about… the fog, the constant smoking and cancers, the Queen’s role and difficulty of it, the Queen’s education, the ridiculously heavy-handedness and short-sightedness of the old guard of courtiers and staff, (except for Pip Torrens as Tommy Lascelles. I could watch him all effing day), the coal mining accident, the Kennedy’s visit, the Queen mother’s drinking and tiny little voice, Philips’s upbringing, Philip’s mother, David—the Duke of Winsor and his evil actions, and his nasty, nasty mouth and farty little dogs…. I could go on and on.
It’s a world to its own and we get to visit. Is there creative license taken and are the stories and portrayals true? Yes, and probably yes.
I can’t wait for Season 5. But then, sigh…. we all know there will be much more sadness. Would I want to live my life in Kensington Palace? I used to think it a fairyland dream. Not so much anymore. And I most definitely would not want to roam those oxygen-less and humorless halls. Unless they invited me. Then hell yes. Get out of my way! I know they’re real people, but I feel like I know them. And feel sorry for them….kind of. But, I love them a bit too. And I sincerely want them all to be happy.