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‘The Crown’ Has Overstayed Its Welcome

Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana with her back turned to the camera in The Crown season 6

Netflix’s hit royal drama The Crown will soon come to an end, and all I can do is breathe a sigh of relief. The last few episodes proved beyond a doubt that this show has gone on for far too long.

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While earlier seasons of The Crown covered a good few years in their 10-episode runs, the first four episodes of season 6—the final season—cover as little as eight weeks, during which Princess Diana’s (Elizabeth Debicki) final moments are explored in excruciating detail. The compelling grandiosity of the first few seasons has been completely lost by focusing on one character and their tragic, untimely death.

To the show’s credit, it handled Diana’s final moments with the utmost respect—neither the crash nor her body are ever seen onscreen (though Dodi Fayed’s is). But that which made the series so undeniably juicy in the first few seasons—the imagined scenes and the fictionalized drama—has been all but lost here. Everything that happens in these first four episodes feels like a dull recreation, included solely to make that fateful car crash all the more sorrowful, and the additions that are made are … questionable.

But here’s the thing: We already know it was horrible. The world grieved for the most famous woman on Earth for days, months, even years. Those who weren’t alive at the time will have seen images from the newspapers and TV reports. Who can forget those grief-stricken boys walking behind their mother’s coffin? There was no need for this to be recreated. Audiences can no longer suspend their disbelief because that period was so well-documented. We remember every last detail, and the show has suffered for it.

In a desperate attempt to add in something unexpected—and, presumably, to give Imelda Staunton something to do—both Charles and Elizabeth imagine themselves having one last conversation with Diana after her death, and all one can reasonably be expected to do is roll their eyes at such a blatant attempt to manufacture an emotional response. But what was missing the most was how Diana’s death affected the regular, everyday people who admired her. There’s no compelling new perspective here, something which the show used to excel at. Everything is instead marred by the royal family discussing PR strategies once again.

In short, the first few episodes of the show’s final season are predictable and dull, and it doesn’t look like the second half of the season will fare any better. Taking place roughly between the late ’90s and 2005, there will be several major royal milestones the show could cover, including the deaths of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, as well as the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. The series will reportedly end with Charles and Camilla’s wedding in 2005, but one main focal point of the second batch of episodes will also be William and Kate’s courtship. Now, others may feel differently, but to me, that seems dreadfully pointless. All of this is just so recent.

There’s no mystery left; there are no gaps left to fill. The Crown has entered the age of tabloids and the internet, and unless Peter Morgan, the show’s creator, gives us something entirely unexpected, there will be very little here that we don’t already know or can’t easily look up on our phones. All of the creativity that the historical distance of the first few seasons afforded the series has been completely lost because of modern technology. And, if you are interested in the early days of William and Kate’s relationship, there are a few Lifetime movies to watch, too. Do we really need another one?

From the beginning, it was obvious that The Crown was painting itself into a corner. Creating a dramatized look at life focused on the most famous family of all time was always going to bring challenges—people were sure to pick apart the history, complain about the performances, or argue over the period costumes and sets. But much of the show’s recent criticism could have been avoided if they had just ended it after Olivia Colman’s second outing.

Why is Charles and Camilla’s wedding, which can be found on YouTube, a better ending point than the final days of Thatcherism and the Royal Family’s depressing Christmas dinner, which perfectly illustrated how trapped Diana was? Thematically, that would have been a strong ending, a high note for the show to go out on as the viewer could then imagine—and remember—how the rest played out. Instead, The Crown has dragged on, culminating in a final season that feels, above all, wholly unnecessary.

(featured image: Netflix)

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) has been working as a freelance writer for various entertainment websites for over a year, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV and franchises like Marvel, but she is happy to pitch in with gaming content once in a while if it concerns one of the few video games she actually knows anything about. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.

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