Sunday, November 15, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Crown' - Thatcher and Diana Both Make Significant Impressions with the Royal Family in 'The Balmoral Test'

Netflix's The Crown - Episode 4.02 "The Balmoral Test"

Margaret Thatcher visits Balmoral but has trouble fitting in with the royal family, while Charles finds himself torn between his heart and family duty.

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 next episode of Netflix's The Crown.

"The Balmoral Test" was written by Peter Morgan and directed by Paul Whittington

This episode cements the season as one centered on the parallel journeys of Margaret Thatcher and Diana Spencer. Their trajectories in life have put them in direct contact with the royal family. As such, they are being tested to deem their fitness for inclusion amongst their ranks. Of course, the royal family isn't some arbiter of what is acceptable in society. They have had their failings numerous times in the past. They want to believe they have their pulse on the culture of the people they serve. And yet, they live in luxury. So much is afforded to them simply because they were born into this family. Diana comes from British nobility as well. So, she fundamentally knows what to expect when she is brought to Balmoral castle in Scotland. The pressure is on her to impress the family. Her grandmother makes it painfully clear that this is the most important weekend of her entire life. It could potentially change everything. It's not being judged on how well Charles likes her though. It's entirely about how the family thinks of her and whether she would be suitable as a princess and eventual queen. That is the priority for them. They don't particularly care about what Charles thinks. Of course, he is still hopelessly in love with Camilla. Those feelings are still present and even encouraged. He engages in a romance with Diana mostly because it's what is expected of him to move on from his past. He knows very little about her. The family loves her though. She already feels like part of the family. In contrast, Thatcher stands out through her entire time at the castle. This isn't a life she has ever known. She worked hard to gain her position. And now, she feels like she is under attack from all sides. Members of her party believe that her radical and extreme changes to the British government aren't necessary. Meanwhile, the royal family looks down on her because she is perplexed by their definition of fun and relaxation. She has no time for that. Work is her greatest pleasure. She doesn't need perspective by getting away for the weekend. She has too much to do. She was given this opportunity to lead. She feels the importance of doing so. She feels invigorated following the weekend mostly because she feels the urgency to put her stamp on the government. That includes pushing out the members of her party who don't agree with her. It's an immediate change as well. She gets to lead with confidence. That also highlights tension between her and the Queen. It previously seemed as if the two would like each other. They could lead together. And now, it's clear that they have very different upbringings and expectations from the world. They define intimacy in different ways. Thatcher is appalled by all that the staff is willing to do during this weekend. She is also aghast over the suggestion that she and her husband sleep in different beds. Just because all of these luxurious things are offered doesn't mean that one has to embrace them. It's commonplace amongst the royal family though. They push out anyone who suggests that they are the weird and alienating ones. They have power though. That may never truly be challenged. Various people around the world may call for their independence. They look at the crown with disdain as it is a symbol of the oppression they suffer at the hands of this empire. And yet, the royal family will continue to reign. The line of succession is in place. That stability is always secure. The Prime Minister and the party in power can change based on the desires of the people. Even then, people are left feeling as if they aren't being understood by those in charge. It's devastating. It's a whirlwind adventure for Diana. She receives so much praise. It makes Charles basically accept what his family is demanding him to do. He buckles to that pressure without really exploring his concerns about the compatibility with Diana beyond initial attraction. The chasms between the ruling class and the people are growing. Thatcher represents something new. And yet, Diana offers a fairytale. It's one that seems absolutely perfect. Charles is incredibly lucky. He just falls into it. But that is a simple story people are telling themselves. It's meant to convince them that their perfect lives will continue to be that. Thatcher strives for something different. As such, she doesn't have much time or concern for the royal family. They are people out of touch with the struggles happening throughout the country. They conquer tracking down the injured stag. That's a victory for them. It provides symmetry for the overall hour. But the tensions brewing are already providing such juicy and tantalizing drama that is bound to grow even more explosive as the season develops.