First of all, yes, this famously really did happen, which is wild — although the show did take some creative liberties with it; that’s a link to a very interesting Town and Country piece about the whole thing. This show casts Michael Fagan, the guy who broke into Buckingham Palace, as a down-on-his-luck working class bloke who goes on an incredibly self-destructive spiral once he loses access to his kids after punching out their stepfather at a playground. (His smarmy MP gets the blame for [sarcastically] planting the seed of talking to the Queen about Thatcher being a rotten PM.) The script can’t seem to decide if he’s a Regular Man Pushed To His Limits or if he’s Actually Slightly Unhinged, and it felt a bit at the end as if they were like, “oh, shit, he needs to be crazier than we’ve made him. Oh wait but also he needs to make a very well-reasoned explanatory speech about the importance of social services and how much he hates Thatcher. Shiiiiiit, well, let’s hope for the best!” but who amongst us hasn’t been there, and Tom Brooke does an excellent job in this role. In real life, as you’ll see in the T&C piece, Fagan actually had a variety of reasons for breaking in, including, in one telling of it, a lengthy trip on psychedelic mushrooms, and also (seemingly) simply because he found out that he could and that was thrilling — which is actually probably closest to the truth and highly relatable but not quite as useful for Crown-y subtext. (At the time, he also said he was in love with the Queen.) As the show notes, he’s still alive and living in London, and definitely not in an mental hospital, and as he told The Sun, no one from The Crown attempted to talk to him about it. (I chuckled at the bit where he noted that everyone was just pleased he wasn’t IRA.) Truly, this was a different time: I cannot imagine anyone being able to break into the palace now, certainly not twice, and certainly not without paying for it dearly.
Let us catch up with our main players:
THATCHER: Gets to yap at length about people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps — do the British say that? It feels American — and continues to desperately need a lozenge. I spent many years writing at extreme length about how Gillian Anderson is an exquisitely subtle actress — in a show about aliens and vindictive chupacabra no less — so it pains me to note that she continues to be a hammy caricature here. She is also starting to sound like Fred Armisen’s impression of the Queen. Vocal gymnastics aside, Thatcher’s economic policies are disastrous and the British are suffering from mass unemployment. (My primary understanding of this period of British history stems from the Adrian Mole books, but it’s starting to feel like those were fairly accurate.) She is VERY smug about the Falkland War working out (in her opinion) so successfully for the UK (despite its cost in human lives and also in literal money) and ALSO was on record as being worried about Buckingham Palace security pre-break-in — so I suppose you can say everything is coming up Thatch, beyond the fact that she seems like a terrible person who espoused many policies which were cruel and ineffectual, and also her hair looks ABSOLUTELY DERANGED.
THE QUEEN: I thought this episode was going to feature both the time someone broke into her bedroom and the time someone tried to assassinate her at Trooping the Colour, but although the show did briefly feature Trooping the Colour in this episode, it went off without gunplay. (I suspect they actually did intend to feature her being shot at, but that ended up being cut.) Anyway, FYI, it’s very easy to break into her bedroom and she’s quite nice to you if you do, and also she’s surprisingly lackadaisical about security in general, and also she low-key hates Margaret Thatcher just like everyone else and actually might be moving into the dreaded high-key hatred. Having said all that, I thought this was a very strong episode for Olivia Colman. (Please note: In actuality, the Queen did not chat with the intruder but rather politely asked him to wait which she got security. Which is also fairly composed of her.)
CHARLES AND DIANA: Fagan broke into the Palace the second time on July 9, 1982, and Prince William was born on June 21, 1982, so presumably they were very busy elsewhere. (None of the kids are in this episode.)
THE REST OF THE FAMILY: We learn that Margaret hates Buckingham Palace garden parties, which seems very accurate. Meanwhile, Philip is dismissive of a vase from Guyana, which also feels true.
THE SHOW’S MUSIC SUPERVISOR: HUGE congrats to this person for the amount of money they’ve been allowed to spend.
CARS: Still delivering people to locations as if we were unclear on the nature of human transportation from place to place!!!!!
LAMPSHADES: Continue to play a featured role in every scene despite the fact that this is the darkest show I’ve ever tried to watch. In a literal sense. Not, like, emotionally.
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