More period piece than tell all Netflix’s The Crown more than fills the gaping hole left behind since the end of Downton Abbey. This biographical look at a young Elizabeth Windsor’s ascension to the throne is a visual feast with sumptuous gowns, elegant cars, and stately homes- well, palaces as it were.
With a relatively unknown cast to American audiences, excepting John Lithgow, The Crown jumps feet first into the, extremely well acted, goings on of the erstwhile King George’s VI (remember The King’s Speech, same king) family life. In rapid fire succession we are introduced to the King’s (Jared Harris) alarming health decline, Philip Mountbatten’s (Matt Smith) political and personal concessions to marry Elizabeth (Claire Foy), and Princess Margaret’s (Vanessa Kirby) illicit interest in the king’s equerry Peter (Ben Miles). Despite having a multitude of storylines to follow The Crown feels neither rushed nor cluttered. Even the introduction of Lithgow’s Winston Churchill and the goings-on of 10 Downing Street do not distract, rather give a rounder, more complete, picture of the situation Elizabeth finds herself thrust into.
Foy’s Elizabeth is kind and gracious, interacting with those around her with a quiet and serious confidence. Perhaps more interesting (at least to watch) is her ambivalence in her relationship with Philip, at once both confident and insecure; Elizabeth talks to him with an ease that speaks to a deep familiarity but quakes tearfully at the altar. With the unexpectedly sudden death of her father Elizabeth is forced into a role that changes her home, job, and title instantaneously. Upon hearing the news of her family’s and country’s loss she is allowed but a moment to mourn before having to summon a stalwart stoicism that belies her 26 years of age.
If The Crown strives to the highbrow it does so without skirting around the licentious.