The Crown S2 E7 Recap
Between The Sex and the Man-Pain, It’s Holy Matri-moan-y On The Crown
This article originally ran as one of Previously.tv’s Epic Old School Recaps.
Well. We did it. We had to sit through some insufferable beards, a bevy of blank stares and blinking non-comprehension, a parade of mustaches that ranged from “resplendent” to “dryer lint quality,” mansplaining, whining, ever so much smoking, and the dissolution of a marriage we didn’t know existed until about 45 minutes before it blew up. But we are finally through the unending Chunnel Of Angst and can warm ourselves in the light of the homing beacon that is…
…Peter Townsend’s nipple? Reader, if you had asked me whose shirtless bod we’d see first this season, I would have bet all the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s jewels that it’d be Matthew Goode’s. But here we are with Mr. Townsend waking up alone in a sexy-seeming room, a breeze blowing off a quaint balcony, a bouquet of flowers tossed aside as if two people couldn’t deal with putting them in water because they were too busy drinking from the oasis of each other’s mouths. Peter Townsend is naked in bed, waking up very content; his erstwhile beloved, Margaret, is shown in London passed out in last night’s clothes, mouth open, drool probably forming a right royal pool on her comforter.
“Peter has surprisingly nice arms,” my notes read. “Way to go, Peter.” I guess all those heartbreak pushups he probably did have finally paid dividends. We continue in this manner, with Peter gliding through a scene in a filmy noir-tinged romance, and Margaret grunting awake and cursing out the maid who brings her Alka Seltzer. Peter begins to write a letter, which Margaret only discovers after she plop-plop-fizz-fizzes, and she scoops it up and tears it open with a carnal hunger. It’s August 3, 1959, and Peter barely beats around the bush: “I write to you with a heavy heart, in hopes of preparing you for an announcement I am soon to make,” and it doesn’t take Miss Cleo to divine where this is going. Turns out the old dog met a lady named Marie-Luce while traveling around the world — she was his “secretary and photographer,” but they developed Feelings. “She is someone I have known for a few years now, and her companionship has been one of the few joys of my life,” he says, and yes, he’s asking her to marry him. He writes that he knows Margaret will feel betrayed…and his voice-over fades out as Margaret’s lock-jawed trembling turns to rage. She angrily shoves everything off her desk and sobs.
Don’t worry, Margaret. Naked Matthew Goode is on his way.
Margaret, in fact, decides Tony is the person she wants to confide in about this. They’re at an art gallery making final tweaks to a display of Tony’s work, which is a brilliant time to have this conversation. And Tony is dismissive of everyone and everything that’s important to Margaret, because it makes him more powerful to her, so he snarks, “Group Captain Bore?” Margaret lightly defends Peter, and Tony glibly adds, “Straight-backed, obedient, decent, missionary position, three quick minutes and that’s the lot. Definitely a bore. Probably pajamas, too. He looks like a pajama man.” Tony, dearest, I know we’ve been jonesing for a love scene, but Pajama Men are perfectly groovy. Not everyone wants to see your junk at all times. Occasionally it’s nice to tidy up the house.
And by the way, if this show wanted to answer the question, “Can we make Matthew Goode look nominally unsexy,” the answer is yes: by putting him on this ladder. I don’t know why it doesn’t work, and I would not kick him out of my house for changing lightbulbs while looking slightly less groovy than usual, but. It’s real.
Margaret explains, because Tony doesn’t care and so of course that makes her want to talk more, that she and Peter had a wild, passionate pact never to marry anyone else if they couldn’t marry each other — a little detail that we probably should’ve heard about back during The Billy Wallace Affair, if it was meant to be so important. They were about to announce her engagement and she never mentioned writing to Peter, out of courtesy or anything else. But suddenly this exists, and Peter wants to break it, and Margaret — in my opinion — only really cares because Peter asked her before she ever got to ask him. Which feels a lot like losing the breakup. Tony asks who the unfortunate recipient of Peter’s affections is, and Margaret snarks that she’s a 19-year-old from Brussels. PULL OVER, PETER. You’ve known her for a few years now, so you…was she, what, 16 when you first met? And Margaret was obviously very young for much of the time you knew her, and Wikipedia tells me Marie-Luce was widely considered to LOOK like Princess Margaret, so…Peter, do you have a pathology? Can we pull up a chaise for you and dig into it sometime?
