By Lily Dolin, Staff Writer
Many people are familiar with Queen Elizabeth II, the long-reigning queen of England who ascended to the throne shortly after her father’s death in 1953. Yet, while Queen Elizabeth II is a remarkably public figure, not much is known about her personal life and experiences. Netflix’s new original series, “The Crown,” attempts to provide audiences with a glimpse into the inner life and emotions of the private sovereign. While the series gets off to a slow start, it eventually finds its groove and turns into an intriguing drama.
The show opens on Elizabeth’s father, King George (Jared Harris) bestowing titles upon her soon-to-be husband, Prince Phillip (Matt Smith). The start of the episode was a bit confusing, as the viewer gets somewhat lost among all the dukedoms and baron titles thrown around like candy at a parade. Yet, soon after this confusing start, the show transitions to the wedding of Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and Philip, which, like most of the show, is lavish and beautifully shot.
From there, the first few episodes chronicle the experiences of Elizabeth before her reign. The most interesting part of “The Crown” is seeing the relationships the future queen has with those around her, and how those relationships change as time goes on. She herself is depicted as a sweet yet stoic character, who has difficulty balancing the duties of her title with the responsibilities of her personal life. And as anyone who has watched “The Princess Diaries” knows, things become much more difficult when one is thrust into a royal situation.
Smith and Foy do a wonderful job of portraying the royal couple through their triumphs and struggles. In a time when men were expected to be the heads of the family, Prince Philip struggles in his wife’s shadow. From having the royal children take Elizabeth’s surname, to moving out of their home to live in Buckingham Palace, the couple faces disagreements and difficulties that are depicted well in the private scenes and subtle glances between the two.
Beside her personal conflicts, Elizabeth must also balance the responsibilities of the crown, which include dealing with people such as Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) and her uncle Edward VIII (Alex Jennings). While the two often counsel the young queen, they also sometimes boss her around or treat her like a child. It’s refreshing to see her respond with a satisfying mixture of poise and sass.
There are other issues underlying the series, such as the affair between Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and Equerry to the King Peter Townsend (Ben Miles), and the political struggles of Winston Churchill, but overall the focus remains on the Queen and her life. While the show is expensively made, it can be slow sometimes, relying too much on dramatic music and the forlorn stares of the characters.
Still, the series is immensely enjoyable. It might not be Netflix’s crowning achievement (pun intended), but it’s well worth the watch.
“The Crown” was released on Netflix on Nov. 4, 2016.