Critics Are Really Not Into ‘The Crown’ Season Five
Netflix’s The Crown has been a critical darling since it first dropped, earning sixty-three Primetime Emmy nominations in the first four seasons, and winning twenty-one of the them. Yet, the show could not have predicted that its fifth season would be burdened by the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the changing of the guard to her son, King Charles III. Now, as he is only one month into being king, the most scandalous and haunting part of his legacy is about to dramatized again. Judi Dench, the BBC, and others have been extra harsh on The Crown’s upcoming season because of those circumstances, and the reviews have an edge to them that seems very … interesting.
“The Crown” has been great, as the Emmy haul for its fourth season attests, and it’s still pretty good. Yet given the highs that the younger versions of these characters delivered, to borrow from the Queen, watching the current season feels more like a preference than a requirement.
“Ethical considerations aside, why all this mendacity matters artistically is that it is symptomatic of the show’s most fundamental creative failure, here more glaring than ever: its sometimes excruciatingly lazy way with storytelling. Where reality might be too nuanced, the show goes for shortcuts, overwriting and falsely interconnected storylines. […] And when characters aren’t talking in unwitting metaphor, they’re increasingly prone to spewing out chunks of opinion like frustrated newspaper columnists.”
“At its best, The Crown is about flawed people coping imperfectly with cursed privilege, visiting unhappy personal lives upon themselves in the process. But there are only so many times we can see the Queen, whoever she’s played by, tell a family member they can’t marry this man or must remain married to that woman. Charles, Anne and Andrew get the lecture here, as does Margaret (Lesley Manville) when she revisits her feelings of frustration at not being allowed to stay with her true love, Peter Townsend.
The retreading of old ground feels forced, and this is not the only point at which a 10-part season is plugged with filler.”
Past entries get away with steady heavy-handedness thanks to their broad framework (using episodes to hone in on an array of Royal family members, as well as their key connections), sterling performances from an enviable cast list, and elegant craftsmanship worthy of the show’s 10 Creative Arts Emmys. Season 5 is woefully deficient in its focus, which in turn puts too great a burden on the actors and production. History buffs and sovereign superfans may tolerate the excess better than others, but to borrow Morgan’s season-spanning metaphor — Queen Elizabeth’s outdated cruise ship, Britannia — “The Crown” seems to be running out of steam.
This was once a superior costume drama, moments of 20th-century history packaged into an upmarket soap opera. But as the storylines catch up with the present, the show is edging towards trashy telenovela. […] Of course, when this fifth series was filmed, its creators didn’t know that the Queen would die weeks before the launch date. But did no one at Netflix review the first few minutes of the show and consider a re-edit? The Queen, whose health remained an entirely private matter throughout her life, is being examined by a doctor. Her medical records are up on screen. “If we can just pop your stockings off, Your Majesty,” says the physician. Granted, we never see her in a state of undress, yet it feels oddly indecent.
A barely-fresh score of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes shows a significant drop in critical response. The discussion of filler brings back memories that the initial plan was for this fifth season to be the last, and then it was later expanded for a sixth and final season. Maybe that ended up creating a lot of space that needed to be filled up. I also think that it is fair to say that people are a lot more sensitive about this subject since Queen Elizabeth just passed away. The outpouring of tributes and grief, whatever you may feel about the monarchy, shows that people still see this institution as something worth protecting, even when the dark side is repeatedly brought up, and that seems to be reflected in critics’ reactions.
Audiences will be able to add their voice to the mix on Wednesday, November 9, when season five arrives on Netflix.
(featured image: Netflix)
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