Tony is mocking Margaret a bit as he asks her how this all makes her feel. She admits she’s hurt that Peter found happiness before she did, and Tony gives her a peck on the cheek: “He hasn’t. He’s found marriage. The very opposite of happiness.” Margaret semi-repeats that ideally, she would’ve gotten married first, and gotten some ego-stroking from imagining Peter at home reading it in the paper and weeping newsprint all over his Muesli. Tony sets her up: “I thought you didn’t want to [marry],” he says, noting that she surely doesn’t want to be a dreary and conventional person. “You don’t think you and I could do it,” she says, pretending to think it’s a jolly lark but you can tell she’s kind of into the idea. “Unconventionally. Interestingly.” Tony says he’d only bother if they violated each and every stupid vow, because: man-child. There are few things as truly interesting as people who make it a point to tell everyone how interesting they are.
It’s time to open the gallery, so Tony goes about as if Margaret hasn’t just proposed to him, which galls her. She stomps her foot and says that if what matters to her isn’t important to him, then she’s just going to LEAVE. “But you came to support me,” he whines. “Half those bloody journalists have only come to see you.” She airily says his work will have to not suck, then, and bolts. Sure enough, the press comes in and immediately asks where Margaret went, and Tony tries to deflect them to the presence of other famous people (mostly, in his photos). But they don’t care. There’s even a paparazzi chase when people see Margaret leaving in her car. Tony watches it all play out from the window of the gallery, the cogs in his man-child head beginning to whir. I think he is realizing that, to the rest of the world, she is what makes him interesting, and therefore he might need her because otherwise he won’t be so utterly certain of his own awesomeness.
We follow Margaret home, and she and Elizabeth have a really nuanced conversation about marriage and feelings and her wounds and HA HA just kidding, as if that would happen. We would never follow the lady on The Crown when we could Follow That Wang (also a new game show: Follow! That! Wang!), and so that’s what we do. The next morning, Tony is flipping through reviews of his show, which are all raves, when an older woman makes her way to his table via several sycophantic pit stops at others. It is his mother, and IT IS DUCKFACE.
Well, technically her name is Anna Chancellor, but I’m pretty sure many of us recognize her from Four Weddings And A Funeral as the woman Fiona/Kristin Scott Thomas christened Duckface. You might also know her from the Amanda Bynes/Colin Firth tour de force What A Girl Wants, which also starred Eileen Atkins, who played Mary of Teck on this. So what I’m saying is, we’re working toward getting as many cast members from that film onto The Crown as possible, right? Anyhoo, it won’t surprise you to know that Tony’s mother is wretched, because women suck the life out of a man, don’tcha know. She skipped his opening because his half-brother was on parade with the Irish Guard, even though that happens often and Tony’s openings happen rarely, and she handwaves that she simply couldn’t have known this was so vital to him. “Well, there we are,” Tony says, jaw tightening. “The notices were favorable.” Duckface says, “I read The Times.” Tony: “The Times was the only naysayer.” My notes: “MAN PAIN!” Duckface wants to know about Margaret, and Tony says she didn’t attend because he turned her down. Duckface thinks that was insane of him. “For most parents, there’s never anyone good enough for their children,” Tony says, dryly, as she largely ignores him. I know she’s a terrible neglectful mother, cold and cruel, but I also would be tempted to ignore him.
Except I can’t ignore him, because here is the SEX MONTAGE. It’s not that I sit at home throwing pork rinds at my screen and shrieking, “TAKE IT OFF!” It’s that, as Jess has mentioned, we sat through Matthew Goode and Julianna Margulies’s smoking chemistry on The Good Wife only to be denied any payoff, and then he turned up on Downton to romance that crank Lady Mary and we got hardly enough chemistry and a bare minimum of kissing, much less delicious making out. So this feels earned. This feels like Peter Morgan was like, “I KNOW, RIGHT? I’m on it.” Also on it: Tony, if by “it” you mean “a lady.” The show intercuts between a dancer working in front of his camera, and then Tony working her in his studio as they bang energetically on a ladder. “Camera clicks, woman pants,” the captioning says, and that’s pretty much what it amounts to here. He positions her for the shoot, he positions her for sex; he photographs her face for work, and for pleasure does some studious work with her ass. There is some kissing while clicking, as well; the whole feeling is that Tony fancies himself an artiste for whom there are very thin lines between his passions. But, as thunder rumbles, he finally admits to his lover/muse, “There’s something I have to tell you.”
And that something is, presumably, that he needs her to leave so he can lie around naked and pose balletically while blowing smoke rings. As one does.
Next, he’s lying naked on a bed with a blonde. “I told Jacqui,” he says. We’re not sure what he told her; possibly just that he’s seeing Margaret. “How did she take it?” asks Blonde. “Not lying down,” Tony says. “Mind you, she never takes anything lying down. She really is the most dazzling fuck.” Blonde grins that it’s clearly true, because Tony has become better and way more imaginative in the sack since he started screwing Jacqui, and then a naked dude strolls by and runs a finger along Tony’s hair. “Hear, hear,” he purrs. “I really can’t keep up anymore.”
They all flop around in the afterglow and make plans for another lunchtime romp on Thursday, all in aid of what The Crown clearly feels is a cheeky bit of exposition: “Any objections, Mr. Fry?” “None at all…MRS. FRY.” Are you clutching your pearls yet? He’s bisexual! It’s a three-way! O what fun it is to ride in a three-horse open lay! Etc. Tony can’t set the date, though, because he’s supposed to hang with Marg that night and he thought he might propose. The Frys seem astonished. “You said she had thick ankles and the face of a Jewish manicurist,” Blonde Fry gasps. This is a disgusting thing to say, and mean besides. I looked it up, and apparently it’s one of those things he’s widely accepted as having said but no one can quite agree when or how, other than that there’s a 90 percent chance he did it in public and in front of other people. Because he out-assholes Philip. “She does,” shrugs Tony in-scene. “But she’s adorable, too. And with a quick temper.” I guess we’re meant to think he wants to look down his nose at Margaret, but he’s also intrigued by her fire, which he oh-so-tenderly notes is “not un-sexy.” Not that many successful love stories begin with “I generally hate how she looks but she’s ‘adorable’ and not totally gross and we argue.” The Frys don’t particularly think any of this adds up to Tony needing to marry her. “I’m afraid I do,” he sighs. “For other reasons. Don’t ask me to explain.” Yes, please don’t, because the self-pity about his mommy issues is going to make my eyes melt.
Margaret is sulking around the palace in black and looking a bit the worse for wear, waiting for her car. The Queen Mum is watching a TV show about the Galapagos and snacking. I really think that if she had lived to be as epically old as she’d have to be, the Queen Mum would have been tweeting about the Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When Margaret emerges to get in her car, a motorcycle revs, and we see Tony Armstrong-Jones astride it. And if you thought to yourself, “Surely the ladder is the last time he’ll look odd in this hour in which we’re meant to find him dreamy,” well, I hate to disappoint:
Again, were he to show up at my doorstep and take me away to show me his newly acquired sack skills, I would not be like, “Ew.” But it’s quite a feat to make this smooth drink of vodka look dorky TWICE in one hour. I guess this is his “In Your Eyes” moment. Every time she hesitates, he guns it. Except it’s a gender flip: She’s gonna give him her heart, he’s gonna give her a pen(is). Margaret obviously chooses him over wherever else she was going, and throws a leg over the bike. And if you thought to yourself, “Self, we are not going to hit the trifecta here with Matthew Goode Looks Dorky When He’s Supposed To Look Real Hot,” then I am here to tell you not to underestimate this episode:
I know, I know, he’s wearing safety goggles. He didn’t design them. It’s not his fault. But this looks like a still from Mannequin. Kim Cattrall was hang-gliding through the store and then G.W. Bailey walked in and she turned back into her doll self and crashed into him, wearing lenses just-so, and a mannequin in goggles is NOT a hot visual reference.
This ride is intercut with the ride that happens when they get to his studio, namely, the pocket-rocket cruise of a lifetime. Inside, they kiss passionately; on the bike, Margaret looks delighted, while Tony seems tense and resigned, like he has to swallow something in order to play this part. Wow, poor Margaret. This show is not giving her credit for having any particular allure of her own, is it? He’s practically gulping down his own bile. She whispers in his ear, and then we’re back in the studio as they undress. Tony lays her down and goes to town.
After, he sits quietly, shirtless, flicking a lighter. When he hears creaking, he lights two cigarettes, one of which she takes when she emerges in his robe. There is a crate on the table which he emotionlessly tells her to open; it’s a nest of boxes within boxes, ending in a ring box. She can barely breathe when she sees it, and casts him a very appraising look before cracking it…and finding an even smaller box inside. He watches this and leans back, a beam of light hitting him squarely across the chest…
…because the D.P. loves us and also I guess he’s the heavenly beacon of all things in her life. The small box has a large ruby and diamond ring, which history tells us Antony Armstrong-Jones designed himself, to evoke her middle name Rose. That level of care and attention doesn’t jibe with The Crown’s narrative, so it’s not mentioned. Instead, he blithely asks if she’ll forgive him for not getting on bended knee: “They’re chafed from fucking you.” Then he looks squarely at her and says, “Marry me.” Margaret drinks this in and lets out a very shaky breath. “I thought you hated the idea of marriage,” she says. “I do,” he replies. “Then I hated the idea of losing you even more.” Yes, or of losing all that cachet. Margaret insists he absolutely would have lost her for good, forever, always, even as she crawls around the coffee table and scrambles up into his lap, straddling him. “Promise me one thing,” he says. “Name it,” she purrs. He pretends to drop her backward, then catches her gallantly. “Not to bore me,” he says. Ugh, he is so pretentious. This kind of shit is the most toxic. It puts all the pressure on her to determine and meet his silly, arbitrary, and likely impossible standard, and grants him all the freedom to decide, “Well, you became boring, so…” So they’re starting their relationship immediately from a place of her being expected to live up to something. Then they do the roles-reversed version of this convo, except her request is “not to hurt me.” He promises. You are both doomed. They’ve just given voice to their greatest reservations about love and marriage, and to the person most likely to fulfill them.
