The Crown S2 E3 Recap
The League Of Extraordinary Facial Hair
The mustaches of Buckingham Palace finally become a plot point, Terrible Mike gets his terrible due, Philip gets his title, and Elizabeth mostly gets the shit end of the sceptre
This article originally ran on Previously.tv as an Epic Old-School Recap.
We pick up roughly where we left off: Philip is in Antarctica — still on a boat, y’all — and Elizabeth is showing the kids where he is on a giant globe that makes me wish giant globes weren’t so freaking expensive. Her explanation for the trip is, “All these are British overseas territories and they have to be visited so they don’t feel neglected or forgotten, or get any silly ideas like becoming independent.” Well, Madam Imperialist, maybe you shouldn’t have sent Philip, then. One look at his bearded puss and half those countries are gonna be like, “We can do better.” Also, since you’re going to be eating them in short order, I hope those words tasted like a perfect Yorkshire pudding.
Elizabeth also arranges for photos of Philip to be placed by the kids’ bedside, so they recognize him when he comes home — “five months is a long time at that age” — and then excitedly accepts delivery of footage from the trip. “We might watch that instead of our next film,” she titters. There’s an air of her feeling on more solid ground here with Philip, and not for nothing (it’s relevant later), she doesn’t come off like an uninterested parent, or a disengaged one.
Meanwhile, the mustache of Michael Adeane is twitching in frustration, because Eileen Parker is filing for divorce, and he’s not sure what to do. So he calls the only person he can think of who might have the cunning to turn the tide: the ORIGINAL Mustache To Beat All Mustaches, that fearsome old crank Tommy Lascelles, whose bitchy-stern countenance actually makes me clap with glee. This is not from this episode, but it might as well be, and it’s my favorite of his disdainful expressions:
Just look how he dies inside, for a second, at the stupidity before him. Whatever stupidity it happens to be. It doesn’t even matter. It’s all killing him. Here, when the phone rings, he’s sitting around casually cleaning a rifle, and actually jumps a bit with surprise. I wish the smash to the credits had been him shooting a bust of Winston Churchill by mistake.
Next up: the mustache of Anthony Eden, which he is trimming. (This episode goes all in on the lip hair, to the point where it almost feels like it was an inside joke on the staff.) Eden is freshening up so that he can get off the plane from Jamaica and proclaim himself fully cured of his Mysterious Ailment For Which Sun Was The Prescription, but other than a clear shot up Jeremy Northam’s nose, he offers very little here and is most likely lying about his health. I feel like no one I know has ever gone to Jamaica and felt better afterward, but maybe that’s because those are all people who went there for Spring Break.
Elizabeth has set up the projector to watch Philip’s videos, and it’s actually a very cute scene. “‘Hello to all of you,'” she begins, reading his notes, and everyone calls out, “HELLO,” as if Phil can hear them. The show intercuts this with shots of Phil smiling as he writes what Elizabeth is reading, which begins, “I’m picturing you all perfectly, wishing it was Creature From The Black Lagoon.” ISN’T IT THOUGH, PHILIP?
Charles is cuddling a stuffed penguin as they watch Philip and Mike cavort with real ones — that child actor looks SO delighted, and I hope they let him keep that toy — and of course Margaret is more occupied with her cigarette, because God forbid she act interested in anything that’s important to Elizabeth right now. Claire Foy does an excellent job reading Philip’s annotations as the footage plays, yet stopping to react very naturally to the curious things it shows them. Everyone exclaims about the beards, with Margaret’s negative drawl being the loudest: “It makes him look a bit shifty.” Actually, Margaret, it’s his WHOLE face that does that. Liz defends her husband’s hirsute honor by insisting the beard makes him look like a proper explorer, and gazes at him with fascination. “‘We’ve even installed some signage so we can find our way home,'” she reads, as we see them putting a sign up that points one way to the South Pole and the other to Buckingham Palace (shown up top).
