The Crown S2 E10 Recap
It Took Until the Finale to Get a Real, Emotional Conversation Between Philip and Elizabeth
This article originally ran on Previously.tv as one of its Epic Old School Recaps.
The finale is here at last! And with it, I must wonder: what actually even really happened this season? Yes, we learned that Philip is a sad man-baby whiner who is prone to emotional blackmail, who had a terrible thing happen to him as a child, and who took that terrible thing and was…terrible with it. Margaret married someone who will be mean to her, but at least he was hot, and also she got to smoke glamorously and look generally pissed at all times. Sure, her life was a series of emotional disappointments, but at least she got to bang Matthew Goode, and she had amazing taste. And Elizabeth sat around and looked pained for the vast majority of the time as people consistently disappointed her. At least we finally, FINALLY got the fight between Elizabeth and Philip that has been brewing all season; we really worked for that, and I wish it had arrived earlier. Claire Foy is absolutely amazing in this part — she does so much with just the tiniest facial expressions — and I wish she’d gotten more varied, concrete things to do with this character. As an acting exercise, The Crown is fascinating — here! See what you can do with a character who only changes in the most minute ways to keep her engaging! — but for this viewer, it’s a bit frustrating. I am sad that this is the end of Foy’s run, but I will be interested to see how Olivia Colman handles a similar challenge, or if her Elizabeth will be a more active player in her own life.
Our finale opens in April 1962, 7:30 AM. Philip’s valet comes in and opens his curtains. I have decided, based on nothing in the show and solely for purposes of my own amusement, that this valet — like Downton Abbey’s Mr. Bates — is a serial murderer, but no one has noticed yet. Philip groans and rolls out of bed, swearing when he stretches and his neck cracks painfully. He goes outside for his morning sit-ups and jumping jacks and there is nothing more illustrative of my fundamental issues with this show than the fact that the season finale is going to open with my having to watch Philip exercise. All you need to know is that his neck is killing him and it’s making it very hard for him to get through his old-man workout, and no one will crack his neck for him because they don’t want to accidentally murder him, so he cracks it himself…
Cut to Philip, riding shotgun in his beautiful car, wearing a full-on neckbrace, and, Reader, I was delighted. Yes. I reveled in this character’s neck pain. It seems only fair, given what a pain in my neck he has been for going on two seasons.
A doctor examines Philip and suggests that he is ACTUALLY experiencing “tension, emotional strain, unresolved conflict of one form or another.” Join the club, amirite? The doctor then very satisfyingly cracks Philip’s neck properly, and notes that he “enjoys putting people together.” It is a mark of this show’s emotional opacity that I cannot tell if this doctor is a psychologist or a sleazebag until Philip name-drops Mike Parker as the person who used to keep him from getting too stressed out, and Stephen Ward — for that is the doctor’s name, and he’s not a doctor, he’s a “society osteopath,” which doesn’t sound like a real thing — notes that he’s putting together a party this weekend. He directs Philip’s attention to his fireplace mantel, on which resides many, many photos of many beautiful women, all of whom will be apparently be at this party. I just want to state for the record that this does not seem AT ALL professional. “You know, my neck’s feeling better already,” Philip smarms, and that’s funny because THE PAIN IN MINE JUST GOT SO MUCH WORSE. (In actual Philip’s defense, as far as I can tell, his association with Ward — who is, spoiler! bad news! — dated from his stint in the Royal Navy, and Philip had no contact with him after he married Elizabeth; should I be privately a little pleased that for once history is being shifted to make Philip look worse? Because I am.)
After the credits, it is one year later. A hunting expedition is underway, hosted by Prime Minister Macmillan. At the same time, a beautiful young woman named Christine Keeler is being questioned by the authorities about whether she knows a particular Soviet Naval attaché, or if she’s “had relations” with John Profumo, the minister of war. She dismisses both questions with a sultry “no comment,” but anyone who’s read the Wikipedia page about the Profumo Affair knows the actual answer to both of those questions is “yes,” and that shit is about to hit the fan for poor beleaguered Macmillan, who is going to be so stressed out about the scandal that has just been put on to boil that he’s going to announce he’s dying and quit in a huff. (The Crown has taught me many things, and one of them is that a lot of post-Churchill prime ministers decided they were probably conveniently dying at one point or another and left their posts; for what it’s worth, Macmillan was totally not dying and lived another twenty years.)