So, for the third time in her life, Margaret has to tell Elizabeth she’s engaged. Elizabeth’s reaction is quite funny. She is trying really hard to look like she thinks this is a splendid idea, and failing. “I suppose that’s marginally better than the ohhhhhhh which was your reaction to Peter’s proposal,” Margaret says, archly. “I DO hope there won’t be any objections or obstacles.” Elizabeth promises not, and Margaret snaps, “Be good enough to give me that assurance again, nice and audibly, so we’re both quite clear.” Elizabeth has the gall to act shocked by Margaret’s prickly bitterness, which: COME ON. You know what that did to her. We all know. It took only one scene in Episode 1 of this season for us all to know, and presumably that scene has been enacting itself on repeat off-camera this entire time. WHY does Elizabeth have to be so obtuse here? She does vow never to block any marriage of Margaret’s ever again — which almost makes me wish she’d been like, “Great,” and gone and married Peter — and then Margaret gets down to business: she confesses that Peter is also getting married and it’s of paramount importance that her announcement happen first. “Oh, Margaret,” Elizabeth says, realizing what’s going on.
Tony, meanwhile, is lying on the floor under a shot of the ballerina, whose name is Jacqui Chan; that was her real name and she was his real fling, but aloud it throws me off every time. When we did the Crown episode of Extra Hot Great, I hadn’t watched this far yet (I don’t like to get ahead of where I’m recapping, so that my reactions are honest), and Tara said something about how Tony was so busy with Jacqui Chan and I legit thought there was some batshittery coming with the action hero. Which would have been doubly surprising since Jackie Chan was only five years old. Anyway, Tony is broodingly calling Duckface (her name is Lady Rosse, but…I mean, Duckface). The butler says he’ll check to see if Duckface is available, and Tony waits and smokes and smokes and waits, before the man comes back to the phone. “Lady Rosse is resting,” he says, as we see past him to Duckface demonstrably not resting at all. Tony hangs up, dejected.
MAN PAIN! He’s not a jerk, y’all! Sure, he famously once flicked lit cigarettes onto Margaret at her own birthday party (per Gore Vidal), and was widely reported to be horrid to her in public, but let’s wipe all that away because he had a mean mom! The blocking here is great, though, either by his instinct or by the director’s design. His lying on his stomach, his legs kicked up like that behind him, while he’s on the phone is a classic teen-on-a-bed-talking-about-that-bitch-Tina move.
Suddenly he hears a thud and uses a cane to hop up from his spot on the floor, before hiding it under a cushion. It’s Margaret, whom he picks up so she can wrap her legs around him. I’m not sure why he hid the cane; she knew he had polio. Maybe he had a cane for every mood, and that was his I’m Thinking About Other Women And How Little I Want To Remain Faithful To You cane. In bed afterward, Margaret starts musing about the logistics of the wedding, wondering if they should just keep it simple since “there’s no danger of me wearing the crown.” They joke about elopement, and then Tony tosses out the Abbey as an option, under the auspices of what a great lark it would be to fill it with half her friends and half his. “New world, old world,” he says. “Like an eagle with two heads facing in opposite directions.” Or…like a wedding. Not everything has to be performance art, dude, least of all your love life. Margaret mulls this, then lets a spiteful, smug smile crawl over her face. “Let’s make it bigger than my sister’s,” she breathes. “Let’s eclipse her. Let’s shake this place to its core.” What exactly does she think this wedding is going to BE? Polyamorous? Nudist? Suffused with acid?