The Queen Mum is particularly enamored of this, but in that very English way where she simply says archly, “Oh, I like that.” There’s other footage of The Phil & Mike Show trying to play tennis on a court of ice and going dog-sledding, and some trivia about Huskies having different-colored eyes. “Like the Kaiser,” the Queen Mum says, helpfully. I still don’t think they’ve figured her character out yet. She comes off as a bit dippy in this episode. Philip looks extremely happy and loose, and Elizabeth devours the footage with love and wonderment, as if she’s forgotten that this Philip could possibly exist — or never quite knew him this way in the first place.
She looks curious and proud. And also hot for him.
Then, the thundercloud that is The Mustache of Tommy Lascelles drifts over the palace. Elizabeth is merrily popping off to Sandringham when she bumps into him; he claims it’s for a routine meeting with Michael Adeane, and there’s a weird little exchange where Elizabeth notices that he arrived in a royal car with a driver, which she didn’t realize they gave him as part of his Farewell and Thanks For Years of Service package. I assume that’s to remind viewers that Mustache 1.0 had been around a very long time and he’s not just some random image consultant. Inside, Tommy intones to Adeane, “You did well to bring this to me. I’ve served three generations of the royal family…and done a good many things to protect them. Mostly from themselves.” Apparently, Adeane rooted around in his slimmer ‘stache and couldn’t pull out a solution to Eileen Parker’s nagging need to unshackle herself from an emotionally unsatisfying slutty jerkwad, and he’s hopeful that the larger, bushier lip of The Lascelles will produce a gameplan. Because nobody can convince people to act against their own better judgment quite like Tommy Lascelles, partial architect of Peter Townsend’s demise. “This isn’t the first time I shall endeavor to save someone else’s marriage in order to safeguard The Crown,” he says. “Not that we give a fig about the Parkers or their happiness, you understand.” I wonder why they added that. Nobody here, or there, was ever confused about whether Tommy Lascelles gave a fig, a peach, or a even a honeydew melon about Eileen Parker. I mean, look at him:
Somewhere, on Earth 2 or 12 or whatever, there is a Tommy Lascelles who lives in the Dominican Republic, drinks almost exclusively cocktails with umbrellas and fruit in them that are of his own exotic design, and runs a very popular Tommy Bahama outpost. And EVEN that Tommy Lascelles has a mustache and hates tourists.
Elizabeth has sent a message to Philip, which is being typed out aboard the Royal Yacht and read aloud by Philip (and immediately I want to read a book about the person who always got eyes on this stuff first). First we see Elizabeth, smiling in a sunny yellow dress, narrating as she writes that the kids were impressed with his travels and that he looked super-dishy and bangable. Then we cut to Phil reading aloud, “‘I could never forget what my grandmother said to me about being married to a man with a beard,'” and then he pauses and tells the assembled crew, “She goes on but I’m not going to repeat that.” I wish you would, Philip. I find myself bursting with curiosity about what Mary of Teck would have told Elizabeth about such a thing. Anyway, as the assembled crewmen laugh, Mike snatches the note and glances at it, and then crows that a very warm welcome awaits Philip when they get home. I suspect that Philip read parts of the note aloud almost as a way of boosting morale — any note from the Queen, especially one expressing awe at their adventures, is surely useful — but I agree with Jess’s take that this sort of shit also feels disrespectful of Elizabeth at the absolute best. I assume that’s all part of the problem with Terrible Mike Parker: that while Philip came to rely on having an unfiltered friend who treated him normally, Terrible Mike did not draw lines very well and maybe couldn’t even hold a pen.
Anthony Eden’s mustache is going to have a very limp day indeed. The papers are screaming that he abandoned the country after driving it to ruin, but he determinedly soldiers forth into the Cabinet room to proclaim them a united government. “But we’re not, are we?” pipes up another mustache: Harold Macmillan, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so basically the money guy, and also the dude in “Misadventure” whom I thought was simply a Yes Man because he encouraged Eden to poke the Suez situation. In fact, Macmillan is a political rival who may have sensed that his most expedient route to power was stoking Eden’s paranoia. Macmillan repeats that Britain is a festering economic mess and a global laughingstock thanks to Eden’s silly war, and Eden spits, “How adroitly your weathervane spins, Harold,” before totally losing his cool. Unfazed, Macmillan tells him that they’ve reached the end of the road together. “The road which you willingly led me down,” Eden gasps, then looks around the room, asking the other assorted jowls whether they’d really abandon him like this. Nobody says anything. It’s the quietest a room of old dudes has ever been, outside of when they’re sleeping in front of General Hospital.
Then something wretched happens, and I need you all to brace yourselves for a shocking turn. Eileen Parker is watching her kids play rugby at the park, and who should magically turn up on a bench nearby, reading his newspaper, but The Mustache of Tommy Lascelles.
That is not the wretched part. That is a GREAT part. Nobody has ever looked less like a man innocently settling in for a pleasant afternoon read of Napoleon’s greatest war strategies. It is hilarious that Lascelles would think this is remotely passable. Eileen calls out to him cheerfully and asks what brings him to this park, and he shrugs that as a retired man he just likes to test out all the best relaxing reading spots. It’s such an obvious lie. Just so clunky. Eileen doesn’t seem to notice, because she’s all wrapped up in her own melodrama, so Tommy gets away with it and even induces her to spill the tea. All it takes is a quick reference to Mike, and suddenly she’s proclaiming that her marriage is broken. And then, right away, with all the finesse of using a paper clip to give a tattoo, Tommy jumps straight to “Might I ask you to hold off on any public announcement?” He says it might disrupt the Duke’s “important royal duties. Or impugn the royal marriage.” Eileen understands immediately that he basically stalked her there to try to intimidate her, and calls him pathetic: “You’re still their round-the-clock lackey even in retirement.” She drips contempt as she leaves Lascelles standing alone.
Yes, that’s right: Tommy Lascelles has lost his mojo. I KNOW. I can’t believe it, either. How can this happen? I guess beneath the mustache, HE IS BUT MAN.
Eden’s mustache is having no better a time of it. He has to hurry up to Sandringham to offer QEII his resignation, and gets verbally assaulted from all corners the second anyone recognizes him at King’s Lynn station. There are also people gathered along the route to Sandringham, which feels surprisingly organized. News travels fast in bucolic Norfolk, I guess? Haltingly, Eden manages to blame his departure on doctors’ orders, although that is also, apparently, fairly accurate: it might not have been necessary yet, but it would have been, and provided a convenient excuse. “I’m sorry if I disappointed you,” he says. Elizabeth blinks and wonders if she ever said he had, and he hedges that he’s pretty sure it crossed her mind. Elizabeth ponders this for a second and then admits that she did think the rush to war was ill-conceived, and that his lie to the House of Commons was poor form; good for her for not letting him skate by here. But: “To have waited in the wings for so long, and to have supported a great man like Winston so patiently, so loyally, and to finally have your opportunity to measure yourself against him….” She pauses. “To do nothing is often the best course of action, but I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be.” I feel like this is among the more honest assessments of Elizabeth’s own regnal experience, and how sad that she’s delivered it to a short-term prime minister and not an actual confidante. But next, she’s going to throw Philip a thematic bone. She goes on to say that history favors the bold, “so I suppose it’s only natural that ambitious men, driven men, want to go down in history.” Eden adds, “Or make history by going down.” He looks like he wants to barf all over her rug, and not because of anything the rug did. Also, I feel like Make History By Going Down is some kind of subtitle to a book about the events of 2017.
Next, Lascelles has to break it to Adeane that Magic Mustache doesn’t have any dust left in it. They have to tell Elizabeth about the Parker divorce and the potential consequences. So Adeane waits until they’re trapped together on a train — which seems like EVEN WORSE planning than Tommy’s Boneheaded Rugby Ambush — and breaks the news. She doesn’t seem to get why this is a big deal, other than being a bummer, so he awkwardly notes that while obviously Philip is not being accused of anything, the newspapers will probably try to draw a few salacious lines. “There is a letter, I believe,” he coughs. “Bragging about…exploits…on the royal tour.” Elizabeth manages to act like this is all fine and dandy and not worrisome, but as soon as he leaves, she smacks the papers down on the tiny table in front of her and stares out the window. I wondered where the show would come down on the infidelity question — Mike Parker himself always staunchly denied it on Philip’s behalf — and find it interesting that while it never actually showed Philip doing anything, it did certainly depict him ready, willing, and able to fool around, even going so far as to arrange a private opportunity and being dismayed when the female reporter he’d been eyeing actually wanted to do work instead. To me that says, “I mean, we can’t prove it, can’t find a shred of it, but we’re all PRETTY SURE he strayed at one time or another, RIGHT?”