I am interested to see how this show boils down The Profumo Affair into one hour; I suspect we’re in for Info Dump Madness. Let’s find out! Entertainingly, Peter Morgan uses Macmillan’s Bitter Wife Who Hates Him to be the recipient of the first Info Dump. She wonders why John Profumo is there at their hunting weekend; Macmillan tells her he’s there so they could have a frank conversation, “man to man,” about the rumors swirling around him. (And indeed, in a display of manly manliness, said convo is conducted over billiards.) The gist? Profumo claims he hasn’t done anything scandalous, Macmillan has decided to believe him, and Mrs. Macmillan believes her husband to be an idiot. “And the photograph?” she asks. “At a party? Hosted by one Stephen Ward? Society osteopath?” She flips over the paper on the table, as if to be like, “You know, THE ONE ON THE COVER OF THE NEWSPAPER?” As for the paper, it’s currently wondering, WHO IS THE MYSTERY MAN? at said party — at which John Profumo War Secretary (maybe), Christine Keeler Call Girl, and Some Soviet Agent were all also present.
More exposition from Mrs. Macmillan, and how refreshing to get our expository parade from a woman for once: “A call girl and a Russian spy in the foreground. In the background?” Macmillan offers that it’s a SHADOW in the background. “A shadow with Profumo’s likeness,” Mrs. Macmillan says. This show’s desire for us to be interested in various politicians can be slightly dull at times, but I do appreciate that Peter Morgan et al laid the groundwork for Macmillan being this willfully obtuse about obvious facts earlier in the season, when he basically turned away from the knowledge that his wife never did really break off her long-running affair, as promised. “Credulous, trusting fool,” she calls Macmillan and then climbs into her single bed across from his. She’s not wrong, but his eyes are already closed.
The next morning, the Prime Minister gives a press conference. In short, he tells the assembled that he believes John Profumo deserves “the support and the sympathetic understanding of the House, and indeed of the entire country.” I’m sure that will go over great!!! Frankly, it seems possible that Mrs. Macmillan would have been the better leader.
At last, 20 percent of the way into the finale of The Crown, we finally see the woman who wears it. Over at Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth’s Aunt Marina is complaining to her about all the work Margaret is doing on her new apartment in Kensington Palace. Trivia point the first: this apartment is where the Cambridges currently live, and it’s ginormous. Trivia point the second: Aunt Marina is married to Elizabeth’s uncle, but she’s also Philip’s first cousin; she was the president of the All England Tennis Club; and she is only going to have to deal with the agony of Margaret as neighbor for five years before Marina dies of a brain tumor. “[The constant construction] is driving the Gloucesters quite mad,” Aunt Marina says. Trivia point three: the Gloucesters are also Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle, and the Duke of Gloucester famously had a stroke while he was driving home from Churchill’s funeral and drove them all into a bush. The Duchess lived to be 102, so this lends credence to my theory that rage keeps people alive, because Elizabeth notes that EVERYTHING drives the Gloucesters mad. Marina has to leave when Sir John Ware is announced, and as Elizabeth sees Marina out, she assures her that, as “head of the family,” she is absolutely the right person to speak to about someone’s irritating 24/7 construction noises, and, indeed, it does not seem particularly surprising that Margaret and Tony would be inconsiderate about whether their remodeling was annoying anyone.
Sir John Ware is not there to complain about Margaret, but to confirm with Elizabeth that she is pregnant again. (I don’t know why they changed the name of Elizabeth’s OB/GYN, but he was actually named Sir John Peal. I will fact-check your gynos, Peter Morgan!) Elizabeth is absolutely delighted, and I never have a seen a television program where FOUR children have been conceived without a single scene in which their parents even once passionately kissed. The doctor tells her that her iron levels are very low, though, so she should be wary, and they might as well give him a gun to wave around, since that’s certainly a plot detail that is going to pop up later. Clearly thrilled, Elizabeth scampers into her private apartments to give Philip the good news. “I hope you’re sitting down,” she says, as she opens the doors, but whether he is or isn’t is a mystery: he is not at home. He’s off at a house party for the weekend, per his valet, The Secret Murderer. “The weekend? It’s Wednesday!” says Elizabeth, making this the second time in three episodes this exact conversational construct has been deployed. The Secret Murderer, who is extremely hot — that’s how he gets away with the murder I’ve invented — says it was all “very last-minute.” Elizabeth exhales the breath of a woman who wishes her spouse would at least learn to leave her a note.