Alas, there is a problem. When Margaret sits down to gush to Elizabeth all about her amazing plans for this joyous occasion, Elizabeth clears her throat and says they have to delay the announcement by a few months. “Because of the baby,” she says. “I’m expecting.” SINCE WHEN, is Margaret’s reaction, and mine. The second two Mountbatten-Windsors always did seem a bit like afterthoughts and apparently that’s true plot-wise as well. Elizabeth is fourteen weeks along. Margaret is basically like, “WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT also congrats.” Apparently there is an obscure rule, but one that clearly cannot be rewritten or broken, that until the sovereign’s child is born they cannot announce anything. Margaret is so suspicious of this, and I can see why, because it’s bananas. Who is even going to care? Who is enforcing this protocol, and will the Earth’s crust be cracked if a piece of paper goes out while The Royal Uterus is fruited? Margaret, understandably, is enraged because delaying the announcement necessarily pushes off the wedding. She stomps off in a wicked funk, in a marvelous piece of soap-operatic blocking:
Okay. 1) We haven’t talked enough about the fact that every room has a tiny doorbell that signals to the butlers that someone’s about to bust the fuck out of there; they are truly living the dream, and also, that is some INTENSE wiring because Margaret’s button is on the table and no one is tripping over any cords. And 2) That is a Grade A flounce-and-whirl. If you told me Vanessa Kirby perfected it by watching tapes of Susan Lucci, I would not even question your sources. Elizabeth scampers pregnantly after Margaret to swear her support for the union. She wants to throw a big party for family and friends as a way of endorsing it. “We never did that for Peter,” she says. “You never did anything for Peter,” Margaret hisses. Liz repeats that this is full steam ahead, no problem, just as soon as she pops. This really stinks for Margaret. At every turn, there is a fence she has to climb. Or a staircase to go up halfway before turning around indignantly.
Over at the Love Shack, Tony and his Sex Friends are watching election returns, with Tony in the middle of the couch and Man Sex Friend — his name is Jeremy Fry — with his arm slung around the back of the sofa. Tony casually says he’s likely to get an earldom “to make me acceptable.” Also, you twit, because they give everyone something unless the couple specifically rejects titles. “It’s not a fucking dukedom, or a marquisate,” he says, half-joking. “But, as husband to the Queen’s sister, I’d still rank higher than the man my mother took as her second husband, the Irishman, when she left my father.” That is some Passions-level exposition right there. I am surprised Jeremy didn’t respond, “You mean your father Ronald, the barrister?” A word on Jeremy Fry: he was supposed to be Tony’s best man, but was removed after being convicted of soliciting a man for sex, and was an inventor who got James Dyson started. Yes, the soft-voiced dude who wants to sell you great suction.
Oh, but Tony isn’t done with his bitter beer face; he’d ALSO like to note that he’ll now outrank his half-brother Brendan, whom he hates because his mother favored him heavily. Apparently when they traveled as a family, her three kids traveled in different classes: Brendan in first, the other stepbrother in second, and Tony in third. “The runt from the unsatisfactory first marriage with no title, and a polio-twisted leg,” he says. So the going theory here really is going to be that Margaret was his Spite Bride. I feel like even Jeremy and Camilla Fry are kinda like, “Thanks for your life story, but we were going to watch the election returns and then also screw, so…”
Plenty of time has now passed, because Elizabeth is mad pregnant, rubbing her stomach with unease while she’s prepped for a party.
Philip is reading the paper, but stops to watch her with interest, and then maybe glimmers of affection. “Are you in the mood for some questions?” he asks, and we stay on him for most of this, rather than her, which is a meta-statement about The Crown if ever there was one. He’s curious whether the pregnancy hurts, and she says it doesn’t exactly, but is uncomfortable at times. “One does feel cumbersome,” she admits. “Tired all the time…and one’s toes are disappearing.” Philip is all, “Don’t say that,” to which she replies, “MY TOES ARE HIDEOUS,” which is nearly the most human she’s been. My toes are also hideous, Elizabeth! We’re together in this, and I’m not even pregnant. Philip grins affectionately, “They’re the second best thing about you,” and she pretends this is horrible but is clearly delighted by the banter. “No compliment is horrible,” he says. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” she fires back, and then asks what the best thing is. You will guess easily what the answer was. “Two things, really,” he says. “Reason alone to have children, I’d say. They’re enormous. You milkmaid. No, barmaid.” They’re both laughing and enjoying this immensely, which makes this next bit really weird. Philip comes up behind her and says, “Go on, indulge me, pour me a pint. Filthily. Go on.” She sputters, “I haven’t the faintest idea…” and that makes two of us, Liz. She pantomimes pulling a pint very quickly and then he bends down and says, “Look me in the eyes while you’re doing it,” and she laughs and repeats it, blushing, while he kisses her.
I appreciate that look at the end there. Ostensibly she’s feeling pregnancy discomfort again, but I like to think she’s just embarrassed for us all that Philip only knows the dumbest sex games. For a second I thought he was asking her to pretend to pour him a glass of breast milk, but I guess he just…wanted to role-play, and with something where she ranks decidedly beneath him? What’s funny to me is, Vanessa Kirby said they had all kinds of discussions about whether it was respectful to show much of “Margaret” naked during the brief Tony-Margaret love scene, and yet some of the ways they imagine intimacy between Philip and Elizabeth are arguably less respectful than the idea of an actress playing Princess Margaret showing some boob. I wish Elizabeth had demanded he tip her, at least. Although I guess then that would be Royal Prostitution.