Macmillan goes to meet Elizabeth for the first time, and if you had hoped for a rosier outlook on Britain, you will be disappointed. She’s basically like, “Wow, this country is a crapstorm,” and he’s all, “Right? What a stank bog, and everyone thinks we’re shady now!” Elizabeth does at least astutely not let Macmillan get away with blaming the war entirely on Eden. “One always has to accept one’s own part in any mess,” she says, with a polite but pointed smile. So Macmillan gets the VERY clear sense that you cannot put one over on this lady, and that whatever excrement he’d hoped to shovel in her direction is going to deflect off her and back into his own garden. And while the anvils dropping around me suggest the parallel that Elizabeth and Philip are equally culpable for the state of their marriage, I can’t help thinking that she’s begun navigating these waters quite nicely without him.
On the ship, Mike Parker gets a message and goes outside to read it on the ship’s deck. It’s about his wife divorcing him, and to think, she hasn’t even SEEN the shrubbery that’s sprung up on his face. The beard budget on this show seems to have been large, and yet the on-screen results suggest they bought a lot of stuff at a novelty store and then blew the rest on cardigans. Terrible Mike probably should’ve just chucked himself overboard and made a swim for it, because now he has to go tell Philip. By the way, Philip is having a quiet afternoon in his stateroom painting a portrait of tropical birds, sensitive artiste that he is. In short order, Philip is pacing and stressed by Mike’s announcement. “What were you thinking? You know the rules,” he laments to Mike. And if you were wondering whether the rule is “no infidelity” or “please don’t let me commit infidelity” or “constantly remind me not to commit infidelity” or “let’s all just do a whole lot of squats and not even think about infidelity,” then you are wrong. The rule is: no letters. Honestly, it was really, really dumb of Terrible Mike to write it all down to anyone, much less send it to the Dipshit Brigade. “I told them to be discreet,” Mike says lamely. Oh, well, as long as you told them! Mike also breaks it to Philip that Eileen got hold of a letter, and yada yada yada: “It’s got back to You Know Who,” Philip intones. Dude, why would Voldemort care? In 1957 he was way too busy hexing bullfrogs and writing Dumbledore/Grindelwald fanfic.
Elizabeth has summoned a car and is now sitting alone in it, miserable, on a London street. People pass by but don’t notice her, which she might have enjoyed on any other day, but which is also totally crackers because all her official cars have the Royal Standard flying outside when she’s in them. It would be impossible to miss. Eileen Parker, at least, sees her and looks startled that the Queen has decided to pay her a home visit.
Over tea — recalling their easier days grocery shopping in Malta — Liz expresses her sorrow at the divorce. Eileen claims she first got the idea years ago, but all the hubbub about Margaret and Peter Townsend gave her second thoughts. “What’s changed?” Elizabeth asks, curiously. “Nothing’s changed. That’s the problem,” Eileen says. “It just got worse. And while some women may elect to put up with this humiliation, I simply have too much respect for myself and my children to bear it.” And then, as if that wasn’t enough of a guided missile, Eileen opens up a drawer and fires one right at Elizabeth’s heart by handing her the letter. “Don’t bury it, Ma’am,” Eileen urges her. “Or sweep it away. It’s there in black and white.” Elizabeth thinks about this, then returns the paper to Eileen and asks that she please do Elizabeth the favor of holding off on the announcement until they have a strategy. “I’ve had enough of favors to you people. My entire adult life has been favors to you,” Eileen growls. “You people aren’t even remotely aware of the cost of the damage to families and marriages in your service.” Oh, okay, so it’s Elizabeth’s fault that Mike has forgotten how to keep his trousers zipped? I don’t doubt that being in service to The Firm is consuming and challenging, but that doesn’t absolve Mike of his urges, nor the fact that he acted on them. People all over the world have all kinds of jobs that take them away from home for long periods of time — not least being the military — and plenty of unions survive it. Don’t hate the institution, Eileen; hate the duplicitous wang-peddler who hid behind it.
