This was sort of an odd episode for me; in short, Camilla and Charles are effectively broken up (FOR NOW) by Dickie Mountbatten and the Queen Mum, with a minor assist from Princess Anne, because Camilla is not an appropriate royal bride (or, because as Charles puts it to his mother in a truly grody turn of phrase, she is “not intact”). That plotline is mostly quite juicy and compelling. Josh O’Connor is very good as Prince Charles and everyone else in the equation ranges from competent (the Queen Mum finally gets something to actually do) to very funny (Erin Doherty is amazing as Anne, as usual). Heather pointed out last week that the show rarely shoots Emerald Fennell, who plays Camilla, from the front, and now that I’ve seen that, it cannot be unseen. She gets ONE, maybe one and a half, full-face shots in the entire episode; the rest of the time she’s just bangs and hair and profile. It’s very odd. She’s perfectly appealing facially! And not ever really being able to see her FACE is impeding her performance from actually making an impact. This is not her fault! But Camilla is a little bit tricky here: Charles LOVES her, and she allegedly loves Charles — but also kinda loves Andrew Parker-Bowles. Given that she does marry Parker-Bowles and was allegedly, as Anne puts it, “obsessed with him,” they’re asking this character to walk a very fine line of romantic confusion and we never get to see any of it play out on her face.
The rest of the episode suffers, I think, from two issues: (a) it’s boring, and (b) Peter Morgan loves to make a tenuous connection between the personal and the (for lack of a better term) professional, and they’re almost always clunky. In this episode, the nation’s coalminers are on strike for a better wage and better working conditions — something the Queen even thinks is reasonable. But the new (dull and lackluster) Prime Minister isn’t having it, and instead puts the UK on a Three-Day Week to conserve electricity, thus reducing the leverage of the strike. Finally, the Queen lets him have it about this, and informs him that he needs to see the coalminers as PEOPLE…just as, perhaps, she’s learning to see her son.
We also get a clonky tie-in from Philip, who opines that Prime Minister Heath is an unpopular weirdo — a paraphrase — because he never married, which seems harsh! There was allegedly a girl whom he loved, and who waited for him “throughout the War,” but then he “chickened out” and she married someone else. (This does seem to be somewhat factual, but, having said that, Wikipedia suggests that he was actually asexual. [There were also allegations of child sexual abuse, which seem to have been unsubstantiated.]) Philip then announces that, “when you find the right one, snap them up,” which is decent advice except he tells it to Elizabeth, who already did that. There is also a runner in this episode about it being Philip and Elizabeth’s 25th wedding anniversary, which mostly exists so that Elizabeth can give a speech about how she “is for” marriage despite the fact that she just kinda sorta was okay with breaking up her child’s relationship, so I guess she’s “for” marriage as long as it is appropriate. There was some futzing with dates here, too, as this anniversary would have been in November 1972, and the Three-Day Week began in December, 1973. This show’s need to fiddle with the timeline has the side effect that I am constantly wondering when we are, which is distracting and ultimately makes it feel weirdly unspecific. I don’t know that her speech was the best pay-off this episode could have, even. So!
ANYWAY! Basically, every time we cut away from The Charles and Camilla Tale — something most people who are watching The Crown are likely REALLY interested in — I felt impatient to get back to it. Even though, on its surface, the idea that the British people had to severely ration electricity in 1973 is bonkers and ostensibly pretty interesting. (That…cannot have been popular with most people.) We’re a broken record about this by this point, but I do wish Peter Morgan et al would recognize that this show would be better as a family drama; not every episode needs to have some sidebar issue with a Prime Minister. You can just tell one story.
Other notes, and then I’ll turn it over to you:
– Yes, this episode continues to wax poetic about David and Wallis, as it opens with his funeral, and Wallis telling Charles to watch out for his family. Which is, honestly, probably pretty good advice.
– I think the Chaz/Camz story is probably hard to tell in one or two episodes because in real life it was messy and complicated and people didn’t have the clearest motivations. In reality, as I understand it, Camilla sort of got tired of waiting for Chaz whilst he was deployed AND ALSO her father and mother went ahead and published the bans for her wedding to Andrew Parker Bowles without informing, er, either of them, which is A REAL MOVE. In The Crown, basically Dickie and the Queen Mum negotiate this, but who knows how it actually all played out. The show also posits that Elizabeth was in the dark about all of this and I am….kinda doubtful about that, although it’s weirdly generous of this show toward the titular crown to have her be on the side of True Love and Team Camilla.
– Truly, this show wastes SO much time showing people walking places. Once you noticed that there are SEVERAL minutes of people walking through endless hallways in every episode, you will never unsee that. Related: This episode had like NINE shots of the back of someone’s head.
– Although Erin Doherty is GREAT in this episode and I continue to be enraged we never got an episode about her being kidnapped, she also gets to utter the line, “”As long as he’s prepared for there to always be three in the marriage,” about Charles, Camilla, and Andrew Parker-Bowles. I….cannot believe Peter Morgan gave this line to Anne. He is going to need this line later for Diana, as it is AN ICONIC STATEMENT, and as much as I love Anne, can we at least give Diana her most famous line in history as her own?! (I guess I should be happy it wasn’t given to Philip.)
– Related, Anne got MARRIED in December, 1973, which also overlapped with the Three-Day Week, and the show is just….ignoring that entirely. Or until we get an All Anne Flashback Extravaganza in season four. Fingers crossed!
Over to you!