Review by Niamh Muldowney
With the days growing shorter and winter well and truly arriving soon, the Netflix original historical drama The Crown once again graces our screens. Now in its fourth season, The Crown follows the British Royal Family through the 1980s, while struggling to live up to the heights it reached in its first two seasons.
As always, the star studded cast is something to be admired, with Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies and Josh O’Connor all returning, and this season introducing Gillian Anderson and Emma Corrin as Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana respectively. Unfortunately, while this is a stellar cast, it is a crowded one, and as a result many of its actors do not get the proper space to shine. Thinking specifically of Bonham Carter, who only has one episode where she is able to show the breadth of her talents, and is sidelined for the rest of the season. That said, this season is passing on the torch to the younger generation of royals, with Charles and Diana’s relationship taking centre stage, giving both O’Connor and Corrin a wonderful opportunity to step into the spotlight.
While it is classified as a historical drama, The Crown plays fast and loose with the chronology of some events while omitting others in their entirety. While a certain amount of editing is to be expected, there are too many striking absences in season 4 to ignore. Namely, as an Irish viewer, I was particularly struck by the way the season dealt with the Troubles. Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister coincided with some of the most harrowing times of that period of Irish history, yet seemingly their only impact on the narrative is for the IRA to kill Lord Mountbatten (portrayed by Charles Dance) and for Thatcher to declare a war on them, as after this they are never mentioned again. This is, in fact, not the only war that Thatcher declares that is then nearly completely omitted from the screen, as the Falklands War is declared, fought and won within the span of two episodes, nearly completely away from the eyes of the viewers. While it is a cynical position to have, I cannot overlook the use of archival footage of protests from the 80s in the advertising material for the season, which seem to be there purely for shock value, as the text itself has no interest in engaging fully with the political and historical tremors of that period.
Ultimately, season four of The Crown is a spectacle, and is well worth a watch for its production and the acting talent of its core cast, but it lacks the heart of its earlier seasons. The Crown season 4 brings us very little to distinguish itself from its past seasons, and I find myself agreeing when Margaret says “how many times can this family make the same mistake,” as it seems each season brings us more or less the same dilemmas as before, never offering any new solutions.