Directed by Benjamin Carow, Christian Schowchow, Jessica Hobbs, Sam Donovon
This is the actual game of thrones. The Crown, now in its third magnificent season, tells us how infuriatingly tragic and absurd the life of the royalty, the British royalty if you must know, seems when seen through the eyes of a non-judgmental camera.
Here is a televised drama that fights shy of over-dramatisation. Each episode creates a self-contained universe manoeuvred by emotions that seem to mock at our incessant curiosity about how royalty lives. The tone of narration is as dry as the Queen’s letter of condolence to the morning Irish town of Aberfan in one of the episodes.
“Did you weep?” is the Queen’s rather ridiculous question to her sensible and wise husband Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) after he returns from a first-hand tour of the unspeakable tragedy.
As played by Olivia Colman, Queen Elizabeth 2 is a woman in a supreme position of power who cannot demonstrate her emotions unless on-demand. Forever threatened by the sheer bohemianism of her sister Margaret (who is the Asha Bhosle to the Queen’s Lata Mangeshkar) the Queen is more a nagging enigma than a startling revelation. This could have something to do with Ms Colman’s innate personality. I’ve always found her conveying an intellectual anxiety , a kind of constant bewildered self-questioning , that is not quite what the Queen is meant to convey.
I thought Helena Bonham Carter’s Margaret to be a much more curvy character and accomplished performance, although much of her notorious hedonism seem like gestures of defiance against a destiny that placed her at No.2 in British royalty (like Asha Bhosle’s writhing scandalous cabaret songs). Bonham-Carteer nails the character.
But the real revelation of Season 3 is Josh O’Connor. As the slouching, anguished, overshadowed heir-apparent Josh confirms he is the finest young British actor we have today. He brings to his royal role a sense of looming tragedy underscored by a strong sense of self-preservation.
The performances are all so staggeringly hued, it’s hard to not feel for all of them. The narrative gives each of the occupants at Buckingham Palace a chance to emerge from the edifying shadows where history has placed them. I specially liked Jason Watkins’ Harold Wilson. Watkins imbues the British prime minister with a sense of earthy warmth to counter the excess of royal stiff-upper-lip service that he must negotiate every time he visits the Queen.
I came away with my favourite moments in Season 3. The one that stands out is on Winston Churchill’s death bed where the Queen breaks protocol and gently plants a kiss on the dying statesman’s forehead.
There is really nothing one can fault in the near-portrait of the British royalty, except perhaps the coarse caricatural characterisation of the American president Lyndon B Johnson. If this isn’t British aristocratic snobbery, then what is? Is the royal family really the way it is shown in this series? If not, then they ought to be.