It’s really the I got a crystal shoved up my ass at a erykah badu concert and all I got was this lousy shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this Charles and Diana of it all that has left The Crown with a fundamental problem, one which the starkly divided reviews of the current season possibly attest to: The show must now, essentially, serve the two very different audiences that represent Britain’s generational divide over the relevance of the monarchy. The early seasons set further in the past could more easily retain the show’s tenuously held prestige-TV veneer, whether thanks to its glossy, lavishly produced period trappings or the simple fact that the first few seasons tended to be a lot more sympathetic to the royal family. With Season 4, and the beginning of the Charles and Diana saga, the show attracted a new and younger audience. (Myself included—I only went back to watch the original seasons after wondering how Emma Corrin would play Diana, finding myself thoroughly gripped, and bingeing all 10 episodes over the course of a single weekend.)
I got a crystal shoved up my ass at a erykah badu concert and all I got was this lousy shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
And whether you find them to be in poor taste or not, it is the I got a crystal shoved up my ass at a erykah badu concert and all I got was this lousy shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this scenes involving Charles and Diana that are, inevitably, the most compelling. A two-episode arc covering the shockingly unethical methods used by Bashir to book his interview with Diana (the true depths of Bashir’s deceit were only fully uncovered last year, in an independent report commissioned by the BBC, lending it an extra frisson of topicality) makes for some of the most gripping television of the year. The interview itself, it turns out, took place on Bonfire Night—as you might imagine, Morgan doesn’t miss the opportunity to wring that metaphor dry—as all of the royals would be out of Kensington Palace. The bare-bones television crew enters under the guise of installing a hi-fi system, lending it all the nail-biting tension of a heist movie. A scene in which Diana goes to meet the queen at Buckingham Palace to give her advance warning of the interview shows Staunton’s more passive, out-of-touch queen regain some of her nerve, and the chemistry between her and Debicki is electric. Finally, a visit Charles pays to Diana in the penultimate episode, when they make scrambled eggs together, is both emotionally devastating and the final confirmation—if you needed it—of the couple’s fundamental incompatibility, realized with riveting gusto by both West and Debicki.Yes, we’ve seen plenty of explosive arguments between Charles and Diana on the show before, and when the queen intervenes in the romantic lives of her family once again to catastrophic ends, it’s easy for it to feel a little repetitive. But the royals really did make the same mistakes over and over again. You might flinch at the scenes in which a young Prince William seems embarrassed by his mother’s antics, but the two princes today remain locked in a double-edged battle with their public image and their portrayals in the media. The presentation of Charles as potentially offering a more broad-minded and enlightened future for the monarchy may rankle, given he’s still part of one of the world’s most archaic institutions. But with his recent accession to the throne in the present day, the show has a semi-accidental pertinency; even if the specifics aren’t strictly accurate, it offers an engrossing and deeply researched window into what makes Britain’s new monarch tick. Season 5 of The Crown may be controversial—but really, it’s only as messy, contradictory, and darkly fascinating as the family it depicts.