‘The Crown’ proves a royal success

Heidi Roenisch

More elegant and subtle than “Scandal” or “House of Cards,” yet with a quicker pace and broader appeal than “Downton Abbey,” Netflix’s “The Crown” expertly blends the best elements of a political thriller and period drama to create a slick yet sophisticated show.

Opening with an ominous cough and splatter of blood, the audience is soon swept up in the life of the 1950’s British Royal family as King George discovers he has lung cancer and must prepare his daughter Elizabeth for the throne. We then follow Elizabeth as she attempts to adjust from her happy-go-lucky life as a princess to fulfilling the responsibilities of the throne while mourning her father, all at the tender age of 25.

The plot is slow-burning but entirely absorbing. There are no outlandish murders or power plays like similarly-themed dramas, but seemingly small events and the storylines of peripheral characters build upon one another to create a richly-layered storyline. The slower pace also allows for more character development and for the audience to become more attached to characters. The show does an especially good job of keeping viewers engaged given that many key plot points are already well-known historical events.

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Elizabeth, portrayed by Claire Foy, is thrust into the role of Queen at a young age.

Claire Foy stars as Elizabeth and does a superb job of subtly conveying emotion, balancing a girlish innocence and energy with a quiet resolve to present a strong figurehead to her country, overall creating an extremely likeable heroine.

Elizabeth’s husband Prince Phillip, played by Matt Smith, is excellent in his portrayal of a man who is chivalrous and charming yet who chafes under his new royal duties and shows flashes of fierce insecurity at his comparatively inferior pedigree.  

“The Crown” has been greeted with nearly universal critical acclaim, with Foy winning a Golden Globe for best actress in a drama and the series as a whole scoring an upset in the best television drama category, beating out heavyweights like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.

The first season of the show was Netflix’s most expensive production ever, costing over $100 million, and it shows in the lavishly decorated sets and beautiful cinematography that ranges from the cool grays of London to the misty castles of the English countryside to the bright blues of Malta. Overall, the flawless imagery, coupled with a lush score, creates a highly engaging and dramatic atmosphere.

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The relationship and power dynamic between Phillip and Elizabeth is intimately explored.

The show also draws a fascinating parallel between the elected form of government and the royal family. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, played by a candid and brusque John Lithgow, deals with divisions in Parliament and within his own party while the Windsor family deals with a new family structure.

Netflix has promised at least five more seasons and plans to follow Queen Elizabeth’s story all the way up to present day.

Overall, “The Crown” proves to be a smart and savvy drama that offers an intimate look at one of the most well known European figures of our time. With impeccable acting and production as well as plenty of rich source material to continue drawing upon, this show is not to be missed.