The party everyone is attending is at Buckingham Palace, and it’s Elizabeth’s promised bash for Tony’s and Margaret’s pals. Loud music is playing, and Margaret is whisking Tony through the introductions to all the people he would doubtless accuse of being hopeless, pathetic bores. Elizabeth, Knocked-Up Fun-Killer, is sitting in a chair frowning at it all. She spies Tony at the bar, getting a whiskey for himself and Margaret, where he runs into Camilla Fry. She is not pleased to see him, which is a curious reaction given that she’s at a party being thrown FOR him, at which he’d be guaranteed to be seen. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Though in some ways you have,” he says, gesturing to the portraits on the walls. “Hideous redundant relics. Spectres.” For a guy who thinks he’s so progressive and fascinating, he’s both predictable and an ungrateful prig. Camilla is like, “WELL, I didn’t want to tell you tonight,” and drops the bomb that she’s pregnant, and — in response to the perfectly fair question about how she can know, given that they’re in a three-way relationship that involves two sperm suppliers — she’s 99 percent sure it’s Tony’s. That’s some very precise math. Maybe Jeremy is more into Tony than Camilla, or at least not particularly concerned with that orifice. Also, we need to discuss the stupidity of this. If Camilla didn’t want to tell Tony that night, could she not have called in sick? Or just simply not attended? Who would even care? It’s not like she and Margaret are also besties. Just tell a white lie and confront him later. Or, I don’t know, bluff your way through the night. You didn’t HAVE to tell him right then; you did it because you wanted to, because you’re all narcissists.
Or, more accurately, she did it because the show wanted Elizabeth to witness an awkward-seeming exchange and get her hackles up, thus eventually prompting her to tell Michael Adeane to commence an investigation of Tony Armstrong-Jones. She doesn’t ask in so many words; she just says she’d like to know anything she truly truly ought, sooner than later, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, a pause as pregnant as she is, a widened eye. Adeane gets it. He speaks Awkward British Social Code.
Oh, and just so you know, Philip is being a crank and thus the world is still turning. He goes off on a monologue about how that party, right there, is incontrovertible evidence that the world is changing before their very eyes in hardly any time at all. “Just fifteen minutes ago, the British government was up in arms about me joining this family, and I was a royal prince from a royal house,” he sniffs, citing his lineage and genetic connection to Queen Victoria (great-great-grandmother, so we’re clear), and how even with all that, people were mortified about how horrid and inappropriate he was. “This fellow’s mother is a ghastly social climber, and his father’s a common garden contractor who buggered off with a stewardess!” Um, what? Ronald Armstrong-Jones was a barrister. He did end up marrying an air hostess the same year Margaret and Tony married, and he divorced his second wife the year before, but I’m not sure that constitutes “buggering off with a stewardess.” Either Philip is lazy, or the show is. Probably both. Anyway, he’s totally worked up about how everyone is delighted about Margaret and Tony, acting like it’s a victory. Philip is is so obsessed with feeling hard done by. It would be astonishing if it weren’t so utterly…astonishing. However, Philip’s twisted knickers chafing a second crack into his rump gets totally overshadowed by this:
Suddenly, I choose to believe every single thing in this show is sworn truth, etched in tablets hewn by the Earth and then reabsorbed as part of its very fiber.
From that, we go the only place we can. The warmest of all bosoms, the softest of all mustaches onto which we could land.
The PI Firm of Adeane & Lascelles has done some discreet recon. Tommy Lascelles has never met a situation at which he does not throw superfluous syllables — he is my soulmate in that way — and so he drones on about how the digging they did “in no way represents a prurient, moralistic, or censorious position. Mr. Armstrong-Jones is entitled in his private life to make those choices he wishes; indeed, to live as he wishes.” Adeane clears his throat so mightily there that a wood nymph leaps out of the resultant breath fog and whispers, “HE BANGS.” Tommy’s long-winded explanation is a word salad that I have deemed full of clues that he is hoping will mean he doesn’t need to delineate the particulars. Observe: “As with a great many artists, a conventional approach to life doesn’t appear to fit. It seems what makes his work notable is his willingness, his appetite, to break barriers and conventions as he pushes his medium, photography, to its boundaries and…as in art so it would appear in life.” Somewhere in that ellipsis, he cleared his throat also, and the carbon dioxide molecules rearranged in the air to spell out “HE’S THRUSTY, NOT TRUSTY.”
