I have to admit: I thought this episode was kind of boring, with the exception of the last five minutes wherein Elizabeth figuratively blows off a meeting with her future personal secretary to literally blow Philip I’M SORRY FOR TYPING THAT BUT IT’S WHAT HAPPENED. If you’re keeping track, this show’s version of Her Majesty finds it charming when her husband coyly suggests she get on her knees AGAIN JUST REPORTING WHAT HAPPENED and while certainly that may be true — who am to judge whether or not a powerful woman likes to be bossed around in the bedroom? It’s a dynamic that makes plenty of sense, and, also, whatever people (or fictional characters) get up to in the privacy of their marital bed is none of my business — it also would have sat better with me if I hadn’t already decided that this show doesn’t really care about the inner life of women — or, honestly, anyone — AT ALL. The Crown is quite bad at setting up emotional through-lines and then following them. Is Philip catting about? How did he and Liz make up after Kneelgate? (Is this exchange between them a related a sexual in-joke, which I would find entertaining?) What’s going on with Elizabeth and Margaret? Where is Margaret? What is happening with ANYONE’S personal relationships? Will The Crown be able to fix this pretty severe issue with its storytelling before they get to Charles and Diana?! (My guess is: Absolutely not, and they also won’t care because this show isn’t particularly about emotions, which is — to me — a shame.) I also suspect that I am largely alone in not thinking this episode was particularly strong — Heather disagrees with me, I know, and you might, too. We shall discuss!
1) Lord forgive me, but while I see the importance of Elizabeth gaining some gumption — and deciding to also get some book-learning — the Winston Churchill’s Stroke v. Anthony Eden’s Gallbladder War just felt like treading water to me. Eden becomes Prime Minister when Churchill retires, and I understand that the show had to get us there in some fashion, and while I found Eden basically goading Churchill into a stroke interesting, this all just felt like…Necessary Plot Mechanics To Get Us from A to C. Someone on Twitter — I cannot remember who, but if you know, please tell me — pointed out a couple of weeks ago that a problem with this series is that the entire show is low stakes. We know she’s still Queen, after all. To my way of thinking, the way you solve that problem is to create stakes through the personal relationships between characters — make some of them extremely hateful and deserving of comeuppance; decide two of them are in love and make it questionable whether or not they will get together; give Liz a Lady in Waiting who is a mash-up of a variety of real people and make her interesting — and that just isn’t happening here.
2) Related: I DID enjoy Elizabeth deciding, “I better start doing some homework,” and growing a bit of a spine. I also think that this episode gave Claire Foy considerably more to do than previous ones did, which I very much appreciated. (And I found her tutor to be a delight.)
3) Re: The Question of Who Will Be Elizabeth’s New Personal Secretary: Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Bertie From Downton and am always happy to see him, but that whole plotline just felt like it was inching toward being filler. I get what it was in service of, in terms of Liz’s character development, but a minor staffing kerfuffle doesn’t feel like the most dynamic way to tell that story — and I say that as a person who LOVES logistics, and thrilled to the montage of people setting the table. That is not sarcasm. I was watched this in my bed the day after Thanksgiving — working Churchill style! — and roused myself from my pile of pillows to applaud the table-setting.
4) On that tip: DON’T LEAVE ME, TOMMY LASCELLES. Your unimpressed mustache is my true north. Your irritation at someone trimming your tree unbidden — not a euphemism — is music to my soul.
5) Seriously, though, is Margaret just crying into a bush somewhere? I understand that The Crown is more about the monarchy as an entity and less about this family (which is not how I would have done it, but I didn’t get a vote for some weird reason), but I think it’s a little…jarring for people who watch serial television to come off one episode that kicks off an emotionally disastrous bump in the road for sisters and kick into an episode wherein said sister isn’t even mentioned.
6) Related to THAT, though: I did think the fight because Elizabeth and the Queen Mum was pretty compelling, and not just because the Queen Mum’s dressing gown is really over the top.
Let’s get into it.