Review: ‘The Crown’ Continues to Astonish

The Crown has returned to Netflix for a fourth season, and this time it has captivated more than the long term viewer. During the show’s first season in 2016, it was met with raves from critics. From the costume design to the commitment to detail, and even the outstanding acting, it quickly earned its place as a show that was meant to be watched by a vast array of audiences. 

But it is difficult for a series that centers around a monarch and focuses on the characters talking…and talking to tap into a younger audience. It does not have the flashiness and drama that accompany most shows teenagers watch. However, this latest season has added a new layer of controversy to the show that many teens will find compelling.

For context, “The Crown” adopts a new cast every year as it moves chronologically through the life of the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II. Every story line in the show ultimately leads back to the queen because she is the foundation that holds the family, and the series, together. The fourth season continued with the cast that was introduced to viewers in season three, but it added two new faces: Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson have joined to play Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher. Both of these women were incredibly influential in the late 20th century, and tackling their complexities is no easy task. 

Particularly the character of Princess Diana is one that is very sensitive. She was beloved around the world, and her accidental death in 1997 left everyone in shock. “The Crown’s” plans to revisit her tragic relationship with Prince Charles drew criticism from members of Parliament and the royal family. But for younger viewers, she is a relatable character. In the first couple of episodes we see the Princess as a teenager, and Corrin’s portrayal is brilliant. The viewer is captivated by her openness and even her struggles with bulimia. Gen Z will identify with Princess Diana and appreciate her in the same way that older generations did and continue to do. The inclusion of ’80s British rock and pop is a nice touch as well, and likely will resonate with young viewers who are already fans of that music.

One of the show’s stand-out episodes is when Princess Diana and Prince Charles are on their tour of Australia. The audience is able to understand how important these two figures were, even if they were not old enough to remember.  The high production value shines through, and many of Diana’s outfits we have all seen in photos and video are recreated. Emma Corrin has experience in modeling and bears a striking resemblance to the late princess, making for an even more memorable viewing experience.

Gillian Anderson should not be overshadowed by Emma Corrin. Her portrayal of the “Iron Lady” provides the viewers an inner look at the difficulties of being a female head of state in a room full of men. It is agonizing to watch her party members turn their backs on her regardless of your political affiliations. The show continues to provide lots of famous moments in recent British political history. This season touches on apartheid in South Africa, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the impacts of Thatcher’s policies. 

The series maintains its excellent performances thanks to leading lady Olivia Colman. The drama is more exciting than it has ever been, and the storylines are heartbreaking, and at times maddening. It will bring in a new generation of viewers, many of whom were never familiar with Diana’s kindness or Thatcher’s economics.  Golden Globes and Emmys are surely in store for this cast this season, and one can only hope that season five continues to exceed expectations.