The Crown Season 2 Review: A Fine Sendoff to The Early Years

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It was never going to be an easy job to tell the tale of Queen Elizabeth II.

With the way we now know the creators of The Crown have mapped out the six-season saga, switching the cast every two years as the characters age, they'd be hard-pressed to lure in a cast of the caliber they need without the promise of adequately representing all of the characters in some detail.

Also important to note is the series is The Crown and not The Queen. 

Her Prince Charming

Distinguishing the difference in titles reminds you to focus on how we're getting to know Queen Elizabeth. While our desires might be to know the woman under the crown, the heavy burden of carrying it is all-encompassing once she bears the responsibility of wearing it.

It's a duty passed to Elizabeth by nothing more than luck of her birth, and she never fails to remember that.

There are several crushing ways in which the weight of the crown seems to crush Elizabeth.

Because she hasn't earned the right to wear the crown, Elizabeth never quite seems to acknowledge the authority it gives her. At the same time, any authority from the crown is useful only when the government gives her the power to use it.

Marriage in Turmoil

Even still, Elizabeth struggles with whether she has the right education and background, whether she stands up to other world leaders, and how she can best represent her people while still maintaining a happy and healthy life with her family.

The crown alters everything in her life, and the best way to understand Elizabeth herself is by examining the relationships she has with those around her.

We learn of Philip because we need to understand why Elizabeth fought to marry him when at times he can seem like a less than suitable match. Her heart swims when they're happy, and we catch glimpses of her as she might have been had the crown passed to someone else.

It's not an easy marriage for Elizabeth and Philip, and while The Crown Season 1 was Claire Foy's opportunity to shine as Elizabeth, Matt Smith is the focus of their relationship during The Crown Season 2. 

The Queen Mother

If Elizabeth has a hard time looking connecting to her children because she simply doesn't have enough time for them and sees in Charles a walking picture of the future waiting to cut her off at the knees, Philip sees his superiors.

He ranks below everyone in the House of Windsor as the Duke of Edinburgh before his Queen understands how he feels in a house of royals and makes him her Prince. 

Philip has a full life outside the realm with a bunch of robust fellows, making what we are witnessing today with regard to sexual harassment and the treatment of women seem like child's play. While The Crown cuts short of ever suggesting Philip went too far, his desires are explored thoroughly as well as all the implications thereof.

Smith makes a portrait of Philip someone we understand rather than someone we revile, and that's due to Foy's opposing portrayal as Elizabeth. The two are consistently smitten with each other when appropriate, and it's their love that keeps drawing them back to wedded near-bliss.

Still in Love

By the end of Season 2, we gain a much deeper understanding of Philip as a man and father (he was the parent who reared the children in the royal marriage) through his childhood traumas, stories of his education, his family, and his travels and exploits than we ever do of Elizabeth.

Still, it helps us to understand why Elizabeth fell in love with him and why she fights to keep her marriage on solid ground. She trusts him implicitly with many things, including bringing her reign into the 20th Century, and that trust is never misplaced.

Of equal interest are the escapades of Princess Margaret. At one point, Elizabeth points out her sister would have made a far better queen than Elizabeth, and Margaret can't help but agree.

She Should Have Been Queen

The sisters remain close despite the marriage debacle of The Crown Season 1, but the Margaret we encounter this time around is a wild child. Feeling she has nothing left to lose, she throws caution to the wind and dumps a lot of liquor into her glass.

Margaret goes through every emotion a few times, and Vanessa Kirby simply shines as the royal sister. She makes taking a birthday portrait look as fun and girly as it must have been at the time, too.

It was a birthday portrait that led Margaret to a new man in her life, one the princess eventually married. Matthew Goode, known as Finn from The Good Wife, joins the cast as Antony Armstrong-Jones.

Their relationship gives a uniquely modern edge to the drama, and it made me want to pick up a biography of the late princess to see what the former wild child was really all about.

Caution to the Wind

If Margaret once felt invisible next to her sister, the Queen, she did everything in her power to make up for it.

It's ironic, of course, that Philip and Margaret might feel less than or invisible beside the Queen. It's Elizabeth who is invisible because to let the Democratic nation know she's more than a figurehead would go against the very duties of a reigning monarch.

She has so much she wants to do and say that the frustration she must bear every day as a reigning monarch would be suffocating.

To further express Elizabeth as a human being, she finds herself face-to-face with United State "royalty" when President Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, are in the country and house for a State visit.

The Royal Families

I'm not overly impressed with Michael C. Hall as John  F. Kennedy or Jodi Balfour as Jackie, but their roles in the series were appreciated. It was one of the few times I've seen the couple portrayed in such a way and it played well to further the story of Elizabeth.

The meeting had a rather profound effect on Elizabeth and helped her see herself in a different light. 

Elizabeth will also meet Rev. Billy Graham as she needs to master the finer points of forgiveness as it relates to Christianity thanks to a sudden and unwelcome secret courtesy of her ostracized uncle, the Duke of Windsor, and save a country from succession.

Her hands are full in The Crown Season 2, but she bows her head to the costars of her life. It's the last we will see of this cast, and it in two seasons, they have all been given ample opportunity to shine. Still, it will be hard to say goodbye to them in this form.

The Crown Season 2 presents Queen Elizabeth to us through Philip and Margaret and issues of State, and by doing that, we feel some of the frustration she must bear every day wearing the crown and bearing the responsibilities that come with it. 

The Crown Season 2 drops on Netflix December 8.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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