Home Entertainment ‘The Crown’ Season 4 review: Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher steals the show

‘The Crown’ Season 4 review: Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher steals the show

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The fourth season of the historical drama covers Thatcher’s premiership, the royal wedding, the birth of William and Harry and the Falklands War

Towards the end of the tenth episode, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) tells Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), “When people look at you and Diana, they see two privileged young people who through good fortune have ended up with everything one could dream of in life. Nobody sees a single cause for suffering. They know you are a spoilt, immature man endlessly complaining unnecessarily married to a spoilt, immature woman endlessly complaining unnecessarily and we are heartily sick of it.”

She could well be speaking for the audience of the gorgeously mounted show; we are heartily sick of the endless complaining. Though Emma Corrin makes for a lovely Lady Diana, her trick of looking from under those golden bangs (how many of us wanted Lady Diana haircuts back in the 80s?) makes her look sly rather than charming. And while O’Connor has got Charles trick of speaking through his teeth like he is biting off the words, he comes across as an annoying Prince of Wails.

A still from Season 4 of ‘The Crown’

The show belongs to Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher and her interactions with the Queen are when The Crown is its most engaging. Again, presenting a different version of true events—what happened and what did not is as always open to interpretation, the fourth season of The Crown covers Thatcher’s premiership, the royal wedding, the birth of William and Harry and the Falklands War.

Also included are the horror of the Balmoral test that Thatcher fails spectacularly (historically, while she did not enjoy her visits, she wore the right shoes and clothes) and Diana is a smash hit, Diana’s battles with bulimia, Diana’s cringe-worthy ‘Uptown Girl’ performance, Princess Margaret’s (Helena Bonham Carter) discovery of one more awful family secret and the angry young man, Michael Fagan (Tom Brooke) breaking into the Queen’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace for a midnight chat.

Thatcher’s anxiety over her son going missing in the 1982 Paris–Dakar Rally in the fourth episode, Favourites, has the Queen wondering which is her favourite child, especially after Philip says Anne without batting an eyelid. It leads to the Queen asking to meet each of her children alone and rather unbelievably asking for a crib sheet on her children’s hobbies! Her evaluation of her children— her favourite Andrew (Tom Byrne) being spoilt and Edward (Angus Imrie) being a bully prove she knows her children very well.

The Crown (Season 4)

  • Creator: Peter Morgan
  • Starring: Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Marion Bailey, Charles Dance, Erin Doherty, Josh O’Connor, Emerald Fennell, Gillian Anderson, Emma Corrin, Stephen Boxer, Claire Foy
  • Episodes: 10
  • Run time: 60 minutes
  • Storyline: With its 1977 to 1990 timeline, the show covers Margaret Thatcher’s premiership as well as the souring of the fairytale wedding

In the sixth episode, Terra Nullius, when Bob Hawke (Richard Roxburgh) becomes the Prime Minister of Australia and wants to get rid of the monarchy, Charles and Diana’s tour of Australia and New Zealand becomes crucial to keep Australia in the Commonwealth. It even has Prince Phillip cruelly comment that the tour is too important to send the understudy. Though Diana makes some silly blunders and is hysterical about being separated from her son (again not accurate), the tour is a great success with Diana overshadowing Charles much to his resentment.

As is expected, the cast changes every two seasons. Colman, who took over from Claire Foy (she makes a cameo appearance) as Queen Elizabeth will be replaced by Imelda Staunton. Jonathan Pryce will play Prince Philip and Lesley Manville Princess Margaret. The fact that Elizabeth Debicki will play Diana in season 5 and 6 indicates the show will probably end with the death of Diana. Thus, coming full a circle as the show was developed by Peter Morgan from the film The Queen about Elizabeth’s reaction or non-reaction to Diana’s death.

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Of the three women in the show, Diana, Elizabeth and Thatcher, it is the Iron Lady that grabs and keeps one’s attention. Anderson has brought her to life in the careful enunciation, the hair, the scary handbags, the elaborate curtsey, and the little things like cooking khichdi (of course they call it kedgeree) for the Cabinet, doing her husband Denis’ (Stephen Boxer) ironing and removing her heavy earring before answering the phone.

Corrin gamely tries to flesh out Diana from the fairy tale but fails to create a person out of the ball gowns, bulimia and ballet. Colman is on the money as Elizabeth as she tries to remain current. The one time she makes her displeasure known for Thatcher ends in disaster with her press secretary Michael Shea (Nicholas Farrell) taking the fall.

Hopefully, the following seasons will take a hard look at Diana’s relationship with the media, which, in a way, is a precursor to the narcissistic default setting of the digital age. That would give the show heft, which is already showing signs of devolving into a handsomely-mounted soap opera.

The Crown is currently streaming on Netflix

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