Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 9- Assassins

"I'm not sure I could trust a Modernist with an English name..."

There's a lot bubbling away in that troublesome marriage between Elizabeth and Phil- not least that, as he gets sloshed with his ra-ra mates, she's hanging around with her friend (and old flame), Porchy, who shares her interest in horses, an interest which Phil does not share. Things are clearly building towards a head next episode, But this episode is all about Winston.

It's November 1954, and Winston's 80th birthday is coming up, an age that suggests retirement may not be far off; Gladstone may have become Prime Minister for the fourth and final time at 83, but that's not how things are done in the twentieth century. No; we get modernist artists to do a portrait, and so the episode hangs mainly around Churchill and Graham Sutherland's conversations as Winston sits for his portrait.It's a very character-based episode, filmed largely on location at Chartwell, which gets inside the head of this gruff, eloquent, stubborn and deeply emotional man, suffused with greatness, grief and the black dog.

Churchill's pride is greatly wounded by what must feel like a personal betrayal from his protege, the ambitious and frustrated Sir Anthony Eden, as he delivers an obviously pre-prepared and deeply tactless speech urging Churchill to step down, almost openly accusing him of staying on through nothing but personal pride. The effect is precisely as you would expect.

The unveiling of the painting is the disaster we all know, but the painting has "truth" and is the ultimate catalyst of the wounded Winston at last deciding to step down. We end with scenes of the Queen speaking at a dinner for him juxtaposed with scenes of the painting being burned. The episode is a fine farewell to Churchill whom, I suspect, we shall not see again. But these scenes are also juxtaposed with scenes of Elizabeth and Phil rowing, and I suspect the finale will show a lot more of this...

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