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THE CROWN: S6 - Part 1

November 16, 2023 / Netflix

Starring: Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville, Dominic West, Olivia Williams, Bertie Carvel, Claudia Harrison, Marcia Warren, Khalid Abdalla, Salim Daw, Elizabeth Debicki

Directed By: Peter Morgan

A relationship blossoms between Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed before a fateful car journey has devastating consequences.

Prince William tries to integrate back into life at Eton in the wake of his mother’s death as the monarchy has to ride the wave of public opinion. As she reaches her Golden Jubilee, the Queen reflects on the future of the monarchy with the marriage of Charles and Camilla and the beginnings of a new Royal fairytale in William and Kate.

Written By Darren

Rating 3 out of 5

The Crown begins its final season with the final weeks of Princess Diana’s life before her tragic passing with a once again brilliant performance from Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana, but it is the improvement in the writing over the previous season that should end the beloved Netflix series on a strong note.

When The Crown introduced Princess Diana to the series in its fourth season, the show changed forever. What used to be a fascinating look at the life of Queen Elizabeth II at significant events during her reign became a show about the struggle between the traditions of the monarchy and the change and future that Princess Diana represented. It was unavoidable, as you can’t tell Queen Elizabeth II’s story without telling Princess Diana’s, and the fourth season delivered the series' best season to date as viewers watched the fairytale romance that took the world by storm slowly disintegrate. However, the fifth season saw a massive drop in quality as the show neared Princess Diana’s death as the writers struggled to find the balance between the dramatic fracturing of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s marriage (failing to make it anywhere near as dramatic as it actually was at the time) and appeasing the Royal Family who did not want their scandals aired for the world to re-experience. Though, the first part of the sixth season had the most challenging task: telling the story of Princess Diana’s death. It was a pivotal moment not only for the monarchy, but for the world as they had fallen in love with Princess Diana, and this start to the series’ final season is an improvement over the previous season while handling the end of Princess Diana’s story with the grace she deserved.

The first part of the final season of The Crown follows Princess Diana and the Royal Family in the eight weeks leading up to Princess Diana’s tragic death and the monarchy’s response to the events that unfolded in Paris. In doing so, the writers focus for the majority of the first three episodes on Princess Diana and her sons, leaving the rest of the Royal Family in the background. The writing highlights Princess Diana’s unwavering love for her sons and her dedication to being the mother that Prince William and Prince Harry deserved, creating a touching characterization of Diana. It’s hard to not watch these episodes without getting a lump in your throat, knowing that you are about to witness her death, especially when she shares what you know is the last conversation that her sons will ever have with her. At the same time, the writers find the best use of Princess Diana versus Prince Charles in the media which creates the rich narrative viewers expected during the fifth season. The final episode sees the focus shift back to the Royal Family as Queen Elizabeth II steers the family through the media storm following Princess Diana’s death, harkening back to the narrative mold created in the first three seasons of the series: showing a specific event unfold and how it was handled by and effected the Royal Family.

While watching this story unfold, it quickly becomes evident the position the writers are taking on Princess Diana’s death, and where they suggest the cause of it lies. Though I would never expect the writers to address the varying theories about what happened in Paris all those years ago, their approach to the events glosses over Princess Diana’s passing as it lays it out a very cut and dry explanation. Not helping is the appearance of the ghost of Princess Diana who speaks to Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II after her passing, in two very unnatural feeling sequences. I am not sure why the writers felt so inclined to write these moments, as despite them helping to convey the public response to these events to both the Royal Family and viewers, sadly they feel disrespectful to Princess Diana after how the Royal Family treated her over the years. It's hard to imagine Prince Charles breaking down at the sight of Princess Diana and exclaiming he had regrets as the series suggest, especially after what he put Princess Diana through both during and after their marriage ended. No doubt it's an emotional time for him, but this felt like a step too far by the writers.

As with the fifth season, the highlight is Elizabeth Debicki’s performance as Princess Diana. Debicki effortlessly captures the sparkle to Princess Diana that made the entire world fall in love with her with the elegant way she carries herself on camera and the facial expressions that evokes the spirit of Princess Diana, but there is a yearning and sorrow beneath the glamourous exterior that truly brings the character to life. It’s in these quieter moments out of the public eye where Debicki truly shines as Princess Diana, instantly reminding the audience of the powerhouse performances that made the first four seasons of The Crown one of the best original series on Netflix. The rest of the cast is good, but with these episodes hyper focused on Princess Diana, there is little screen time for any of them to shine, including Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II. But with six more episodes still to come in December to wrap up the final season, these cast members will no doubt soon get their time to shine in front of the camera.

As The Crown prepares to bid farewell to audiences after telling the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, the first part of the final season closes the chapter on the Princess Diana storyline. Once again Elizabeth Debicki shines as Princess Diana in a truly excellent performance, but there is a significant improvement in the overall writing of the first four episodes that harkens back to the early greatness of The Crown, even if the view of the story is clearly biased.

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