Meanwhile — later? Earlier? In another dimension? Whatever — Stephen Ward, Society Osteopath, is arrested. As his car is being driven into the police station, he catches the eye of Christine Keeler as she is leaving, in a scrum of paparazzi and reporters. He gives her a pathetic little wave, and she looks at him sympathetically and gives the tiniest of nods. He looks shaken.
Across town at a newspaper, a reporter runs in to speak to his editor, interrupting a meeting with someone we cannot see. He’s just spoken to a source, and Stephen Ward, Society Osteopath, has, he said, confirmed everything: “Introducing Profumo to the call girls, the Russian spy, everything.” They feel confident that Macmillan will therefore be resigning soon, and ergo it’s time for everyone at this paper to get to work — thus scuttling the Editor-in-Chief’s meeting with…one Tony Armstrong-Jones, who I’d think would be at home looking at bathroom tile. Instead, he has gotten permission to go on assignment in Paris, following one in York, and one prior to that in Tokyo. The editor kindly wonders if it wouldn’t be nicer to spend more time at home. “It would be if it were a home. But it’s a building site,” Tony brats, seemingly having forgotten that, mere episodes ago, he was living in an abandoned Restoration Hardware. But Tony, it seems, is also irritated by Margaret’s redecorating. “I heard a happy rumor that she might be expecting another baby,” the editor smiles, and Tony confirms this news. My God, does this show love to gloss over major events in the lives of its female characters by having dudes talk about them in passing. “In any marriage, it’s important to find things that really bind you together, as a couple,” Tony says. The binding agent in his and Margaret’s marriage is smoking. Just kidding, it’s drinking. Just kidding, it’s fighting. No, seriously, it’s actually “absence,” per Tony. Just insert my usual complaint here about how this marital interpersonal drama might have made for some compelling televisual moments; I can only make that complaint so many times before I start to bore even myself.
Elizabeth pops over to Kensington Palace to see her sister, and the courtyard IS a mass of workmen sawing and grinding and chopping and whatnot, and it would drive me to complain to the Queen, too. She trots into Margaret’s apartment, where Marg dismisses all of her workers so she and her sister can — presumably — scream at each other, given how annoyed they both look right now. “A dining room in the middle of the kitchen?!” Elizabeth is very disapproving of this modern idea, but I think we all know that Margaret has excellent taste. Just look at her headscarf!
“It’s egalitarian,” Margaret says, gesturing toward her (gorgeous mid-century) table. “You’re the least egalitarian person I know,” Elizabeth says. Margaret tells her sister to go ahead and congratulate her. “Congratulate you?” Elizabeth wonders, and Margaret taps her torso like her uterus is a bongo drum. “Are you?” Elizabeth says. “Aw, that’s lovely.” They hug. “I’m due a few weeks after you,” Margaret tells her. But Elizabeth isn’t there to talk about babies. She’s there to admire Margaret’s amazing floor lamp.
And also to ask Margaret to keep the construction down to a dull roar. In fairness, Elizabeth does do this a little snootily, and it’s no surprise that Margaret gets her back up. There’s no excuse, however, for Margaret’s snobbishly telling Elizabeth that Marina would do well to “remember her place” as a “low-ranking member of [Philip’s] refugee family,” who is “lucky to be there at all.” That sentence reads like an excerpt from an incredibly nasty version of Zagat, and I think Margaret forgets that Marina is actually married to Margaret’s uncle, and therefore totally deserves to be there. “I rest my case about egalitarian,” Elizabeth says, and continues to note that EVERYONE who lives at KP wants to smack Margaret with her own screwdriver. Margaret, unbelievably, falls back on the “they’re just jealous” excuse, believing that her neighbors are simply annoyed that she has the biggest apartment, rather than because someone is jackhammering outside their drawing room at 6 AM every Sunday.
