Season 2 of The Crown premieres December 8th on Netflix.
By Ariba Bhuvad
After the success of its critically acclaimed inaugural season, The Crown makes a powerful and awe-inspiring return in its second season. While the first season focused on the trials and tribulations of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) unexpectedly stepping into power, the second explored her tumultuous marriage with Philip (Matt Smith), and encapsulated the rollercoaster that was her first decade of reign as the Queen.
The sophomore season of The Crown unapologetically explored the microscope that the Royal Family was under during the first decade of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The story opened up to a tense scene between Philip and Elizabeth, discussing the strain that existed in their marriage. Unknowingly and poetically, this scene laid the groundwork for the story that was to come in the episodes ahead. Foy’s extraordinary portrayal of the Queen brought to life a realization that being royalty doesn’t make you any less human. As Queen, Elizabeth dealt with her share of insecurities, the agony of aging, and a complicated marriage that had her balancing womanhood and her royal duties simultaneously.
The backdrop of the late 50’s-60’s brought forward a series of historical events that were intricately woven into the storyline of The Crown. Foy brought life to these moments as Queen Elizabeth II, depicting the real-life events of the Queen’s friendship with Jackie O. (Jodi Balfour), the awkward confrontation with her uncle and former king, Edward VIII (Alex Jennings) over his past allegiance to Hitler, and her meetings with Reverend Billy Graham (Paul Sparks). Foy played her role as the Queen with a beautiful yet strong vulnerability resonating with the reality that the real Queen must have grappled with at the time.
While the first season of The Crown presented as a continuous storyline exploring Queen Elizabeth’s introduction into her role as leader of the monarchy, the second season presented stand-alone episodes diving in deeper into each of the central characters. Not only were events of the past brought to life, but also an understanding was developed as to who each character was at its core.
Episodes worth mentioning include “A Company of Men” and “Paterfamilias”, in which the former explored the Duke’s transformation from loyal, devoted husband to a man loudly demanding his place in the monarchy and the latter, a beautiful and emotional episode flashing back and forward between Prince Philip and Prince Charles’ school life at Gordonstoun. Matt Smith’s strong performance as the misunderstood Duke of Edinburgh did not disappoint in the least bit, and brought us closer to understanding the Queen’s counterpart in life and duty. A mysterious force to be reckoned with, Princess Margaret’s story was further explored in the episode “Beryl” where she meets the man who went on to become her husband, Mr. Tony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode), a dashing photographer well ahead of his time. Kirby’s remarkable performance as the misconstrued, rebellious Princess Margaret was absolutely surreal, hypnotic, and oozed perfection.
One of the distinctive things about The Crown’s second season was that each episode stood strongly on its own. It presented its history, the characters, and the plot in a way that managed to surpass expectations episode after episode. All of this is due largely in part to the behind-the-scenes work and production that exquisitely presented flawless costume design, perfect camera angles, and intentional lighting that matched the mood of every scene.
The second season also explores the monarchy’s attempt to modernize their mentality and royal laws to better suit the ways of the changing world. The episode “Marionettes” was a superb example of this shift in the Queen’s rule as she took on public criticism but rose out of the ashes accepting and embracing change. The Crown’s depiction of this modernization aligned perfectly with current times as an African-American woman will now become a royal princess—the thing of dreams, wouldn’t you say?
There aren’t enough words to explain the ironic beauty that was The Crown in its second season. Thanks to Peter Morgan, we were able to understand Queen Elizabeth II as not just a devoted leader of the monarch, but as a woman and an individual, someone who has taken on the 20th century in her stride, despite all that she has seen and dealt with in her lifetime. The insight into her marriage with Philip and the inner battle she faced to be the ideal spouse was a beautiful and stressful thing to witness, but represented the core of this season. The captivating and amazing performances by Foy and Smith will be sorely missed as we bid farewell to them, and look ahead to a new era in the lives of the characters they so flawlessly played. For a show entering the taboo surrounding second season success, The Crown was absolutely enchanting and enlightening, and transcended the beauty of its inaugural season.
I give The Crown an A.