Sunday, November 15, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Crown' - Queen Elizabeth Welcomes a New Prime Minister as Tragedy Informs Charles' Future in 'Gold Stick'

Netflix's The Crown - Episode 4.01 "Gold Stick"

As Elizabeth welcomes Britain's first woman prime minister and Charles meets a young Diana Spencer, an IRA attack brings tragedy to the royal family.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Netflix's The Crown.

"Gold Stick" was written by Peter Morgan and directed by Benjamin Caron

Two influential women loom large over the fourth season: Margaret Thatcher and Diana Spencer. These two characters make their grand introductions to the narrative here. They are introduced in subtle ways that still highlight all the importance that they will bring to this story. Thatcher becomes the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She is the first woman to hold the title. While she breaks that glass ceiling, she is certainly not a feminist role model. She too wants to reassure people that her emotions and her husband's interests won't get in the way of her ability to lead the commonwealth. Moreover, she doesn't see any other woman as being qualified or entitled to have any jobs in her cabinet. She too is very dismissive of her gender. Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth get along quite well in their first meeting. The Queen reveals that she does have an understanding of the political reality of her government while recognizing it as mostly trivial from her perspective. She holds a title. One that includes a lot of ceremony. However, she too is a simple spectator. She has a role to play and is mostly just kept in the loop about all the major decisions being made. She has held this position for a long time now. The world is ready for Prince Charles to rise to the responsibility that the crown will one day weigh on him. He has to prepare for his future as King when his mother inevitability dies. That has been a key observation from this series. It moves quickly through its stories. But it always maintains that human element of life continually moving forward. Characters die. They grow old. Their stories are passed on to the next generation. Traumas inflicted on one generation are now producing consequences as the next comes of age trying to understand their world. Elizabeth has been the head of the family since she was in her twenties. She has had so many responsibilities as queen. Her reign is seen as prosperous even though she doubts what has truly been accomplished now that she has had several Prime Ministers serve her. A change with Thatcher could be what the country needs. But again, the world is evolving and growing. The next generation inherits the world left behind by those who tried to keep it together. Everyone has thoughts about how to best maintain the structure that has long provided stability to this great nation. That has already caused Prince Charles a ton of grief and emotional angst. He is a child with distant parents who exists as a symbol within his own family. He is preparing for a role instead of being allowed to live. Philip has a relationship with his daughter, Anne. He can be a father to her when it comes to her future as an equestrian. He demands that Charles accept him as a father as well. And yet, their relationship is completely distant. He recognizes that Dickie had to step into that role for Charles just like he did for Philip in his youth. They are connected in their appreciation for the man who is tragically killed here. And yet, Philip still views their lives as being completely different. They have the ability to bond but this inability to move past their stunted egos prevents them from ever truly moving on to something greater. Instead, it's simply important for Charles to find a suitable bride. He is taken with Diana in every brief interaction they have together. But the narrative also calls attention to just how young she is. She is a child about to be put on the world stage. It's thrilling and exciting. She is dazzling and special. It is also framed as Charles pursuing her because his father figure is killed here. He has to follow Dickie's specific advice of marrying a woman with no past. Diana fulfills that requirement because she is so young. Tragedy informs all of this. The royal family is attacked. Thatcher delivers the urgency of needing to retaliate for that violence. It's vicious and transformative. But the weight of the world continues. The burdens these characters face will still be present. Their issues are the same. That could grow boring after four seasons. And yet, the newcomers introduced to this world will ensure much more excitement and drama ahead. The passage of time can be cruel. The fate of countries is trusted by those who rule them. They may not always have the right perspective. They make mistakes. That creates tragedy. This show weaves together those stories to highlight the personal cost for the royal family as well as the future of the United Kingdom. It can all be a fantasy. Diana is delighted to receive a call from Prince Charles. The royal family is still devastated by a personal loss though. It's one made by people wanting to fight for their independence. That will inform foreign relations in this new era. It sets the tone for how this new government will lead in times of crisis when even the royal family has a personal stake in what happens next.