Elizabeth is not going to let him get away with not being absolutely clear, though, so Tommy must continue: “The narrow path…the straight Christian path…is not to his taste.” Liz blinks. So they lay out that Tony is involved in at least three other relationships, citing Jacqui Chan, “an Oriental dancer and singer,” which…is accurate language for that time but still weird to hear, and two others. “These are just the natural ones,” Tommy says with some discomfort. “What?” Liz says, though her face suggests she’s getting the gist. Her brain should also suggest it, because remember in Episode 4 when Margaret described Tony to Elizabeth and said her personal assistant described him as someone who’d never be so boring as plain old “queer”? What did she think that meant? What did any of them think that meant? It’s called BISEXUAL, YOU GUYS, and YOU KNEW IT. Tommy finally gets out Jeremy Fry’s name before Elizabeth cuts him off, but he presses on with the news that Jeremy’s wife Camilla is an erstwhile girlfriend of Tony’s who is now pregnant herself after some group liaisons with her two gents. They show Liz a photograph of Camilla, which confirms her suspicions about the party, and she jumps up as quickly as a hella pregnant lady can and strolls to the window. The news has rocked her to her core so thoroughly that it actually induced labor.
Enter The Royal Midwives. The birth scene is weird and impersonal, as was, I imagine, the birth itself if that’s how this went down. Elizabeth is to have a home birth, and she’s in a room that’s been dressed with ancestral portraits that include one of the actual Mary of Teck, rather than of Eileen Atkins, which is intriguing (and possibly means they don’t have to pay Atkins for her likeness). Philip is busy playing squash with his friend when Elizabeth is put to sleep, so neither parent is connected to the arrival of the baby. The home secretary is informed, and as a deep and ponderous prayer is intoned by the Prime Minister, Liz lies totally conked out on her bed as some forceps are removed from a bag. I assume we’re meant to think they did a C-section rather than just scooting the poor thing out via the primary exit. It’s very long, and languid, and dull. The end result: a baby nobody related to it was present to greet.
Margaret drinks in adoration from the public as she arrives at the Palace to see Elizabeth. She feigns interest and makes small talk about the kid, during which we learn they rejected the name George because “no one could live up to Papa” and Louis because it was too foreign-sounding. So they went with Andrew after Philip’s father. “Yes, the bankrupt philanderer,” Margaret says callously, flopping into a chair. How apt, given that Andrew has grown up to be one of the more, shall we say, socially and ethically questionable of all the spawn. The dull pleasantries out of the way, Margaret briskly asks for Liz’s blessing so they can get on with this wedding thing already. Elizabeth asks if she’s truly absolutely sure that Tony is the right man for her. Margaret smiles quickly, but with no warmth. Instead it’s disbelief:
“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” she says. Elizabeth argues that love makes blind fools of everyone, and “we see only what we want to see,” before making the very sensible point that in Margaret’s hurry to lick her wounds — “Wounds inflicted by you,” Margaret interjects — she’ll end up yoked to the wrong person. “Tony is no revenge. Tony is a free choice,” Margaret avers. “Tony has given me reason to hope and dream. He makes me feel things no one ever has. Things I didn’t imagine possible.” Liz’s face says, “Yes, I’m SURE he’s practiced in the sack,” and her mouth says simply, “He’s a very complicated man. With a complicated past. And, who knows, a complicated present.” Margaret’s dangerous smile is back as she asks if there’s anything Elizabeth knows and needs to tell her. “If there is, tell me now,” she says. There is a very long moment where, once again, Elizabeth feels the weight of her sister’s happiness on her shoulders, and she chooses What Margaret Wants To Hear this time. “I’m merely asking if he’s the right man for a lifelong commitment. Is he cut out for marriage, with all its ups and downs?” she hedges. Margaret is feeling hella dramatic today, so she announces she will marry Tony if it’s the last thing she ever does, even if it involves eloping. “Tony makes sense of me. Defines me,” she says, and UGH NO. Intriguingly, her argument is that he defines her as “a woman in my own right. A woman for the modern age. And above all, a woman who is free. Free to live, free to love. And free to break away.” This is a load of hooey. If you need a man to define you, then you’re HIS version of you, not your own, MARGARET. And this high and mighty idea that she’s FREE and SAVED and BUSTING OUT OF THIS TRASH HEAP is also total crap, because she’s getting married at Westminster Abbey on TV and getting new titles for them both. That’s not breaking away; that’s settling in, girl.