So, Eileen’s lawyer gives a doozy of a public statement, which reads in part: “My husband has shown no inclination or enthusiasm for the responsibilities of parenthood or marriage, and divorce remains the only solution.” ZING. Don’t you miss that frankness, a little? Oh, sure, blah blah blah high-roadcakes, but “We have with great sadness decided to end our marriage, but we remain the best of friends and are jointly committed to the well-being of our children” gets so DULL when you know some of these people would much rather say “This assraft doesn’t even bother with birthday presents and if you see him with his kids in the tabloids, it’s because he paid them. I hope he gets a raging ear infection and then gives it to all four of his girlfriends.”
The papers have a field day with the “Parkers of the Palace” divorce. I’m trying to think whether it would make waves at all if one of William’s friends split with his wife, or whether anyone would assume it meant he was running around on Kate. There’s something absurd to me about the idea that if you know a cheater, you too must be a cheater. I get that the letter seemed damning, but aside from the fact that it ALSO read like the egomaniacal and boastful ramblings of a dungboat, everyone was tense about the divorce making Philip look bad well before the letter appeared, and that doesn’t totally compute to me. Perhaps that’s modern times talking, and I’m underestimating the pearl-clutching of the 1950s.
Mike tries to put on a happy face for Philip, but the latter knows it’s pointless. “I hope you’re not going to make this next step difficult for me,” he says. Mike digests this and then promises his resignation first thing in the morning. “I’ll need it now,” Philip replies emptily.
I have a hard time taking Mike’s reactions seriously when, what with the sweater his face is knitting, he is giving off a cartoonish Clooney In A Coen Brothers Farce vibe. Here, I imagine that Oscar Isaac and Tilda Swinton — in an outrageous wig — have just asked him to do something absurd, and he will answer them in an exaggerated accent. Mike gets over his shock, stands to attention, and delivers a full verbal resignation, which Philip quickly accepts. “You’ve worked for me long enough. You know the rules. There is no room for mistakes, there is no room for scandal. No room for humanity,” Philip says. This from a man who, not long ago, was making arrangement for cozy alone time WITH A REPORTER. But I suppose he could also mean no mistakes in leaving the vault door open, so to speak, and not in having stuff to put IN the vault. And he also probably is saying this in such a way as to blame Elizabeth for the forced firing, implying that this rigidity and OH SO BRUTAL expectation of fidelity is all hers. Phil bitterly continues, “I think you should probably leave us in Gibraltar, and might I suggest a policy of no comment on all counts. And especially no letters.” He looks sad as Mike takes his leave, and on the other side of the door, Mike also stops for a moment to let his face fall. If this were a randier TV show, he’d have burst back in there and grabbed Philip’s carpet face and kissed him like only he can.
As Mike fights off a press mob in Gibraltar, Tommy Lascelles is telling the Queen Mum and Liz that the British press has eaten up what they’re serving, but the foreign papers aren’t, beginning with the Baltimore Sun. With a snort, the QM interrupts, “Where?,” as if to convey that Baltimore is as fictitious a place as Never-Never Land and twice as ridiculous. This may be in aid of pretending it’s all no big deal and what is that piddling little place anyway, but Elizabeth glares and shushes the Queen Mum to make clear that it is a Very Very Big Deal Indeed. Apparently, the rumor mill in D.C. is burning with gossip that Philip has a love nest in the West End that he uses with a regular mistress…and is owned by the head of the dreaded Thursday Club. In his inimitable The Mustache Is Not Impressed drone, Tommy quotes a number of articles implying that Americans are deeply fascinated with all this dirt — as true now as it was then, honestly — and that Time has written, “Not since Wallis Simpson stalked the corridors of Buckingham Palace have the eyes of the world been turned so beadily toward those chintz drapes.” I’m not sure what part of that is the bigger burn, but it somehow feels like it’s the bit with the chintz. The Queen Mum wants to fly Philip back immediately, and Tommy Lascelles must have washed, combed, and fluffed his mustache today, because he handles her expertly: he compliments and feigns consideration of her idea, then shoots it down with a sniper’s precision by pretending to play devil’s advocate, pointing out that the press would see right through all that orchestration and it’d just make things worse. Everyone is silent until the QM snaps, “So what then?” Nada. They wait. The mustache understands the value of a pregnant pause. Liz breaks first: “What?” Goodness, Peter Morgan makes her passive sometimes.
