The obvious next step, of course, considering the established themes of The Crown – responsibility and duty taking priority over love and autonomy – is to show us the royal who shirked the former in pursuit of the latter; the man who, in his own words, couldn’t handle the responsibility.
Prince, formerly King, Edward (here portrayed by Alex Jennings) is an individual who held a key role in the political developments of Britain in the 20th Century – it’s no particular surprise that he’s showing up here. Edward is an interesting character, who manages to be both sympathetic yet utterly self-serving; while it’s difficult not to feel sorry for him, it’s very clear that he’s very self-motivated, in a way quite unlike the rest of the royals. One very much gets the impression, however, that this is how Elizabeth wants to act, were it not for the weight of the crown…
… which provides another interesting wrinkle in the dynamic these two characters share. Were it not for Edward’s abdication, Elizabeth would never have found herself in the line of succession; Edward’s act of self-interest deprived Elizabeth of all subsequent choices. One of the most powerful moments of the episode – and perhaps the series thus far as a whole – was Elizabeth’s simple request for an apology from Edward. An apology he gave, and an apology that still managed to feel genuine despite everything; there’s a sense that, between these two characters, there’s a level of understanding that wouldn’t be shared elsewhere.
There’s an interesting dynamic between Elizabeth and Philip developing too, as it becomes increasingly clear that each is an unwilling participant who’d much rather be playing the role held by the other. Claire Foy and Matt Smith both give fantastic performances, really labouring the subtlety and nuance of the point; this is a program that pays great attention to detail, and it’s often it’s greatest strength. Unlike many other Netflix shows, The Crown benefits from having a strong internal narrative within each episode; we’re not facing constant cliffhangers, but one full story each episode. It’s a strength of this show, and it sets it apart from many of the other Netflix originals.
At the same time, though – is it possible that these episodes are perhaps a little too long? Is a full hour necessary to go over the minutiae of Elizabeth’s surname? Undoubtedly, the show handles it well, and there’s some impressive character work threaded throughout the episode. And yet one is inclined to wonder whether the same could be achieved in fifty minutes, or even forty-five; it feels at times as though something more is needed to properly fill The Crown’s hour runtime.
Regardless, though, ‘Windsor’ is another decent instalment of The Crown, which bodes well for the future. At the same time, though, it indicates a need for some new ideas to be injected into the show – there are only so many angles that the idea of duty can be examined from, and it seems that The Crown could be beginning to run out.
All 10 episodes are available to watch on Netflix now.
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