The Reel Review

A+

Season Four of The Netflix juggernaut The Crown follows the British monarchy from 1979 through 1990 – the economically turbulent 11 years of Margaret Thatcher and the debut of the people’s princess, Diana. Among the season’s highlights: the IRA assassination of Lord Louis Mountbatten; Thatcher’s history-making reign as the nation’s first female prime minister; the Charles and Diana courtship, marriage and subsequent sexual infidelities; the Falklands War; Charles and Diana’s 1983 Australian tour; Princess Margaret’s declining health; and the row between The Queen and Thatcher over South Africa’s racist policy of apartheid.

Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies in The Crown.

Among the more peculiar and revelatory episodes, however, is #5, about Michael Fagan, the man who broke into Buckingham Palace TWICE in 1982, the second time culminating in a chat with The Queen while she was still in her bed. Compared to Season Three, this season takes a bit more liberties with the facts, to show more of the personalities – in particular, the drama between Charles and Diana, and Thatcher and The Queen’s relationships with their children. Prince Andrew is particularly eyebrow raising in light of the recent Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin as Charles and Diana in The Crown.

Emma Corrin does tremendous justice to Diana, capturing her voice and mannerisms, and even a striking resemblance, especially from a distance. The royal family’s cold, businesslike approach to the  “fairytale wedding” is a heartbreaking splash of cold water to those of us who actually watched it in awe in 1981. Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher is even more astonishing, capturing Thatcher’s look, cadence and mannerisms like no one has before. Seriously, just give her all the awards now.

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher in The Crown.

The Crown is an exceptional achievement in television: a compelling story underscored by clever dialogue, impressive set design and costuming and a stirring score. There truly is nothing like it.

REEL FACTS

• Before the Royal Wedding, Diana and Camilla really did dine at a Knightsbridge restaurant called, ironically enough, Ménage à Trois.

• Biographer Charles Moore calls Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher “the only convincing performance I have seen of Mrs. Thatcher as prime minister.” Meryl Streep won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrait of Thatcher in 2011’s The Iron Lady. Olivia Colman played Thatcher’s daughter Carol in that film.

The 1981 Royal Wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

• The Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 was watched live by an estimated global TV audience of 750 million people.

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