Across the first three episodes, there have been screen grabs that are so close to identical that we could easily change up which ones are in which recap, and get away with it. Obviously, we would never breach your trust in that manner, but just know that if anyone asks me at the end of the season to spot which of these shots was from what hour, I will fail.
Philip learns the plan while he’s wandering through the corridors of the Britannia, which I assume is a chance for the set designers to show off their work one last time. It is a really superb set. The Admiral takes great pleasure in ordering Phil to his side rather than vice versa, and informing him that he has spoken to the Queen. “You, not me,” Philip says in disbelief. “I am in command of this ship,” the Admiral says, having a grand old time pulling this rank after Phil neutered him in the last episode. The plan is for Elizabeth to join them in Lisbon a day earlier than planned, and Philip has strict instructions for how the reunion will go, right down to his wardrobe, which hilariously includes a tie with hearts on it — this is apparently absolutely true, and I fully believe Real Phil loathed it as much as this one does — and a hat that Phil despises. “I believe its value on this occasion is not in its being worn, but its being removed, as a gesture of chivalry and deference,” says the diffident chap serving as Phil’s new right-hand dude. “Before I reach the aircraft,” Philip says. “Before you reach the stairs to the aircraft,” corrects his secretary.
Sure enough, Philip nearly forgets and is given a yank to the puppet strings by a waiting Michael Adeane. Phil has shaved off his Whiskers of Reckless Abandon, and did so in real life as well. I’ve read in multiple places that because they’d seen the pictures of his outrageous beard, the Queen and her entire entourage sat waiting for him on the plane wearing full fake ginger beards to match it, which biographer Gyles Brandreth noted would “surely feature” in the inevitable movie about this. Gyles must be sorely disappointed. And so am I, frankly. The reunion we see involves Philip getting on the plane and the Queen turning around looking TOTALLY AMAZING in a red hat (and matching lipstick) and blue trench.
She looks like a fancy French resistance spy. But she also wears a chilly expression, before ducking Philip’s hug and kiss completely (Brandreth claims, to the contrary, that Philip had a lipstick smudge on his cheek) and blowing past him for the open airplane door. Then she turns and waits for him expectantly. Well done, Elizabeth. So much for a carefully staged show of unity. Philip looks uncomfortable. Somehow, this whole thing seeks to make him the victim, and paint her as the prissy, smothering fun-killer, when in fact, Phil is the one who should have to roast on the spit of his own immaturity.
Next, the show replays most of the scene we saw at the top of Episode 1, in which Elizabeth and Philip fight it out a bit before she demands to know what it’ll take to satisfy him. There are a couple of changes. It feels like they used alternate takes, for example; I’m not sure if they wrote a second version, or if the original version was simply longer and they edited it down in different ways, for a new purpose. The first version definitely created more of a feeling that Philip was a brat and Elizabeth had reached the end of her rope, but coming to it now after two episodes in which Peter Morgan has all but begged us to have sympathy for the little man-devil — and in which Philip’s “behavior” has been portrayed as entirely hearsay — I believe we’re meant to see Elizabeth as unreasonable and Philip as a victim. I like the idea of finding the second side to the story this way, but the trouble is that I’m still not sympathetic to Philip, plus I’m still resentful that we’re spending more time shading him than her. Also, Phil, you smarmy human tube, your circumstances are whatever they are, but how you handle them is on you.
We definitely hear pieces of dialogue that were not delivered the first time — like, for example, Elizabeth says, “This restlessness of yours — it has to be a thing of the past. It’s what I need, and it’s what our family needs,” and also, “The monarchy’s too fragile. You keep telling me yourself: one more scandal, one more national embarrassment, and it would all be over.” She again notes that divorce is not an option for them, which is now juxtaposed with the Parker split as if that’s the enviable alternative. Although I have to say that I have real doubts either Philip or Elizabeth ever wanted a divorce. He may have bristled at feeling like he was under anyone’s thumb, but my impression has always been that even if theirs is not a passionate love match (or is a one-sided one), there is a tremendous amount of mutual respect and affection and deep friendship there. And I don’t think you make it seventy years married if either of you genuinely had a foot out the door, Crown be damned. I DO enjoy imagining QEII watching this with her gin in hand, tsking, “You WERE an awful pain in my arse, though.”
Finally, we get to Elizabeth’s question about what it will take for Philip to stop being a black hole of misery. “To make it work, to make it bearable, I’ll need the respect and acknowledgment of The Dreaded Mustaches,” he says, and I am hugely tickled that The Crown’s wide array of lip hair is now sincerely a part of the plot. Elizabeth sighs, “Stop calling them that,” to which he replies, “I’ll stop calling them that when they don’t all have one.” I, however, will never stop calling them that. Philip is weary of feeling like he’s just a foreigner with A Past, and Elizabeth says he should earn that respect by acting right. “No, I will earn their respect with the only thing they understand,” he says. “Right now, I am currently outranked by my eight-year-old son.” Elizabeth thinks this is batty — Chaz is the future king, after all — but Philip thinks it’s crackers that the man who sired the future king should be so titularly inferior to him. And thus, the Duke of Edinburgh took on the title by which we all know him, and by which we’ve probably already addressed him in these recaps because it’s second nature: HRH The Prince Philip, conferred upon him in February 1957 after he and Elizabeth returned to England. (The show skips over the other details of her trip to Portugal, which was apparently politically significant for a whole bunch of reasons that would have made for very dry viewing indeed but which roped in tensions with India.) Philip gets a lovely hat of his own, and a ring, and a sceptre, and gets to sit next to Elizabeth on her throne while a room full of toffs stares up at him.
I can’t tell what Philip’s meant to be thinking. During the ceremony, he searches Elizabeth’s blank face, as if hunting for his wife underneath the crown and not finding her to be there. So here, I suspect Philip’s got a string section of tiny violinists playing in his head as he questions Elizabeth, himself, the institution he’s just further cleaved himself to and which reduces his wife to a ceremonial vessel, and why he ever thought this would make a difference in how he’s perceived — especially because his whole theory about earning their respect with a new title does not actually involve earning anything at all. I get it, but…I hope Prince Philip gets to see and enjoy Hamilton, because talk about two people who will never be satisfied.
As Philip poses for his new official portrait, the best plot twist of the series comes along: Elizabeth pulls Michael Adeane aside for a word, and then we cycle through a bunch of portraits and photographs of mustachioed Palace men of history before landing on Adeane shaving his.
So basically, the Windsors’ is a marriage saved by the obliteration of a mustache. At least Elizabeth knew better than to ask Tommy Lascelles to get rid of his distinctive brush. It would never happen. I think he would shrivel into nothingness. That mustache is his horcrux.