“How is the baby so far?” Elizabeth asks, changing the subject as Margaret takes a swig of scotch. “Surprisingly uncomplicated,” Margaret says, and then asks after her sister’s respective fetus. “Complicated,” Elizabeth says. “They want me to take it easier this time.” Margaret agrees and says that Elizabeth should have Philip take “some of the strain,” a suggestion which reads rather unkindly, because we all know he is not going to do that. Margaret then gets a weird look in her eye and wonders after Philip’s well-being: “Would you like to know a rumor Tony and I heard?” Elizabeth would not, but Margaret tells her anyway: they’ve heard that this mystery man on the cover of the paper is not John Profumo, but rather Philip himself. “Profumo admitted the affair, but denied the photograph. There’s something rather Philip-y in the shoulders,” Margaret says, and she is not wrong. And you can tell from Elizabeth’s face that she thinks so too.
When she emerges from Margaret’s apartments, Michael Adeane is waiting: Macmillan wants to see her. It’s a matter of some urgency. Also urgent: that her Majesty is wearing a hat that looks like a cinnamon bun.
When Elizabeth gets back home, the PM is there, yapping about “the greatest betrayal,” and of course he means Profumo’s having lied to him, not anything Philip has stupidly gone and done. “This dentist, Mr. Ward, clearly has a lot to answer for,” Elizabeth says, and Macmillan corrects her as to his profession. (I have to admit, I do chuckle every time someone uses the phrase “society osteopath.”) The PM shrugs that, be that as it may, he’s still resigning over the whole thing. Elizabeth is dumbfounded, and Macmillan explains that the integrity of the entire government has been compromised, and as Prime Minister, he must accept responsibility for that. Elizabeth won’t turn her key, though, and instead tells him to go back and unite his cabinet. In short, she needs him to PULL IT TOGETHER: “The people of this country need stability. As do I. More than ever.” She tells him that she’s pregnant again, but the situation is “not without its complications,” and that she will be taking “a leave of absence for several months.” Okay: I cannot tell if this pregnancy IS complicated, or if Elizabeth is taking her doctor’s offhand “let’s keep an eye on your anemia” comment and running with it for some reason. Like…I don’t know that I believe a queen can actually take “a leave of absence,” and I doubt the real Queen would have put it that way (she didn’t open Parliament when she was knocked up with Edward or Andrew, but she did not hare off to Balmoral either — that I can tell). Regardless: THIS queen is taking off to Scotland and resting for six months, and she needs Macmillan to “hold the fort for the time being.” And now it is Macmillan’s turn to appear gobsmacked, although he grudgingly agrees. “The Queen Mother can deputize for ceremonial matters until the child is born,” Elizabeth says. Or…Philip? Or Prince Charles, who was fifteen at this point. Or Margaret? Make Margaret do some work other than placing her various gorgeous vases on equally gorgeous credenzas. All that aside, I low-key admire Elizabeth for using her pregnancy as a way to guilt-trip Macmillan into doing what she wants him to do, and hope to see more Manipulative Queen Behavior next season.
Later, Mrs. Macmillan is telling her husband the details of some extremely hilarious cheeky theatre program she saw the evening previously, which mocked the Queen and Macmillan himself, among other things — and speaking of admiration, I have to admire her for what a stone-cold bitch she is. Reenacting a mean comedy sketch about your husband to his face and laughing about it so heartily that you literally cry is truly next-level. It also comes out in this scene that, naturally, Mrs. Macmillan’s date for this event was Boothby, the man with whom she’s had that long-running affair that she swore she was giving up, and it also takes stones to go out on dates with another man, in public, when you are married to the Prime Minister. I would perhaps like a television program about Mrs. Macmillan? She’s fascinatingly mean, and intriguingly saucy.
