Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 5: Smoke and Mirrors

"Borrow it, Ma'am? From whom? If it's not yours, whose is it?"

And so we come to the coronation, that watershed in British television history where a ceremony both elitist and inclusive (Phil let the TV cameras in) finally made telly a true mass medium. It was also, as we see here, a battle of wills between, inevitably, tradition- the Dukes of Norfolk have arranged all coronations since James II- and the radical modernising zeal of, er, Prince Philip. In 1953 he was very much the outsider, and has the fear of revolution of a continental royal..

It;s nice, then, that we begin with a flashback to 1937, as George VI lets little Lilibet help him with practising for his big day. It's also a brilliant showcase for David as a character- forbidden from the event, he may host a small party in Paris, mocking the ceremony as it is screened, but he is not so cynical as he seems; he is wounded that he never lasted long enough to have a coronation of his own.

This is also the point where Queen Mary dies, a very present link with the Victorian past. The same could be said of Churchill, who now sits during his audiences with the Queen. But the centrepiece is the ceremony itself, much of which is simply shown as was, complete with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Ronald Pickup) fluffing his lines. It's a deeply moving and powerful piece of mumbo-jumbo. But we end with Elizabeth and Philip's marriage in an awkward place.

More very good drama, as we can expect from Netflix. The Crown is, perhaps, in the "very good" caegory rather than being one of the all-time greats, but at the halfway point I'm very much enjoying it.

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