We’re not quite done with Mike Parker yet, unfortunately. Philip goes to visit him at what has become his bachelor pad, as he laments that everything is gloomy without Eileen keeping house. Well, perhaps if you’d kept your junk on the shelf, Bone-y Blair. He and Philip fumble for some of their original camaraderie, but conversation turns to What Now. Mike is moving back home to Australia (it will be news to a lot of viewers that he has any connection to Australia), which is a really thoughtful thing to do when you have two young children living in England. Terrible Mike, here is a newsflash: you are TERRIBLE. Philip whines that he wants to go with Mike, which catches Mike by surprise, since he thought Phil and Liz had sorted everything out. “As sorted as it can be when you sell yourself,” Philip spits. OH MY GOD. WILL NOTHING EVER BE ENOUGH FOR YOUR DREARY ASS. It gets worse: Philip morosely says that Elizabeth wants more children, and Mike is all, “OUCH,” to which Philip says, “I know. I told her the last thing the world needs is more royal mouths to feed. And she said, ‘You should think of it as a second act.'” Mike wonders, “Of what? A Greek tragedy?” The answer: “Of her life as a mother.” They laugh, and I want to BURN IT ALL DOWN. First of all: shut up. Second, Terrible Mike continues to ratchet up his levels of terribleness to heights even I did not trust he’d reach. These are shitty things to say, and stop trying to make sure Philip feels as pathetic as you are. He’s doing a fine job of that on his own. Thirdly: why are we only hearing about this secondhand in Mike’s dismal man cave? Why aren’t we SEEING that scene, and hearing that conversation? I personally would really like to watch Claire Foy and Matt Smith go through those rounds of conversations and concessions. It’s informative about both of them, they are your marquee actors, and The Crown is very low on insights into Elizabeth right now. It’s lazy and somewhat slapdash to toss out this one from the sole POV of a bitter-sounding Philip and his callow bro. I mean, are we meant to take this at face value? Or is Elizabeth recasting herself as a mother as a way of deferring to Philip domestically, to balance the scales? Does Philip disdain her mothering skills as much as Mike apparently does? Does he not really want more kids, and does she truly want them? If the real people you’re profiling herein are too opaque to know this, then…figure it out. That’s how you dramatize. That is WHY YOU ARE PAID.
Mike then goes into a monologue about how it actually makes sense to him that Elizabeth would want a fresh round, because “Charles isn’t a child to her, is he? He’s also The Crown. A living embodiment of who will replace her. Loving a child who through no fault of his own represents your own death can’t be easy. ‘Course, she is a little cold with him.” Philip is willing to defend Elizabeth only as far as “She tries her best.” Mike concludes that maybe it’ll be neat for Elizabeth to have kids who aren’t mortal threats, and whom she can actually love. My notes read, “Fuck off, Mike.” Also, apologies for being repetitive, but: this is a lot of information about Elizabeth to be given by a secondary or even tertiary character, and one whom we’ve never seen interact with her, nor with her kids, really. Imagine how much more fascinating all that would have been if we’d seen Elizabeth forced to admit that to Philip, or to her mother, or Margaret, ot even to herself. Worse, it’s all coming without much basis. We’ve barely seen enough of her as a mother to know whether she’s warm, cold, loves it, hates it. The kids have no characterization. This isn’t painted as an ongoing problem in her marriage or her life. And we never got the impression that George VI made Elizabeth feel as if he could only view her through his own mortality. This whole thing feels like it’s potentially interesting psychoanalysis that’s being hurled at us at the wrong time, by the wrong people, and in service of the wrong person. Queen Elizabeth is an interesting f’ing human and I don’t get why The Crown doesn’t agree.
All that’s left is for Terrible Mike to piss off, and he can’t do it a moment too soon. His car to the airport arrives, and so he and Philip do that dude thing where they want to hug, but won’t, and instead just smile awkwardly. “End of an era,” Mike says. “Thank you for that era.” Philip flips it: “No, Mike. Thank you.” They shake hands, and Mike says, “Sir.” Philip corrects him with his actual name, but Mike repeats, a tad sadly, “Sir.” When he leaves, it has the distinct feel of a breakup, as if the most important relationship in Philip’s life — the most permissive one, the one that may have fed his worst instincts and impulses, and excesses — has just ended. So where does that leave his other relationship — you know, the one to his wife WHO IS THE QUEEN and wearer of the show’s titular crown and yet who got left out in the cold here plot-wise?
At least we presumably have Matthew Goode coming up soon, because Margaret really was a corker of a person and this plot ought to be good. Or if not, then at least blindingly attractive.
For more on this episode — and Fug Nation’s reaction! — check out the fashion and interiors recap we posted right here on GFY.