Netflix’s premier royal drama has returned for its best season yet. The Crown season 4 hits the ground running, and takes the series that could sometimes be sluggish into more compelling storytelling territory. Every episode offers rich and dramatic insight into British and world history, with superb performances from every cast member and masterful direction. As the historical drama reaches closer to our modern times, settings and storylines become more familiar, Royal Family tensions reach their boiling point, and the British Monarchy will never be the same.
This remains a family drama, one focused on a family whose arcane placement in society represents the pinnacle of antiquated classist institutions. The world is changing, including in the way the world perceives Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Coleman) and her family. They want more engagement from the Royals, which is at direct odds with the Queen’s stalwart principle of not getting involved with political affairs, believing that she and her family must offer “stability” in their image instead. She remains fierce in her pragmatism, and expects and constantly instructs her family to do the same, which the show masterfully centers as the main source of conflict. Coleman’s performance continues to shine and spark, as she plays the famous monarch with serious dedication and deep humanity, leading to her stoic disposition to break at key points in the season to great dramatic effect.
Perhaps the subject of the most excitement for this season, Lady Diana Spencer, AKA Diana, Princess of Wales (Emma Corrin) finally comes to the scene. Corrin is a mesmerizing, captivating, and heartbreaking Princess Diana. The show emphasizes her humility, but also her sincere ambitions at achieving happiness with Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor). The Crown season 4 doesn’t hold back in its depiction of Diana, relaying her joy, sadness, stress, and tension with Charles and the rest of the Royals, who were always unforgiving of her “imperfections” as a consort. Her relationship with Charles feels rushed on the show because it truly was in history. There’s a needless rush of their marriage, leading to its subsequent infamous dissolution. The needless rush is easily felt by the audience, who will empathize seamlessly with the Princess.
Charles, with whom we had sympathy for last season, has grown into his selfishness and self-victimhood entirely this season. O’Connor does a great job of conveying both his sincere feelings of emotional neglect and his senseless rationalization for his treatment of Diana, who does her sincere best to make him happy. His continued fixation on Camilla Parker Bowles (Emerald Fennell) complicates matters, to say the least. Everything his family (namely his mother) has done, including insisting on the match with Diana, has rippled irrevocably in his life. It’s tragic, and the show subtly makes that point through the various storylines presented. It’s truly masterful.
The Crown season 4 does an excellent job of conveying the complexities and ripples of their relationship, and how the Royal Family was always there to manipulate whatever they could. The dramatic irony haunts the season from the start. We know how this all ends, and watching how it unfolds carries palpable tension in every scene we see of “the People’s Princess.” The stress on her from the Royals increasingly mounts, and the audience can feel the pressure alongside her through Corrin’s performance and the exceptional direction.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), whose legacy is one of the most divisive in recent world history, is an intriguing addition to the season. She is an intensely practical politician, one who is decisively not a feminist and is extraordinarily stubborn in her conservatism. She is mission-driven, with a belief that she must carry out a divine will in her policies that harmed thousands of working lives. She is a royalist, but her rigidity comes into conflict with even the Royal Family. The show refreshingly does not sugarcoat the impact of Thatcher’s intensely harsh right-wing policies, her usage of the Falklands War to stir nationalist sentiment, the wrongness of her position on South Africa, and other aspects of the Iron Lady.
Her tension with the Queen is rooted in their difference in upbringing, with Thatcher’s perspective born of her far more practical background. The show effectively conveys that she is someone who has diligently worked her way into her position and takes immense pride in that, as opposed to the birthright of the Royals. Anderson immerses herself entirely in the role. She plays Thatcher with her trademark rigidity in virtually everything she did. She has that sincere belief that everything she is doing is right, even when the entire world speaks against her. She is a frustrating presence, but one who demands attention every time she is on screen.
Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) remains a delight this season. In many ways, you could say she’s the MVP of the Royal Family, as she offers them all wisdom based on her experiences in previous seasons, applying it to the situations at hand. Bonham Carter is vivacious in every scene she’s in, whether she’s in the background with her humor and commentary at her family’s problems or is center stage.
Philip (Tobias Menzies) is as bitter as ever, although he does seem to care more genuinely about his family than previously, and is more thoughtful on his previous demeanor. He is far less grueling than in previous seasons, and it is a welcome change. Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) also has more material this season, and refreshingly comes more into her own. Every major Royal Family member is a player this season, and it is excellent to see the show make judicious use of them all.
The cinematography is gorgeous, and it’s clear that this show is one of Netflix’s most expensive productions. From English countrysides to castles, to the Australian desert, cities, and more, virtually every scene is a visual spectacle. Every other scene is like looking at an intricate painting, but it’s real life. The music, which in the past could be overbearing, is used to great effect here as a pitch-perfect accompaniment.
The Crown season 4 is a superb season of historical drama. The acting, direction, writing, costuming, cinematography, and everything else comes together to present a richly compelling story that will capture your attention, no matter what you think about the Royal Family. Through the prism of the Royals, the show does an effective job at conveying the world growing into what it is today, offering a reflection of how Britain has changed, and how the Royal Family’s resistance to change with it could be to their detriment. And it’s fantastic to watch.
You can go watch The Crown Season 4 streaming exclusively on Netflix now.
The Crown Season 4
- Rating - 9.5/109.5/10
The Crown Season 4 is a superb season of historical drama. The acting, direction, writing, costuming, cinematography, and everything else comes together to present a richly compelling story that will capture your attention, no matter what you think about the Royal Family. Through the prism of the Royals, the show does an effective job at conveying the world growing into what it is today, offering a reflection of how Britain has changed, and how the Royal Family’s resistance to change with it could be to their detriment. And it’s fantastic to watch.