Saturday, November 5, 2016

CastleDrama: The Crown - Season 1, Episode 3

An all important question up first: How can I be on episode three of "The Crown" and not talked about the opening score yet? It's one of the great shames of this blog! It's amazing - I mean, they got Hans Zimmer involved and basically everything musically epic these days he has his hands in. A round of applause, please.

Warning: This certainly contains spoilers (as does history)

The first episode of "The Crown" was good, the second was great. Both beautfifully shot and emotionally involving, the third episode, however, proves to be a bit of a disppointment. It's all about names: Cookie (Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), Shirley Temple (Queen Elizabeth II) and the all important one of the royal family, Windsor - and not Mountbatten as Prince Philip learns the hard way. "What kind of marriage is this?" he asks at one point. "You’ve taken my career from me, you’ve taken my name and you’ve taken my home. I thought we were in this together."

We start the episode in the year 1936 though with a flashback to the abdication of King Edward VII, the day young Elizabeth's life would change forever as her father becomes King. 16 years on, her uncle is back in town for the funeral of his brother and no one is thrilled. Over discussing funeral seating plans Queen Elizabeth and her mother and grandmother have a hard time deciding where to put the unwanted relation. The Queen Mother doesn’t want him anywhere near her, "I’m sorry, I know he’s your son", she says to her mother-in-law, who replies, "A son who gave up the throne and effectively killed my other son." Welcome to the world of Windsors! The first meeting between Queen Mary and the Duke of Windsor is also awkward to say the least - Queen Mary: "He [King George] really was the perfect son." Ouch.

The Duke of Windsor isn't much of a nice man either with his little nicknames for everyone in the family. The Queen is "Shirley Temple", the Queen Mother "Cookie" and Prince Philip is described as "the foundling". He also pens the nastiest letter I have ever heard when writing to his wife Wallis after meeting everyone calling his family "a bunch of ice-flamed monsters", "dumpy and plain", "joyless and loveless". Ladies and gentlemen, we have our villain. A villain we can kinda understand though, it may be one of the best portrayals of the Duke of Windsor yet. The show paints him with some sympathy, but at the same time as opportunistic and manipulative. After all, he's basically back in town to secure more money for himself.

Speaking off "the foundling" though... While Elizabeth is off to arrange her father's funeral, all Philip can do is stay at Clarence House - "the only home I ever had" - look after the kids and make sure the curtains have the right fabric spending 70,000 in the process. At least his children still have his name at this point in time. And so he briefs his wife prior to her first audience with Prime Minister Winston Churchill that they shall remain Mountbattens and that Clarence House will also be their residence. The Queen isn't sure she can convince her Prime Minister "I am nobody", she says to which her husband replies, "You are the Queen of England", as well as a few dozen other places, I may add.

The audience with Winston Churchill is off to a rocky start as he lectures the Queen that he will not sit down or have a tea in order not to waste time - something apparently established by Queen Victoria. Things also don't go in favour of Elizabeth after that. Churchill wants to delay her coronation. He's also not in favour of the House of Mountbatten one day coming to the throne. Nobody is, really. Apart from Philip maybe and, of course, his uncle Dickie, Lord Mountbatten who even makes a toast about it at a shooting party a day after the royal funeral. Cue Prince Ernst-August of Hanover - who immediately visits Queen Mary to tell her all about it, after discussing the deliciousness of German food first. Somehow though they make SpƤtzle sound like Prussian food - wrong end of Germany, I really hope the real life royals knew better!

But back to the name thing. Elizabeth manages to convince Churchill - or pressure rather - to bring the matter before cabinet. But they won't hear any of it - also not of them staying at Clarence House. Churchill though isn't the one to break the news to the Queen - that job is onto the Duke of Windsor. (Did this really happen?) The unloved uncle actually apologises to Elizabeth for abdicating and thus depriving her of a normal life - well, after she asks him to and what can you do after that. Still, she somehow asks him to be an advisor. (Again, did this really happen?) Thus far, the show did a great job at portraying things that could have happened around the time - not saying they did - but some of these storylines seem to be a bit of a stretch.

Elizabeth then breaks the news to Philip, cue his rant about what kind of marriage they are having. Well, one where the wife is also the head of state. Welcome to royal husbandhood! Also happening this episode: More smooches between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend, Philip almost catching them and Philip wanting to learn to fly. Too bad the Duke of Windsor has left again though. Alex Jennings' performance was about the only thing that kept this partly lacklustre episode together.

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