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 6 will be covered on Monday, December 2nd.
Hello! So I jammed these two episodes together as we careen into the Thanksgiving holiday because…well, why not? Episode 4 is The One About Philip’s Mom, Princess Alice, and it might have been my favorite episode of this season, because she’s rad; Episode 5 is The One Where Mountbatten Doesn’t Go Through With a Coup Anyway and Also Elizabeth and Porchey Do Horsey Things Together and Perhaps Regret Never Having Banged. Philip is quite sympathetic in both of them and I suppose the through-line here is that I’m real grateful we’ve got Tobias Menzies handling this heavy lifting and not Matt Smith. Menzies is very, very good in this part.
Overall notes, before I kick it over to you!
On Episode 4, “Bubbikins.”
– Why on earth hasn’t anyone made a biopic about Princess Alice, Philip’s mother? She lived a truly fascinating life that encompassed literal Freud and the Nazis. This episode — wherein she comes to Buckingham Palace to live after shit gets real in Greece (and there were some extreme creative liberties taken here; in real life, both Elizabeth AND Philip invited her and she’d visited often, so the mother/child relationship was not as fraught at this point, I suspect, as implied) — is a very strong one, and I’m glad Peter Morgan paid Princess Alice her due. (At least here; later in the season, we find out that she’s dead and that news is sort of just shoved in there? My big note on this show, truly, is that its need to quasi-anthologize itself was a mistake; there is a reason that traditional TV has emotional through-lines from episode to episode. It makes for more satisfying emotional viewing. On the other hand, I am beginning to think that Peter Morgan hates feelings?) Regardless: Every scene with her is great. Jane Lapotaire is great — feisty and funny, and also, she made me want a cigarette though I do not smoke. (You may also remember her as Princess Kuragin from Downton, in which she had one of the funniest scenes of the series.)
– This Reality Show about the Royals was a real thing that Philip did and it was WAS apparently a HUGE disaster. However, this does jibe with the fact that Philip was — as we saw in the episode about the Queen’s coronation — kind of ahead of his time in knowing how to use the media for the royal family’s benefit, even if this particular scheme didn’t really play. (And it wasn’t 100% his idea; that link goes to a very interesting piece at Harper’s Bazaar in which we learn that apparently the Queen’s dear friend David Attenborough thought it might topple the monarchy. Whoops!)
– When Philip went on Meet the Press and we had to REHASH that it’s EGREGIOUS for a man to not be KING if his wife is Queen, I literally rolled my eyes so hard that I think I hurt one of them. WE. KNOW. YOU. FEEL. THIS. WAY. PETER MORGAN. Having said that, the rest of Philip’s Meet the Press gaffe — in which he worried that, yikes, they might have to move into a smaller palace!!! QUELLE HORROR — did introduce us to a (fictional) journalist for the Manchester Guardian whose shenanigans I enjoyed, although they are ALSO mostly fictional, as his interview with Princess Alice never happened at all.
– Erin Doherty, as Princess Anne, gets her first meaty scenes in this episode and she is truly, truly a delight. (The scene where Philip pages her to his office by calling for “sweetie” over the PA is a hoot, and I love how mouthy she was about how her grandmother’s convent needed more money, and how dumb the reality show was.) She is perfect in this role, and I’m really annoyed that, unless we get a flashback episode in the next season, the show has chosen to skip over the time she literally foiled her own kidnapping. Who skips this?!?! SHE. FOILED. HER. OWN. KIDNAPPING. But, you know. Gotta get more men grousing about shit into this thing!
– I do not believe this to be at all intentional, but this episode often used a piece of music which begins in a way very similar to parts of the score of the original Ghostbusters and it’s an interesting juxtaposition of mood for me.
On Episode 5, “Coup.”
– So, one of my main issues with this season is that they’re using Stuff That We Know Didn’t Come to Fruition As a Way To Gin Up Suspense. This plot about an apparent attempt to mount a coup to unseat Harold Wilson (!!!) is, obviously, wild — but we also know it didn’t come to pass, and feels mostly useful to me as a way to remind everyone who Lord Mountbatten is, so that we’re moved when he is later assassinated, something I ALSO thought would come to pass during this season, but we miss it by a couple of years so it must be on tap. Charles Dance is perfect as a wily old schemer, though, and the final scene of the Queen chewing him out is great. (Apparently, in real life, Mountbatten was really not down for this coup as much as the show implied, but perhaps more down for it than he later claimed he was.) (But like seriously, the Queen was never going to support this coup, you ding dongs. Let her go look at racehorses in peace for five minutes, you’re worse than her children.)
– I have to confess that I am not particularly interested in all this blah blah blah about the finances of the ministry of defense or whatever and I zoned out a bit in parts here, beyond thinking, “wow, this coup idea is wild, people are nuts and have always been nuts.” I think this storyline also suffered from a major problem this show has, which is that it introduces people to the plot but NEVER tells us who the hell they are. When a bunch of old white British guys are complaining but I have no real grasp on who they are, it makes it hard to figure out the impact of their complaints. Are they important? Are they crackpots? Are they important crackpots? Does this show need chyrons like they use when Real Housewives have a friend at a party who’s about to play an important role in the drama, just so I know if what this person says has any weight? People should not need to have to cross-reference IMDb and Wikipedia just to watch a TV show.
– Heather pointed out that Charles Dance would have been MORE perfect as Old Philip whenever that recast happens, and now I am very bummed out that isn’t going to come to pass. Look at him. HE’S PERFECT. (As she also pointed out, he is not similar at all in vibe to Willoughby — er, Greg Wise — and so this casting is a little wonky to me in general despite the fact that he’s very good from an acting standpoint.)
– This episode has some of Olivia Colman’s best work; she nails that lingering sense of regret about how her life might have been if she hadn’t been queen, and instead got to be a Horsey Lady who was potentially married to Porchey Porchester; that scene where she confesses to him that she’s getting a glimpse of “the unlived life” and how much happier she might have been in that life, with him, is lovely. I also really bought the final scene of this episode, wherein Philip is mildly jealous that she and Porchey went off together, and she mildly likes it, and they (it is implied) then go upstairs and Do It. Colman and Menzies are GREAT in that exchange — the entire back 15 minutes of this episode are, in general, really good.
– I did laugh out loud when PM Wilson is like, “we have to devalue the pound and I’m HUMILIATED and it’s a NIGHTMARE!!” and Elizabeth’s response is like, “hmmm? Oooh, I forgot to tell you, I’m leaving the country with this man I’m a weeeee bit hot for to look at racehorses! Talk to my mom!!” Apparently, she was gone for a month! I cannot imagine that would fly nowadays.
– Also great is when Dickie goes to see Princess Alice — aha! These episodes are well-paired — and she finds it hilarious that the Queen chewed him out and when he informs her that the country is in a MUDDLE, she just takes a drag on her cigarette and says, “ah. Who cares?” and essentially tells him that the great thing about being old is that you don’t have to worry too much about shit because you’ll be dead soon enough as it is.