TV Review: The Crown Series 3

Series 3 of The Crown sees new actors in across the board but Olivia Colman is sadly no Claire Foy. Helena Bonham Carters rock though

“Sometimes duty requires one to put personal feelings…
‘And frivolity”
…aside”

Doing little to dispel rumours that she isn’t a Time Lord, The Crown takes its cues from Doctor Who as Series 3 sees the Queen regenerate from Claire Foy to Olivia Colman. And not just that, the whole cast of main players has been replaced as this new company will take us through the next couple of series. It’s a clever move, considering the spain of history that the show takes but it is also a little sad to lose such excellent performances as Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret, Victoria Hamilton’s Queen Mum, Alex Jennings and Lia Williams as Edward and Wallis and of course, Foy’s exceptional work.     

Series 3 then, takes us from 1964 to 1977, featuring such notable events as the Aberfan tragedy, the moon landing and the arrival of Camilla in Charles’ life. And with its many millions and pick of the white acting talent in this country, it remains eminently watchable. That said, something has shifted for me and it just doesn’t feel as effective as the first two seasons. A large element of this is the way series creator and main writer Peter Morgan has structured the show, choosing to maintain a massive ensemble of recurring characters but keeping the focus, and turnover, of episodes relentlessly tight.

An example would be the arrival of Princess Alice, the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, who is invited to live at Buckingham Palace when political turmoil strikes Greece. Episode 4 ‘Bubbikins’ explores something of her fascinating history and troubled relationship with her son, Jane Lapotaire delivering a beautifully nuanced performance but by the next episode, she’s been offed offscreen, her fate revealed in a passing comment. With so much history to potentially fit into the show, decisions clearly have to be made but I’m not sure the balance is always there, given that so many good people are given so little to do.

More crucially though, I don’t think Olivia Colman is ultimately a good fit in the central role. She doesn’t seem to quite subsume herself into the role as Foy was able to, every jolly smile breaks you out of the suspension of disbelief as it betrays the lack of interiority to her portrayal. Tobias Menzies is more successful as the increasingly grizzled and grumpy Philip and Helena Bonham Carter steals the show with her too-brief appearances as Margot (who wouldn’t have an affair with Harry Treadaway’s Roddy Llewellyn because Nancy Carroll told you to!). Erin Doherty similarly shines as the young Princess Anne who similarly gets little substantive airtime but as someone who does get his own episode, Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles is effectively, sensitively drawn as a man struggling to resolve his status and his self. 

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