Elizabeth has the presence of mind to agree that Margaret is not, in fact, breaking away, given that she’s sacrificing no title, rank, nor privilege. “For one simple reason. You enjoy it all too much. The palaces, privileges, deference. It’s always meant more to you than it did to me,” Elizabeth says. The show never properly developed Margaret and Elizabeth as sisters. It simply didn’t want to bother, because it wanted to spend time with Winston Churchill instead. So there are a lot of shadings to these scenes that are missing, and context they have to lay out because it’s not there for us in the layers, and that’s one of them. We’ve never seen Margaret do or feel ANYTHING that didn’t involve a man: Peter Townsend, Billy Wallace, Tony Armstrong-Jones. She’s either in love, or heartbroken, or drunk, hungover, resentful, embittered. They left no room for anything else, so frankly, we had no idea what all the pageantry meant to her. In fact, in real life that’s supposedly one of the reasons she didn’t marry Peter, and Townsend himself once said he knew she’d never have given that up — or that if she did, she’d have missed it and resented him for it. But the show rewrote that history to place all the blame on Elizabeth, and blotted out that character point that’s actually quite informative here. Because she’s NOT giving up all the trappings, and she’s telling herself marrying Tony is rebellion without all the inconvenient ACTUAL rebellion.
As Baby Andrew cries, Elizabeth glances wistfully at him and says, “All I wanted to do was give it all up. Disappear and become invisible.” Again…really? Since when? This is where a whole flashback/flash-forward structure would have been of occasional use, so we could get to know either of them better. Margaret listens to all this, and coldly says, “In that case, your achievement’s all the more remarkable. As you’ve managed to disappear and become invisible while wearing the crown.” Sick burn, Margaret. But I’d argue you’re visible for the wrong reasons.
The day of the wedding, everyone gets dressed, including Charles in an outrageous dickie.
But that’s not the kid I’m into right now. What I want more information about is why Anne looks like she’s debating whether to gather everyone in the drawing room for a confession.
Has she been eavesdropping? Do Young Anne’s diaries contain a lot of handwritten passages wherein she worries about Auntie Margaret’s tender heart? “Dear Diary: I heard Mr. Lascelles use the word ‘unnatural’ today and I don’t think he meant mummy’s hairdo. Auntie also smelled like a bar floor, and I found an empty bourbon bottle in the Ming vase in the third guest bathroom on the second floor. What does it MEAN?”
Jacqui Chan gets ready to go to the Abbey, because I gather she’s invited, even though you’d think Elizabeth might have performed a final triage on the guest list. Jacqui, for the record, is listening to a music box that contains a photo of herself with Tony; she then slams it shut, angrily. If this were Dynasty, she’d burn down the place with candles of hate. Reader, sometimes I wish this were Dynasty. Can Joan Collins play the Queen Mother next season? And Pregnant Camilla Fry is also attending, which is HIGHLY UNLIKELY considering in real life her husband was chucked out of the wedding party. Tony is in his car with Duckface, who is waving merrily at the crowds they’re passing. Philip glances at Elizabeth as they finish getting ready; she looks beautiful in blue, and they exchange gloomy glances. Philip ends up with the job of escorting Margaret, and when she comes downstairs, he kisses her on the cheeks and says how proud her father would have been.
And then, a weird thing. The Queen Mum is finishing getting ready while watching the wedding…on TV. Like, she’s watching the coverage of the cars driving to the Abbey. Wouldn’t she already be AT the Abbey if Margaret is already en route? It’s not like the church is attached to the house, y’all. Inside her carriage, Margaret takes Philip’s hand with nervous delight, and he seems a bit bemused by the public fuss. Duckface also likes the spotlight. “Not bad, you’d have to say,” Tony says. “For the son that always brought you shame. The son you rejected, the son that was never good enough.” I do kind of wish that he’d disinvite her right in that moment and make her stay in the carriage while he gets out alone, but he doesn’t. Instead, he keeps digging the grave he’s begun with her: “I suppose I always thought that eventually you’d find it in you to admit that you’re proud of me. Perhaps even that you love me.” This is such a TV thing. I don’t think Tony Jones, as written at least, would ever have had this plain a conversation with his mother. Whom he hates. He’s deferential to her, and yet he was openly mocking and rude to Margaret multiple times, suggesting that it was always the thrill of the chase with him. Those who were devoted to him never stood a chance, perhaps. Still, it seems crazy that this grown man would be having a nakedly needy conversation with his mother in the carriage on the way to his own royal wedding. Duckface has no time for it, also. “I do hope you haven’t done all this for me,” she scolds him, before turning back to the window and doing more waving. He is silent, and almost looks physically sick. Because of course the show is positing that he did do it all for her, and for his own fame — but mostly for her, because he is sad and damaged by A Rotten Female.
We end the episode on audio of them taking their vows, as a drawn and regretful Tony pulls up at the Abbey in his carriage while Margaret is glowing and fulfilled in hers. It’s quite sad, although it’s not Tony I feel for, not at all. In this split second I am Team Duckface.
For more on this episode — and Fug Nation’s reaction! — check out the companion piece on the fashion and interiors that ran here on GFY.