Television Review: The Crown Season 4

I’m not sure if I’ve reviewed older seasons of The Crown. I don’t review everything I watch, even the shows I quite enjoy. I’ve stuck with the Crown through all these seasons because I like the way it presents different slices of history. Each season deals with a decade of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and the shows I like the most are when they get away from the royals themselves and focus on what the royals were doing. What events were happening in that decade. It’s fascinating to see what they choose to fill each of the 10 episodes with.

So while many might have been really looking forward to Season 4, which focuses on the 80s, I wasn’t terribly enthralled with the idea. I expected it to be dominated by Prince Charles and Princess Di, and indeed it was. I understand why’d they do that: there likely would have been many people who would have been upset if they hadn’t given a lot of attention to the couple, since the couple was a focal point of the royals for the 80s. But man oh man was it a downer of a storyline. The show presents it as a miserable, failed marriage almost from the beginning, and it’s very hard to have any sympathy for anyone other than Princess Di coming out of the season.

(That actually makes me question just what things were really like. I know this is all a dramatization of historical events, and I know the royals are famously tight lipped about what they do and who they are. The Charles/Diana storyline seemed almost 100% in favor of Diana, to the point that Charles comes off as some sort of fairy tale troll. Perhaps they thought that all the goodwill they tried to earn for Charles in Season 3 would help offset that. Provide context for why he acted the way he did. It didn’t. He comes off as an entitled boor the whole time, gaslighting and manipulating this poor innocent wife. I hope it wasn’t really as bad as that.)

In any case, I wasn’t a fan of the Charles/Diana plot. Each time they were on the screen, I just felt physically drained. Too much baggage for a pandemic audience. Then again, Gillian Anderson did a tremendous job as Margaret Thatcher, and I really enjoyed seeing that arc unfold, even though it was also a bit of a train wreck, historically speaking.

In the end, you have a wonderfully produced, directed, and acted season about a subject that is very much not what I was in the mood to watch. It says something that I watched it anyway, which is why I gave it a 7/10. If I were being more impartial, that score would likely be higher, but I just didn’t have a fun time watching it. I understand that’s a petty complaint. I wasn’t supposed to have a fun time watching it. But there it is, nonetheless.

If you’re a fan of Charles and Diana and want to see one version of how it might have played out, or if you’re just into star-crossed marriages destined to go wrong, then have I got a show for you. If you’re not, then this might be a season you can skip. It’s rated TV-MA, but I think that’s more for the series as a whole. I don’t recall anything content-wise in this season that would call for it, short of the depiction of Diana’s experiences with bulimia.

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