The Crown: Season 1 Review
“The Crown,” one of the many new Netflix original series, has gained quite a bit of popularity since its premier last month on November 4th, 2016. The show illustrates the life of Queen Elizabeth II, beginning with her sudden rise to power in 1952 after the unexpected death of her father -- King George VI. Each season is set to showcase a decade of her reign, the first season focusing on the struggles that Queen Elizabeth faces as a young monarch of a mature nation in post-WWII decline. The royal title proves difficult on all fronts, causing infighting amongst the royal family and tension between the Queen and the Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill.
Americans seem to love their British TV, with shows such as “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock” taking the nation by storm at the time of their respective state-side debuts. “The Crown” is no exception and has gained a following not only by exposing Americans to those adored accents, but by opening a window into British culture.
“The Crown” brings a unique approach to monarchy in the modern world that is not widely discussed in the United States. In America, monarchy has the connotation of colonial times, oppressive English control, eliciting thoughts of King Arthur and Game of Thrones. Rarely does it bring to mind the idea of an ancient, divine institution working hand in hand with the modern democratic government to run a nation seeking to hold on to its royal tradition. However, that is exactly when “The Crown” is about. Aside from it being a historical drama highlighting the life and accomplishments of the longest reigning monarch in England’s history, it is a demonstration of a culture rich in both ritual and progression.
Many of the episodes begin with scenes from Queen Elizabeth’s childhood, one of which takes place in season 1, episode 7. The episode opens with young Elizabeth sitting in a private lesson in Eton College on the structure and details of the constitution. The day’s lesson focuses on the two components of the English rulership -- the “dignified” (the monarch) and the “efficient” (the democratically elected Parliament and Prime Minister) -- and the mutual trust that is the foundation of the relationship between the two pillars of governance. “The Crown” showcases this unique relationship between the monarchy and democracy, two seemingly polar political ideologies that, in England, come together as the bridge between tradition and modernity.
There is not only partnership, but also struggle between the two foundations. This trend of old v.s. new runs throughout the show, and is expressed in the relationships between the characters and the conflicts that arise in the plot. The connection between Winston Churchill, the 77 year old Prime Minister trying to hold on to his WWII glory days, and Queen Elizabeth, a 25 year old monarch doing her best to fill the void left by her father, proves to be a bit choppy, symbolizing the fact that while there is a partnership, there exists also a clash between tradition and modernity. In the middle of season 1, the issue of Queen Elizabeth’s sister’s right to marry a divorced man - an act which goes against the values laid out by the Church of England - arises, forcing Queen Elizabeth to choose between keeping the ancient customs in place, and taking a step in a more forward thinking direction.
“The Crown” is much more than a TV show, but serves just as well as a source of entertainment and escape. The first ten episodes are on Netflix now, and with finals season fast approaching, there doesn’t seem like a better time to get hooked on a new series.