We loved writing Old School Long-Ass Recaps of The Crown, but due to our own time constraints right now, we couldn’t replicate those for season three — so we’ll still cover the fashion and interiors in the slideshow, give general reactions in this space, and then kick it to the comments. Episode 2’s post will run on Friday, Nov. 22.
And WELCOME BACK. We discussed the entire season of The Crown in broader strokes for the Extra Hot Great podcast, but in the interests of keeping this discussion contained, let’s just focus on the premiere episode of Season 3, “Olding.”
– That opening scene, with its coy nod at the change of casting, felt a little too pleased with itself for me. I thought it was uncharacteristically winky and silly. Side note: I’ve seen a number of misleading clickbait pieces headlined something like, “Wasn’t Claire Foy’s Emmy Enough For The Crown?” and “Why Did They Replace Her?” — all stories that are also trying to feed off a perception that this wasn’t planned all along, when of course it was. This was always intended as a project where the cast would turn over every two seasons, and I actually think that aspect of it is really cool. I don’t want to see Claire Foy or Vanessa Kirby in an increasingly ridiculous series of old-age prosthetics — Mandy Moore on This Is Us is bad enough — and I am definitely done with Matt Smith.
– The plot of this hour was the revelation that the new Labour prime minister is NOT, as rumored, a Russian spy — but that the trusted and admired Palace art historian, Lord Anthony Blunt, actually is. And boy do we spend a lot of time on allegorical speeches from him and far less time on actual character development of the people we knew already and want to see again. For example, there is a 5 minute cameo from John Lithgow as Winston Churchill before he dies, and Olivia Colman gets one short monologue — which puts him to sleep — and then a bunch of silent scenes to register her feelings about the loss of a giant, a mentor, and her first P.M. Meanwhile, the scene where Blunt is apprehended is by comparison endless and full of heavy words. [Note from Jessica: The Cambridge Five reference did make me want to recommend a great book about these British spies, called A Spy Among Men.]
– Tobias Menzies, to me, nails Philip’s voice and his unpredictably prickly aura.
– I think Olivia Colman does a very good job. She has more of a QEII aura to me than Foy did, physically speaking; she nails the walk and the carriage, and she holds herself a bit more removed in a way that tracks for me. Foy got juicier material, though, and I think that will color some of the inevitable comparisons. I don’t personally find one actor better than the other, and it helps that each is playing the Queen at a different phase of life. That said…
— I don’t think this episode gave us any sense of how Elizabeth has grown. She and Philip seem to be on steadier marital ground, and Colman and Menzies have a nicely warn-in feel, as if they really have been through it together and have come out the other end with a respect for and reliance upon each other — as well as a genuine affection. However, Elizabeth herself still seems impressionable and almost clumsy, especially with how she goes about digging into the wild rumor that Prime Minister Harold Wilson is a mole for the Russians. Foy did a good job portraying a new Queen trying to find her footing and eventually landing on firmer ground. Theoretically, then, Colman should feel like a more established Queen, and yet she STILL somehow seems tentative and impressionable. I’m concerned about that. It’s either lazy, or just bespeaks a general disdain for or lack of interest in the subject on the part of Peter Morgan. I personally think he is of the belief that QEII is dim.
– Helena Bonham Carter slips very easily into Margaret’s shoes. She’s incredibly compelling, and manages to be big, but never hammy (which was a slight concern of mine).
– Apparently the reason Olivia Colman doesn’t wear blue contacts (to match the Queen’s and Foy’s own eyes) is that she has “strong eyelids.” I assume they therefore kept HBC’s eyes brown so that they’d still match? I have never heard of “strong eyelids” before.
– The choice to structure this show as slices of history, rather than developing throughlines and people and feelings across each episode, makes them all feel a bit rootless to me and this was a particularly challenging dive back in — but, having said THAT, I enjoy watching this show a lot even when I have notes about it. It’s so well-rendered and rich; it’s impossible not to be swept up in it, no matter how many times I question the decisions it’s making.
Your turn! (I’ll think of a hundred other things after I publish this, of course.)