“The Crown” was very exciting when it first took off, mainly because it mixed the personal life of the Queen with historic events. While there were certainly invented conversations among people long since dead, you at least had the feeling you were inside chapters that had a consistency and connection to facts.
As the series proceeded, you knew we were eventually going to be clobbered with the Charles and Diana story. Now we have, in the first four episodes of the final season. Everything else is abandoned. It appears that for the first ten months of 1997, nothing else happened except how Diana hooked up with Dodi Fayed and wound up dead.
The problem is, we’ve seen it all before, in dozens of TV movies, in theatrical movies, over and over. Bringing in fine, appealing, well trained actors like Dominic West and Elizabeth Debiki doesn’t change the story. The only interesting part of these four episodes is actor Salim Daw as Mohamed Al Fayed and Khalid Abdallaas as Dodi. In “The Crown” version of the story, the father is determined for his son to make Diana his wife. Daw is riveting as the Machiavellian puppet master of his dimwitted playboy son who already has a fiancee, but ditches her upon instruction.
In this way, the Fayeds are the monsters and manipulators. Charles is a good guy who can’t believe what’s going on. Diana is depicted as a sad sack, depressed about her life, aimless in romance, dithering about until it finally dawns on her that the Fayeds are using her. By then, it’s too late and winds up in the tunnel.
As for the death scene, “The Crown” handles it very tastefully. Don’t worry, there are no bloody moments in the car as it swerves in the tunnel. Charles — who by now is turned into a hero, which is ridiculous — flies to Paris to ID the body and he’s so sad that the women he cheated on for years is finally out of the way. The whole thing is beyond belief. What follows is a lot of hogwash, as the clueless Queen fails to address the country about Diana. I was in London at this time, and the public was furious. You get a little of that, but sympathetically from the Palace point of view. (Really, Charles should send Peter Morgan a Bentley for rehabilitating him this way.)
The press reviews are only supposed to be for Part 1, the first four episodes. I can tell you, entre nous, that if you wait til episode 6, “The Crown” reasserts itself as something other than this annoying daytime drama. Imelda Staunton and Jonathan Pryce, as Elizabeth and Philip, rise to the occasion of history. If only more of that had been in the first batch, with this sideshow as only that and not the main story.