The Crown’s penultimate season is streaming on Netflix today, the first in a post-Queen Elizabeth world. After sitting through four seasons of smog and courting and the Falklands War, this was supposed to be the good stuff. The divorce, the Panorama interview, all of it. Unfortunately, the new episodes, which have already been marred by the royalist ravings of one Dame Judi Dench, are being panned by critics on both sides of the Atlantic.
Though this series is allegedly creator Peter Morgan’s “love letter to Elizabeth II,” most of the reviews suggest Lilibet Sr. has been relegated to the shadows. It’s a season that lingers on Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and apparently, for the worst.
Variety’s Daniel D’Addario wrote that this season seems to be largely composed of Imelda Staunton, who plays the Queen, and Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Diana, “casting significant gazes into middle distance” in lieu of making any sort of statement about anything. Dominic West’s Prince Philip is “simply miscast, a sad comedown from the terrific Josh O’Connor” of the last two seasons.
Vulture’s Jen Chaney also takes umbrage with the new casting. “But where those transitions have been smooth in the past, the seams between season four, which dropped on Netflix in 2020 and paused its action in 1990, and five, arriving Wednesday on the platform and resuming the royals’ story in July 1991, look more frayed,” she writes.
Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall finds that there isn’t enough room to do any of the dynamic royal scandals of the 1990s justice. “Charles and Diana’s divorce at times feels like the primary engine of the season, but then they’ll vanish altogether for a while as we catch up with Peter Townsend, or see Elizabeth travel to Russia to deal with some very old family business regarding the massacre of the Romanovs(*),” he writes. “It becomes difficult for any one story to maintain the necessary momentum, especially since the show as usual leaps forward months or even years from one hour to the next.”
But no decision is final until the Daily Mail speaks on it. Christopher Stephens lets it rip in his review, writing, “There are no depths of bad taste that writer Peter Morgan does not plumb” in the new season. The main players are portrayed with “disdain bordering on mockery” and the vehicle is “now a nakedly republican polemic, using embarrassment as its chief weapon against the monarchy.”
I was denied advance screeners of the new episodes due to my past critical coverage of the Queen’s line of dog perfume, so I don’t have an opinion on it yet, other than to say I miss that old broad, and damn, Elizabeth Debicki is tall!