Ever since it debuted in 2016, Netflix’s The Crown has set itself as the gold standard of streaming service original content, pushing out award-worthy performances, riveting storylines, and impeccable writing with each season. Now back for a fourth turn, the twisted true tales of the Royal Family delves tiara-head first into the ’80s, where audiences are introduced to an Iron Lady and a People’s Princess, as well as a focus on the diminishing faith in government and the toxicity of a family who was born to serve.
Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II once again leads an impressive cast, this time including Gillian Anderson as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A polarizing figure in British (if not world) history, Anderson puts her weight into the performance allowing small moments of vulnerability to seep into Maggie the Great. As she is bullied and patronized by her cabinet, it is difficult not to feel for the character, despite what one might think about her policies. In all honesty, it is a bit of a hat trick to get American audiences to feel for a politician who had a chip on her shoulder regarding the blue-collar sect.
Season four also acquaints audiences with Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales (Emma Corrin), who is first introduced as a gangly teen dressed like a dancing tree. This is a new take on Princess Di that most American audiences are unfamiliar with, as our perception of the princess involves her white, billowy wedding gown or high fashion moments, not the roller skating Duran Duran fan who was slowly crushed by a loveless marriage.
Watching Princess Di slowly suffocate under the pressure of public and private scrutiny is akin to torture porn, like a British version of Martyrs, but instead of flaying, the royal family skins her spirit. Most of the season is spent watching Di struggle to hold on to her individuality as it is ripped from her being day by day.
Thatcher and the Princess of Whales played a major part in changing attitudes towards Crown and Country in the ’80s. The former seen by her critics as the embodiment of everything wrong with government, and the latter, immensely beloved by the public to the point that her shabby treatment was viewed as everything wrong with the royal family.
In addition to the notable names, the show also explores the virulent nature of the period and the consequences of these important figures’ choices on others. From being born imperfect into a family that demands perfection to one man’s attempt to set his life straight by meeting with Queen Elizabeth, the residual effect of bad policies — be it political or private — is recreated and revealed.
Between the personal problems inside Buckingham Palace and the growing dissonance within the government, The Crown creates a bingeable hotbed of intense drama that feels real because it was. More than eve before, season four truly shines, taking familiar figures from history books and painting them with broad strokes of humanity for the small screen.