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TV Review: The Crown (Season 2)

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The Crown made its return to Netflix on Friday, for the last season with the original cast in their royal roles, before they are all aged up for the next era of Elizabeth II's reign.

Happily, the season provided a fitting swan song for the talented actors at its core, as well as a thoroughly enjoyable ten hours of TV.

Season Two follows a much less linear pattern than Season One, on it's path from the 1956 Suez crisis to the birth of Prince Edward in 1964, each episode focuses on important moments within the chronology, usually with regards to a specific character. This new emphasis on character development works very well for certain characters - especially Prince Phillip and Princess Margaret, who benefit from the extra screen time this season as we get to understand their complicated histories.

The Queen seems remarkably removed from the whole thing at times, but I think that actually works quite well - after all, we've never known who Elizabeth II really is; she is simply The Crown and the Netflix drama plays that just right. This episodic format, where a story arc is introduced and resolved by the end of the episode works extremely well and allows specific episodes to stand out on their own as well as being important for the overall narrative arc. 

The actors, are, as in the first season, simply superb. Claire Foy need never say a single word - her eyes and facial expressions do all the talking for her. You can tell exactly what she is thinking by just one single pointed look. She will undoubtedly be missed next season, though Olivia Colman is sure to do a fantastic job as her replacement. Whilst Foy is not as front and centre this season as she was in the first, she still has some standout moments. Moments between Elizabeth and Margaret are particularly engaging, with the dynamic between the two sisters remaining incredibly interesting as Foy and Kirby bounce off one another.

My personal favourite moment of Foy's however, comes in the sixth episode of the season, when Elizabeth faces off against her Uncle, the former Edward VIII, after his connections to the Nazis during the Second World War are revealed. It's one of the most powerful and best acted scenes of the entire second season and shows how much the Queen has grown in her role since the first season.

Matt Smith and Vanessa Kirby also continue to stun in the second season. Kirby in particular is given a more meaty storyline this season and really shines in the few episodes focusing on her and her new beau, Antony Armstrong-Jones (played brilliantly by the ever charming Matthew Goode.) The chemistry between the two is palpable and it's a joy to watch the both of them play off each other. Meanwhile, Smith gets to strike out on his own a little more this season, with Philip's childhood coming to the fore of certain episodes, but it is the scenes focusing on the tensions in Philip and Elizabeth's marriage in which he truly shines the most.

The costuming and set design, as with the last season, are truly stunning. This show has the biggest budget of any of the Netflix originals, but they use it extremely well. The sets are lavish without being over the top and the costumes are truly fit for royalty, with any number of stunning dresses being worn throughout the season, by both the Queen and Princess Margaret. The cinematography is also applaudable, with every scene beautifully shot. By the end of the series, you will have lost track of the sheer number of stunning visuals.

The Kennedys - this season's most highly anticipated guest stars - sadly fall a little flat among the season's grander strengths. Their episode is one of the weaker of the season, and I think this is purely down to a choice of actors. Michael C.Hall's JFK feels overplayed, especially with regards to his accent, and whilst Jodi Balfour's Jackie is better, she still feels out of place - though perhaps this is the point the show is trying to make. 

Prince Charles starts to take more of a role in Season 2, particularly in the episode "Paterfamilias", in which his childhood at Gordonstoun is contrasted with his father's. One of my personal favourites of the season, this episode shows a real emotional depth and allows us to see the relationship between father and son that we had, up to this point, been unable to really explore. It will be interesting, in future seasons, to see how The Crown balances its ever expanding cast, whilst still retaining The Queen at the centre of it all, but if this season is anything to go by, it won't be a problem at all.

Season Two also sees Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan (played by Jeremy Northam and Anton Lesser respectively) step into the spotlight, as the second and third of Elizabeth's Prime Ministers. Both are rather forgettable, when compared to the performance of John Lithgow as Winston Churchill in Season One, but that is rather the point. Neither could live up to the heights of Churchill, and Macmillan's tenure in particular provides us with an extremely satisfying confrontation between the Queen and Macmillan which sees Claire Foy at her scolding best.

This series expands the international scope of the series, which is all well and good, but despite the large, lavish production values, it is the small, intimate, emotional moments in which the show, and the actors, truly shine.

Some episodes may be stronger than others this season, but overall, the second season of the Netflix drama is a right royal triumph.

The Crown: Season 2 is available to stream on Netflix.




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