Elizabeth finally runs into her spouse and the father of her child, as he is packing for yet another weekend away. God, not having cell phones made lives SO much easier for dirtbag husbands of yore. These days, I assume Elizabeth would just be texting Philip the whole time: WHERE R U? COME HOME OR IT’S THE TOWER. FOR REAL THIS TIME. I MEAN IT. DON’T TEST ME. “You’re coming too?” she asks, and Philip (seemingly very distracted) tells her he’s going. To St. Moritz. “How mysterious,” she says. “You?” he asks. “Balmoral,” she says. So…they’re leading totally separate lives, this scene implies, which is a development I assume came to pass after Philip threatened to divorce Elizabeth if she didn’t allow Charles to go to his terrible, terrible boarding school in the last episode. But, AGAIN, doesn’t it seem like there are undertones of there having been a juicy fight between the two of them that we should have seen before this moment? Related: if this is the state of their marriage, how on earth did she get pregnant? Related, Part 2: is it possible that Peter Morgan is not good at writing about emotional relationships? Regardless, Elizabeth clearly hates Philip’s guts in this moment, and it’s so very satisfying to me, since I’ve hated his guts for ages now. Elizabeth coldly notes that it’s suitable and fitting that they’re off to different countries, but doesn’t want to talk about why she finds that so apt, because that’s the way this show rolls. “You just enjoy the mountains, dear,” says Elizabeth, sweeping out of the room. Philip tosses his silver-plated flask into his suitcase, annoyed. Philip’s Secret Murderer Valet just watches and listens. “Damn,” he seems to be thinking. “Your wife is having a complicated pregnancy and you’re heading off on a ski vacation bang-fest? I disapprove, and I am a murderer.”
So Elizabeth goes to Balmoral alone, in a mustard-colored suit that does her no favors, looking sad the entire way.
Macmillan goes to see Beyond The Fringe, which does him no favors but he seems to enjoy it nevertheless — until they notice him there, and make fun of him very directly to his face. (I could not tell if that bit was a dream sequence or not, as it veered a bit fantastical at the end, but regardless, I feel bad for poor Prime Minister Macmillan. He’s so hapless and unloved!)
Stephen Ward, Society Osteopath, nearly causes a riot when he’s brought in for his trial, and gets an extremely harsh lecture from the prosecutors — which really does him no favors, given that he commits suicide before the jury even returns a verdict.
Elizabeth gets even further bad news in Scotland, where she is merely trying to nap and pretend everything is okay. We know that time has passed, because she is more visibly pregnant, and just as I am worried that no one is looking after Macmillan, I am also irked that the only person who seems to be keeping an eye on Elizabeth is Michael Adeane — who is, at least, a fairly nice person, and definitely someone who does not relish having to tell Elizabeth that Stephen Ward has killed himself and that they’ve found many hand-drawn portraits of Prince Philip in Ward’s possession, and that several witnesses have testified to having seen Philip at Ward’s home. And that it turns out they were both “members…of that same lunch club.”
Elizabeth, internally: “THE MOTHERFUCKING THURSDAY CLUB I COULD BURN IT TO THE GROUND.”
So, that’s…not good. Michael says that they’ll “manage the situation,” but he thought she should know, and he nearly runs out of the room after breaking this news, leaving Elizabeth sitting silent and very, very alone.
It begins to snow. We get a minutes-long scene that is just Claire Foy staring at the loch, as snow drifts past her face, and Michael Adeane makes phone calls and watches over her with concern. I told you he was keeping an eye on her! I assume he’s on the phone with Tommy Lascelles, live-blogging the situation in Scotland and getting advice from the master. “So, you’re saying, I SHOULD re-grow my mustache? Okay. Okay, excellent.”
