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The first season of The crown debuted with a clear goal: to introduce us to the world of the Windsors and chart the rise of Queen Elizabeth and the decline of Winston Churchill. Since then, however, the series has struggled to regain that same level of focus. The second season stumbled on focusing on marriage. And while season three met with greater success with the “transitions” theme, it still felt a bit fractured and aimless. In a certain way, The crown is limited by the amount of interesting story that has unfolded over the span it covers each season. And the 1960s and 1970s just didn’t provide the most intriguing fodder for the series.
Fortunately, season four doesn’t need to worry about this issue. It is full of historical events and, perhaps more importantly, famous historical faces. “Gold Stick” wastes no time introducing us to two of the most famous women in modern British history: Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) and Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson). The fact that they both feature prominently on the season four poster indicated The crown knows we’re here to see them as much as to follow the ongoing Windsor family saga. And Maggie and Lady Di both get introductions suggesting The crown could aim for a new camp level this season – whether intentionally or not.
Teenager Diana makes a particularly surreal debut when she meets Charles as she adorns herself with a “crazy tree” for a school production of A midsummer night’s dream. She describes their meeting as an adorable accident, although her older sister suggests that Diana was obsessed with meeting the Prince of Wales. This tentatively raises what I suspect will be a one-season exploration of who was at fault for the ultimately disastrous pair of Charles and Diana. And this allows The crown to highlight how young Diana was when she was sucked into the orbit of the Windsor family. Because despite Charles’ continued love for the now married Camilla, he just can’t resist an eccentric Shakespeare-themed encounter. He is only human after all.
Margaret Thatcher, however, might not be. Both in look and performance, there is something almost dragging about Anderson’s theatrical and mannered take on Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Hopefully, this is a performance that she settles into (or gets used to) as the season progresses, because it’s a bit jarring in this episode. Yet Thatcher’s election provides many meaty thematic ideas for The crown deepen, particularly with regard to gender and leadership. Elizabeth is buzzing at the thought of a woman as the head of the country, though Thatcher doesn’t exactly share the same sense of brotherhood. She’s a woman in high office who believes women are too emotional to hold high office, which is a fascinating look at the hypocrisies of conservative politicians.
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Beyond Thatcher and Diana, “Gold Stick” returns directly to central Windsor family drama without much fuss. With a shorter break between seasons and the cast intact this time around, there’s less need for a recap or re-introduction. Apart from poor Anne, who seems to have gone through an entire arc (and a wedding!) Since the last time we saw her, everyone is on familiar ground: Charles feels rudderless, Philip feels aimless and Elizabeth feels limited. And then a brutal assassination turns everything upside down.
The footage interspersing Uncle Dickie’s lobster excursion with Charles fishing and Philip shooting is excruciatingly straining; a family passionate about hunting suddenly finds itself hunted. I will be curious how the streak plays out for those who are not familiar with this particular event. As usual, The crown has little interest in questioning or even contextualizing the history of Britain as an imperial power. The show’s first introduction to “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland (or anything Ireland-related, for that matter) is via a quick opening edit, then an IRA voiceover claiming the responsibility for the death of Lord Mountbatten in retaliation for “Bloody Sunday” – the 1972 Massacre in which British soldiers shot dead 26 unarmed civilians in a protest march (13 were killed). The fact that we only see one of these dramatized events certainly shows where The crownThe interest lies.
Future episodes could potentially catch up with the major conflict in Northern Ireland that was ostensibly just going off-screen throughout season three. For now, however, The crown uses Dickie’s death for more personal purposes. The assassination inspires Thatcher to display the first glimpses of the bullish and ruthless spirit that will come to define his 11-year tenure as Prime Minister. And while we don’t spend a lot of time with Elizabeth as she deals with Dickie’s death, the steely way she interprets Thatcher’s words also seems to reflect part of her own mentality.
During this time, the loss of a father figure is a blow for Philippe and especially for Charles. Father and grieving son share a tense conversation that follows their heartbreaking dynamic in the second season episode ” Landowner. » Philip is about to establish a truly empathetic bond with his son. He can acknowledge and even apologize for his resentment that Dickie had transferred his fatherly affections to Charles. But he can’t recognize his own role in why Charles desperately needed a supportive father figure in the first place. Once again, Philip’s ego is his tragic downfall.
This fatherly stalemate, coupled with the fact that Charles and Dickie were fighting at his death, prompts Charles to take drastic measures in his personal life. He sets out to respond to Dickie’s suggestion of marrying a “sweet and innocent girl, wet, no past, who knows the rules and will follow them.” Looking back, we know Charles and Diana’s match isn’t the fairytale “fresh start” that Dickie is hoping for. But when it comes to finding a princess who will be loved by the people, you can’t say Charles didn’t respond to the case.
Between Diana’s youthful spirit and Thatcher’s belief that Britain must change from top to bottom, “Gold Stick” suggests that “change” will be a major theme for the season. And for a family that doesn’t love change as much as the Windsors, it promises a fascinating battle royale for our favorite royals.
- Welcome back to The AV clubthe cover of The crown! New notices will be posted daily at 9 a.m. EST.
- One of the more interesting meta qualities of this show is watching everyone (naturally) obsessed with Charles’ future reign as king, when we know how bad that “fate” actually is.
- I love the way Olivia Colman captures the dumbest side of the Queen. Elizabeth’s excitement of guessing the members of Thatcher’s cabinet is absolutely adorable.
- The crown may have refused us Anne’s royal wedding and to failed kidnapping, but at least we get some good show jumping action.
- The title of this premiere, “Gold Stick”, refers to the ceremony position held by Lord Mountbatten. And the episode opens with an event called «Trooping the Color», which marks the Queen’s birthday every year. You can watch footage from the 1976 event here: