Ambitious and controversial: The Crown season 4 takes a daring turn

Season 4 is a seismic shift from safer climes to a daring, icy wilderness fit for bewildering times.

By Adam Newman |

The Crown has become a household name for being the show that made Netflix. Its ambitious retelling of 20th Century British royal and political history was a bold move which was rewarded with rave reviews that helped turn Netflix from a fringe website to the epicentre of the television industry.

Season 3 was no exception to the show’s daring approach, with an entire cast, crew, and even music producer moved out in exchange for a team reflective of the change in time and age. The show seemed to have become so dominant by this point that it appeared to have taken on an air of being the historical authority in retelling royal and political drama.

Season 4, in line with the show’s daring demeanour, has taken a different approach once more, but not one any of us were expecting.

The season portrays blockbuster characters such as Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) as they enter the royal arena. These two characters dominate the series.  Diana commands the limelight, leading to battles with Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor). Thatcher constantly battles with the Queen (Olivia Colman) over her dominance as well, which spills out to the public causing serious concerns among both Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

‘This change in direction is certainly raising eyebrows’

The season is certainly the most ambitious and controversial, and it shows a potential fundamental flaw with the Crown’s concept. Peter Morgan, the show’s screenwriter, now needs to decide the best path between two very steep cliffs. Should the Crown continue as a purely fictionalised interpretation? Should it continue to draw focus to the key aspects of the Queen’s reign in a fairly balanced perspective? So far, it seems Morgan has managed to marry the two, bringing to the front sometimes forgotten events like Aberfan (Series 3) that made the Royal Family what it is today. However, if this series is anything to go by, it seems like Morgan may now be trying to reclaim the dramatic interpretation route. This change in direction is certainly raising eyebrows, especially considering how close the show is getting to our current time frame, in which the monarchy in reality is providing considerable controversy with Princes Andrew and Harry notably making headlines.

The series was brilliant in its depictions of both Princess Diana, and Margaret Thatcher and the accents were almost identical to the real-life characters. As stated, the show’s nearing to our current times has meant more scrutiny, notably, on Corrin and Anderson’s interpretations or impersonations. However, the acting felt very acute and brought new light on these characters.

Overall, the show feels like it’s starting to struggle with which path it wants to go down in terms of attempting to be historically empirical or theatrically interpretive, and its entrance to modernity has led to some criticism of its approach. Nevertheless, this season felt like it built on and improved from the last three, and continues to question genre norms and test performance boundaries.