Eventually, Elizabeth gets on a plane, where Michael Adeane hands her Macmillan’s resignation, which came in her red box earlier that day. “The impression I get is that he’s lost the appetite, somewhat,” says Michael. “What for?” asks Elizabeth. “To go on,” Michael says. Elizabeth is less than impressed — especially because the entire reason she’s put on this fantastic hat and gone back to London is to visit Macmillan in the hospital, where he is rolled into a (stunning) conference room, still attached to his IV but wearing a cozy cardigan and exclaiming himself feeling so much better now that he’s not Prime Minister anymore. And Elizabeth cannot talk him into un-resigning. He had a tumor the size of an orange! Hilariously, Elizabeth agrees that perhaps having a giant tumor would be “inconvenient” but, seeing as it was benign, perhaps his I’m Gonna Die resignation letter is now a moot point? “I’m afraid my decision to resign is final,” Macmillan tells her, and then notes that he thinks The Earl of Home would make a good successor. “Is that an order, Mr. Macmillan?” Elizabeth wonders, very annoyed. “It would be my advice, ma’am,” he says, and it certainly seems that not being Prime Minister anymore has made Macmillan much more sure of himself. “Do you know, I’ve been Queen barely ten years. And in that time, I’ve had three Prime Ministers, all of them ambitious men. Clever men. Brilliant men. Not one has lasted the course. They’ve either been too old, too ill, or too weak. A confederacy of elected quitters,” Elizabeth spits at him. That was quite the icy burn, and with it, she storms out. How thrilling, twenty episodes in, to finally see her find her spine and use it to beat someone about the head. Long may this Elizabeth reign.
Speaking of beating someone about the head, Philip has to drive through a mass of protestors at the Buckingham Palace gates, all of them grossed out by his association with Stephen Ward and, by extension, the Profumo Affair. This seems like a very good reason to drive in the back entrance, my dude.
Inside, Margaret is cradling her pregnant belly, as Tony lies on the floor and smokes. I adore Matthew Goode, and he is great in this part: you get why Margaret was drawn to him, and you also see very clearly what an unbearable nightmare of a man he is, so self-impressed with his own rebellion, which is exactly like every kind of rebellion ever. Tony doesn’t even sit up when Philip enters the room. “What are you doing here?” Philip asks, and Margaret retorts that she could ask him the same question, in reverse: “What were you not doing here? In case you haven’t noticed, your wife has just appointed a close family chum as Prime Minister on the advice of a man who had no right to give that advice, as he was no longer in office. It’s blown up in her face. WE came to see if she was all right. But she’s already left. Bolted back to the safety of Scotland.” Let’s just sidebar to give Margaret a round of applause for getting to deliver the info-dump, and to a man for once. She turns on her heels and stalks away from Philip. “Tony,” she says curtly, and he sighs irritably and gets up. It’s worth noting that, all of a sudden, he no longer needs the help of a crutch to get up from a prone position despite the fact that polio victims generally deteriorate slightly over time rather than the opposite. Tony doesn’t follow his wife, though, in favor of asking what Philip was off getting up to. He adds that St. Moritz seemed a bit careless: “Just use me next time. I’ll always cover for you, you know. Boys’ honour and all that.” Yes, yes. The Dirtbag Code. We all know. From the hall, Margaret barks at him to hurry up. “Yes, I’m coming,” he calls back, shirtily. “Fuck,” he says to Philip, and leaves with an eyeroll. (Tony Armstrong-Jones is essentially a walking eyeroll).
In Philip’s defense, he does not seem impressed by or interested in Tony here, at all. Instead, he looks a bit wary, and the next thing you know, he’s on the train up to Balmoral. Are we finally, with fewer than twenty minutes left in the season, going to get the emotional confrontation between Philip and Elizabeth that I’ve been whining about missing for so many recaps? (Yes, but it’s still going to take five more minutes because both Philip and Elizabeth need to stare at things for a while.) Philip finds Elizabeth in the rose garden, and opens with a very genial “Here you are!” “The idea was to be alone,” Elizabeth snaps. “And hello to you, too,” Philip says. Oh, Philip. You’ve earned this from her. He tells Elizabeth, if she wants him….LONG PAUSE; she brilliantly lets him hang….he’ll be in the main house. Elizabeth responds with silence and he only gets as far as the walkway before stopping, looking back sadly, and then heading on his way. Philip. Again: YOU’VE EARNED THIS. Also, a great way to open this conversation might have been, “Can I talk to you? I believe I owe you an apology.” BUT NO ONE ASKED ME.
