After a two-year wait, Peter Morgan’s show, largely focused on the British Royal Family, is back for its fifth season on Netflix.
The show returned this week with a new cast, focusing upon the fortunes and scandals faced by the monarchy in the 1990s, and has already been criticized for its historical accuracy, or lack thereof.
Imelda Staunton fills the role of the show’s latest and final Queen, playing the monarch in her late 60s. She did a splendid job acting the part, seeming as a perfect fit for the role following Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman. In this season Queen Elizabeth II copes with the declining image of the royal family and the country’s movement towards the Labour Party. Staunton combines regality and humanity, her depiction of the Queen is powerful but also more approachable, letting out tears once whilst remaining strong-willed and dedicated to her duty.
This season is more focused on Charles and Diana who are played by Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki, allowing the Queen to fade into the background as their marriage breaks down and struggles to unfold. A few of the episodes are centered around entirely new characters, tying together the al-Fayed family with King Edward VIII’s valet and later on portraying Fayed’s son Dodi as Diana’s love interest.
Diana’s interview with the BCC, which is widely considered her revenge interview, is linked to an assassination attempt on the royal family, known as the Guy Fawkes plot.
There is a strong overbearing presence of metaphors alluding to changing times, one of the main examples being from an episode when new satellite TVs are installed in the place and the Queen says to her grandson, William, “Even the televisions are metaphors around here.”
There is also an attempt by the current King to overthrow his mother in a conspiracy with the new Prime Minister, John Major. This remains one of the major plotlines of the series this season but it has been widely criticized by Royalists who state it is entirely false and incredibly damaging to the monarchy. In reality, there was no poll that was hostile towards the royal family and there was no such conspiracy. This has been shrugged off as entertainment and Morgan has admitted that his writing does not reflect reality. Many still continue to argue that since people generally do believe whatever they see on television this would directly impact the royal family’s reputation, but argue the family will survive this, what they call ‘blitzkrieg’. Furthermore, one of the episodes is also centered around the cold war and how the Queen dealt with Yeltsin.
Moving back to West and Debicki, they both fill their roles with incredibly strong screen presence and command their characters well. West’s take on Charles is different from the previous performances, he does a fine job of getting across his role. However, Debicki stole the show by her acting as Diana, filling the roles’ physical and emotional requirements perfectly. Morgan’s writing shows that he doesn’t have as good of a grasp on these two, as he did on Elizabeth, Phillip, and Margaret in previous seasons because he doesn’t fully understand the depth and complexity behind their situation. Presenting their devastating story, competing moments, and scandals with intelligence and detail but failing to develop their characters as individuals, leaving them somewhat shallow.
Lastly, Hamayun Saeed joins the cast for two episodes in his role as a doctor who becomes Diana’s love interest. Overall, he has received praise from the Pakistani industry for his role but fans were taken aback by a scene in which he shares a kiss with Debecki.
Regardless of the criticism, the season has not even been out for a whole week yet, and has already surpassed 1.1 million streams in the UK alone! Showing just how successful of a franchise it truly is.
Cover photo source via Netflix