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The Crown Season 5: John C Adams Reviews

Show name: The Crown Season 5

Release date: 2023

Genre: Period drama

Starring: Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Dominic West

Studio: Netflix

Length: 10 episodes

Rating: 5/5

The Crown Season 5 is now available to preorder on Amazon. It has currently reached 1997.

Netflix digs into some pretty inconvenient places with The Crown, a period drama starting in 1947 and portraying the British royal family over the decades.

With that in mind, it didn’t surprise me to see the usual establishment figures being rolled out to criticise Season 5 ahead of its release.

I’ve watched this season several times, and my abiding view is that some pretty unpalatable truths are laid bare and people in positions of power don’t much like that.

One of the greatest pleasures for me in this season was Jonny Lee-Miller’s role as the prime minister, John Major, and Jonathan Pryce’s as the Duke of Edinburgh.

When season 5 of The Crown opens, it is 1991. The failing marriage between Charles (Dominic West) and Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) takes centre stage.

Both actors deliver sensitive portrayals of complex individuals scarred by their dysfunctional upbringing and the demands of their continuing public role.

Charles is pushing for a great role or even for his mother to step down so that he can become king immediately.

Diana is fighting her own war by cooperating with a book by Andrew Morton (Andrew Steele) detailing how bad her marriage is and how miserable she has been. Later, this is repeated on TV with the famous interview with Martin Bashir (Prasanna Puwanarajah).

Partly due to Charles’s affair and partly due to Diana’s increasingly vocal unhappiness, their marriage completely falls apart and during this season the couple move via separation to divorce.

Season 5 also considers what happens to outsiders who become proximate to the royal family and how they are treated.

Most notable in this season is Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw), self-made Egyptian businessman.

I was fascinated by the onscreen portrayal of his rise to wealth, purchase of Harrods and yearning to be accepted by the British establishment.

This was a complex process that was partly successful, at least until his son Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) started a relationship with the now divorced Diana.

The psychological development of the self-made man was intriguing.

This was shown via Al-Fayed’s purchase of the villa outside Paris where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Alex Jennings, Lia Williams) had previously lived, and his employment of the duke’s former valet Sydney Johnson (Jude Akuwudike).

In many ways, these were the elements I enjoyed most. It was sad to see Dodi and his father, knowing what would happen when Diana and Dodi died in 1997.

A third element of The Crown that was central to season 5 was the consideration of what Britain wants from its royal family.

The vagaries of the British people’s attitudes to the royal family and to individual members were laid bare here. As the queen aged, she became (at this time and after Diana’s death) less popular. People saw her as distant and stuffy, and Imelda Staunton delivers this interpretation very well.

These cycles of popularity operated alongside immense variations in the British people’s opinion of Charles, in part due to the failing marriage and Diana’s popularity.

We’re still answering the question of what we want from our monarchy here in the UK, but it was interesting to be back in the 1990s in The Crown and see it portrayed onscreen.

Much of the criticism then existed due to the failure of multiple royal marriages during this time, including three of the queen’s four children. The question also lingered about what to do with older royals like Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville) and whether a slimmed down monarchy would be more popular.

This season had a pervading aura of sadness, mostly due to knowing that Diana’s death is imminent and partly due to the concentration on failing marriages and popular criticism of various royals. However, it was full of drama and tension, perhaps more so than earlier seasons.

The usual stellar cast and wonderful locations (many of which are the actual places being used for filming) makes The Crown an amazing viewing experience that absolutely captures the history and personalities involved.

Thank you for reading my review.

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John C Adams Reviews The Crown Season 5

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