Instead, Philip and Elizabeth apparently avoid one another; they sleep in separate beds, they each mope solo on the couch, they stand dramatically in front of windows and in motes of light. They trudge alone through the wilderness. I believe, in fact, that Elizabeth isn’t even staying in the main house, but rather in the lodge — which is where William and Kate often stay at Balmoral and which is obviously also ginormous and great. Finally, Philip goes up there to talk to Elizabeth. “This is most unlike you,” he says when he finds her. “On the contrary,” she says. “This is the most like me I’ve been in years.” She walks over to the desk and starts angrily sorting family photos, and Philip enumerates all the stressors she’s experienced: the Prime Minister, her mother, the children: “The church and the Commonwealth and the country. The whole ghastly relentlessness of it.” You seem to have forgotten someone, Philip: YOU. YOURSELF. YOU. He tells Elizabeth that he understands this, but “there are some of us who are there for you, no matter what, come what may,” and it’s amazing that she does not burst out laughing in his face. You, sir, were just in Switzerland and didn’t even tell her you were going! You threatened to divorce her, or humiliate her with indiscreet affairs, if she didn’t let your oldest attend a school at which he is miserable! You might think you’re there for her, but you’re doing a terrible job of actually being there.
“If only,” is Elizabeth’s cutting response and I have to say that I love Bitchy Elizabeth and can only hope that Olivia Colman goes Full Bitch Ahead next season. Philip is sort of like, “Why, whatever do you mean,” and I swear I feel like I’m front row at a boxing match and just waiting for the bell to ring. GET HIM, GIRL. “If only,” Elizabeth repeats, coldly, and keeps sorting photos. Philip tells her not to “punish [him] with silence,” and to have out with it. “Be a grownup,” he tells her. Oh, he did not. GET. HIM. GIRL.
“Stephen Ward,” Elizabeth says, folding her hands over her belly. “The osteopath.” What about him, Philip asks, calling him a dreadful man. Elizabeth explains that, after he died, the authorities found a portrait he’d painted of Philip, and it wasn’t the only one. There were more, “and they had to be tracked down and reacquired, at great expense. Can you imagine what would have happened had the newspapers got ahold of them?” I can’t believe I am saying this, but it’s not Philip’s fault if this dude painted his picture, which he could have done using a photo; Philip is a public figure. He’s done a lot of really awful things, but I am not sure if this is one of them. But, of course, I also think this particular detail is just being used as a stand-in for the many many many many issues I assume Elizabeth has with her husband’s behavior.
Philip explains that Ward just treated his neck, and finally she points out that he was also a known procurer of women. “Not for me,” Philip says. “He talked the most ludicrous nonsense about tension and emotions so I went to an old Navy fellow instead who slapped me about and sorted me out straight away.” Elizabeth wants to know if Ward invited him for the weekend, and Philip says he may have, but that Philip didn’t go. And is he the mystery man in the photo? “Don’t be ridiculous” is Philip’s response. “I am NOT being ridiculous,” Elizabeth says. “You are a mystery man to me. Half the time I don’t know where you are. Or what you’re doing.” “All you need to do is ask,” Philip says, as if it’s HER fault for not saying “Darling, are you running off to St. Moritz for the weekend or not?” every Friday. “I’m strong, you know that,” Elizabeth tells Philip, “and I can cope with the truth.” And while that may be, and probably is, true, it’s noteworthy that she says this with her back turned to him, as if she can cope with the truth, but she might not be able to look at him while she does it. “I just demand to know the truth. It’s when people don’t tell me the truth that I can’t bear it.”
Elizabeth finally turns around and asks what the hell Philip was up to in Switzerland (albeit more genteelly than I just did). Philip claims he was there for the DOLPHINS! Won’t someone think of the dolphins? Elizabeth and I both scoff, and he lawyers that, actually, St. Moritz is the headquarters of the World Wildlife Fund, of which he is patron! “But I can see this is a question of appearance versus reality,” he mealy-mouths. “No,” Elizabeth very nearly yells, “because some things can only be perceived one way, because they only have one meaning,” and then she goes and gets the receipts.
(a) I appreciate that this show trusts us to have paid attention for all ten episodes and has brought this back, sincerely. A payoff is always appreciated by a careful viewer, but (b) I’m not totally sure if I buy the idea that Elizabeth has been stewing about this specific ballerina in silence for SO VERY LONG. I’ll take it — I’ve been longing for this fight! — but I’m not sure it makes sense that this would fester through anniversary parties and two other children without bursting before now.
But better late than never! Philip stares at the photo in silence for a long time, and Elizabeth first looks triumphant, and then her eyes well with tears. Claire Foy is exceptionally good in this scene, and, frankly, Matt Smith does excellent work with a character whose emotional journey this season has been muddy at best. Philip closes the drawer in silence, and they say nothing for longer than you might think. “There are two types of people in life,” Philip finally says. “There are some you imagine to be trustworthy and reliable, who turn out to be treacherous and weak, like Mr. Macmillan.” (And there is our Clunky A-Plot/B-Plot connector line.) “And those who appear to be complex and difficult, who turn out to be more dependable than anyone thought. Like me.” And of course Philip thinks of himself as “complex.” Darling, difficult you are, but complex is a compliment you do not deserve. “I know exactly what my job is,” he continues. “Your father made it perfectly clear. You are my job. You are the essence of my duty. So here I am. Liege man of life and limb. In, not out. “
Philip and Elizabeth stare at each other. Maybe I need to get my hearing checked, but I’m fairly sure I didn’t hear “I’m really sorry that I slept with that sexy Russian ballerina” anywhere in there? Or “I know sometimes I’m a pain in the neck but deep down my whole loyalty is to you, and I’m sorry I never told you that.” Elizabeth just tells Philip that they’re both adults, and realists: “We both know that marriage is a challenge under any circumstances. So I can understand if sometimes, in order to let off steam…in order to STAY in…you need to do what you need to do. I can look the other way.” Philip’s response to this is to agree that she’s made looking the other way “into an art form,” but that he doesn’t want her to. “You can look this way,” he says. He goes over to her and gets down on one knee and takes her hand and says, “I’m yours. In. And not because you’ve given me a title and not because we’ve come to an agreement. But because I want to be. Because I love you.” Elizabeth and I both look somewhat surprised by this turn of events. It’s actually quite romantic, but it’s also a bit out of left field; we haven’t seen a single moment where Philip seems to be transitioning from chafing at the requirements of his role to realizing the depth of his love for his wife. If that was his journey this season, it’s actually a very potentially swoony one, but we skipped….all the steps in the middle, and so while this scene is very effective in a vacuum, I’m not sure if it feels emotionally earned. I don’t get the impression that Philip is lying here — Matt Smith plays it very sincerely — but, like, since when? You can’t have your jerkface male protagonist just announce that he loves your heroine after several hours of him being selfish and jerking her around. Honestly, I think that Peter Morgan might just be really bad at writing romance. Philip is almost crying as he looks up at Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s entire facial reaction is like, “Huh,” but she does rest her head on his for a long, long time.
Note: she does not say “I love you” in return, and I will find Season 3 very interesting if we’re in a place where Philip has decided he loves Elizabeth, but he’s lost her. That’s a classic romantic trope and it’s a very good one, but I don’t know if I think Peter Morgan can pull it off unless he spends his entire hiatus reading a lot of them. But Elizabeth does go back to Buckingham Palace and have Prince Edward — this time, she is conscious for the birth, and Philip is in the room, which is nice of him (and also historically accurate). He seems awed by the birth of his child, and we montage through the baptism to the entire group sitting for the family portrait — snapped, of course, by Cecil Beaton, whose melodious voice announces that “this is wonderful” although it seriously is not. The family is in complete disarray, bickering and screaming and arguing while Elizabeth has the thousand-yard stare of New Mom Barely Being Able To Get Through This.
“FOR CHRIST’S SAKE,” Philip eventually yells, and turns on them all. “TAKE THE PHOTO,” he yells at Beaton, who returns to what he was doing — namely, quoting Richard III as he works: “This happy breed of men / this little world / This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” he says, as we go to the credits. Which is a beautiful piece of writing by Mr. Shakespeare, and god knows it’s a wonderful kicker for this season, but The Crown left out three lines in the middle of it, and as much as I enjoy this show, I’m not quite sure this program is quite good enough to rewrite the Bard.
For more on this episode — and Fug Nation’s reaction! — check out the fashion and interiors recap that ran here on GFY.