Season 3 of Netflix’s iconic series about the British monarchy starts with the election of Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins) as Prime Minister and spans to Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. This time the key events are the Aberfan disaster, the Apollo 11 moon landing, Prince Charles’ investiture and the death of the Duke of Windsor.
As the time span has moved on significantly over the seasons the key players have all been replaced by new actors. Olivia Colman plays Queen Elizabeth, Tobias Menzies plays Prince Philip and Helena Bonham Carter takes over as Princess Margaret.
Once again the focus is on the clash between duty and personal ambition. Elizabeth is the absolute stalwart of duty to the point that she comes across as cold and unfeeling, not only to her subjects but her own family. Margaret on the other hand is a whirlwind of chaos and her rocky marriage to Lord Snowdon (Ben Daniels), heavy drinking and simmering resentment is the polar opposite to her sister.
Meanwhile Prince Philip must simultaneously deal with the past and the present. He is confronted with childhood trauma when his estranged mother, Alice (Jane Lapotaire) moves into the palace but is equally effected by the Apollo moon landing that makes him question both his faith and his own achievements.
Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Anne (Erin Doherty) get more prominent storylines with the focus on Charles’ attempts to learn Welsh to demonstrate his commitment as the Prince of Wales. Both he and Anne become involved in romantic entanglements with the impact of Charles’ early relationship with Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell) creating a sense of foreboding. It is particularly interesting to see how Elizabeth thwarts all Charles’ attempts to express himself as an individual and not just a monarch.
The narrative at play in The Crown is very powerful as it lifts the curtain to a world that is completely alien to most of us. The sets, scripts and historical connections are all part of what makes it great but the heart will always come down to the performances. Claire Foy did an incredible job with Elizabeth in the first two seasons but Olivia Colman is as formidable as ever, proving that she is an actress of a generation. It’s not a one woman show though and Tobias Menzies embodies the Philip we’ve all seen in the news. Helena Bonham Carter is inspired casting for the fragile yet hedonistic Margaret and Josh O’Connor gives Charles real heart. I feel I must also mention Jason Watkins who has a great chemistry with Colman and adeptly demonstrates how parliament must interact with the Crown even when they seem to be on opposite sides.
Of course, it’s hard to know how accurate this portrayal is but it seems the Royals are on board as the real Charles attended the filming of the investiture. Another outstanding season and I can’t wait for more.