‘Gloriana’ feels as though it’s been constructed as the series finale to a different programme.
Consider the ending of the show. Elizabeth’s final scene, now named Elizabeth Regina rather than Elizabeth Windsor, feels like it’s supposed to be this great milestone; akin, perhaps, to the first time a superhero puts on their costume and takes on their secret identity. It’s presented as the culmination of all that’s gone before it, with ‘Gloriana’ having marked a significant change from what’s gone before it.
And yet it hasn’t, really.
‘Gloriana’ is very much more of the same – and even then, it’s a pale imitation of what’s gone before. You could fairly easily dismiss this episode as “’Gelignite’ again, except not as good”. Because that is basically what it is; a new caveat is introduced to the law that previously prevented Margaret and Peter Townsend from marrying, presenting Elizabeth once more with the same conundrum she faced previously. (Nevermind, of course, that we’ve seen Elizabeth established as a well versed constitutional scholar by this point; The Crown treats her character as an essentially blank slate throughout, though, meaning she’s malleable enough to now be ignorant of her area of expertise.)
Again, Elizabeth returns to the same fundamental tension we’ve seen returned to over and over again this series – this time quite literally, given it’s a conflict that has already played out. Again, the same conclusion is reached – the Crown must win out. And, again, nothing new is added to the drama.
It’s disappointing. Of course it is. A series finale should not be a rehash of what’s happened before; yes, it should take a holistic approach to the series at large, but don’t simply repeat what’s gone on before. It left a bitter taste in the mouth – not because it was bad, per se, just fundamentally unsatisfying. The Crown ended not with a bang, but rather just barely a muffled whimper.
With The Crown having drawn to a close, unlikely to return until late 2017 at the earliest, it begs reflection on the series as a whole. It’s difficult to say it worked, exactly; the series was often an entirely surface level affair, unwilling ever to engage with any particular nuance to the issues it presented. Indeed, this often lead simply to repetition of old ideas and old themes, and a general inability to advance new ideas.
And yet where the writing failed, the acting and production values would reliably pick up the slack. Of course it did – allegedly $100m was spent on each episode, a hefty sum that could certainly meet the requirements of this royal drama. And, naturally, with a cast including John Lithgow, Jared Harris, Matt Smith and Claire Foy, the performances were always going to be excellent.
Going forward, what does The Crown need to hold in mind? Above all, it must be nuance. This first series gave us ten hours of content – and regularly struggled to fill them properly. A genuine effort within the writing to consider a wider variety of perspectives and possibilities must be made, otherwise The Crown will only continue to flounder.
All 10 episodes are available to watch on Netflix now.
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