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11 November 2020 14:30

Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), Charles (Josh O’Connor), and Diana (Emma Corrin) on the precipice of a would-be fairy-tale marriage.

Scotland has recorded 64 deaths from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest since May 6, Nicola Sturgeon has announced. It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 3,143. The First Minister told the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing 1,261 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the daily test positivity rate to 6.5%, down from 9.5% on Tuesday. Welcome to our live coverage of Nicola Sturgeon's update on the coronavirus crisis - with all the latest news from the First Minister. We'll bring you all the very latest on what Nicola Sturgeon has said today, including details on the number of new cases and any new reported hospitalisations at NHS hospitals across Scotland.

But the Scottish Government has faced criticism today over "failures" in the track and trace system, with Public Health Scotland overestimating its performance in contact tracing. It is likely Nicola Sturgeon will face questions on this and other issues relating to the government's handling of the health crisis at the media briefing. It is important that we continue to promote these adverts as our local businesses need as much support as possible during these challenging times. Season four of The Crown manages to illuminate Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) as a person in a way the previous three seasons have never managed. Episode two of The Crown's fourth season is called "The Balmoral Test," and it lays out the two through lines of the season in a precisely balanced, extremely satisfying way.

Elizabeth and Philip, played once again by Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies, are at the family vacation home way out on the Scottish highlands with the rest of the royal family. First, there's the newly elected prime minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) and her husband, Denis (Stephen Boxer). After the Thatchers leave, Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) arrives, ready to be inspected as a potential wife for Charles (Josh O'Connor). They're all being subjected to the infamous "Balmoral test," a term for what happens when new people receive an invitation to the family's private home, and the episode is divided in two. Then the Thatchers leave and Diana arrives, meek and unassuming and exhibiting just enough backbone that things go quite differently for her.

It's my favorite kind of episode of The Crown, and a perfect example of what the show does best. It's not always the most subtle — there's little ambiguity in how the parallel tests plays out, and The Crown leans more toward big, obvious symbolism here than it does delicate nuance. On one side, there's Margaret Thatcher, played by Anderson with total relish and uncanny accuracy. On the other side, there's the ascendant Diana, rushed into the scaffolding of a fairy-tale marriage that could never exist and gradually becoming an image of modern royal femininity that garners global applause even while she privately rages and suffers. Anderson's Thatcher is remarkable and alarming; The Crown's hair and makeup team swears that Anderson didn't use any prosthetics, and although I fully believe Anderson is capable of it, knowing that she held Thatcher's strained grimace without the aid of a mouthpiece adds an undercurrent of pain to the performance that makes a lot of sense.

Anderson's Thatcher captures an anxiety in the woman, the self-recriminating fervor of the zealot who believes in her cause absolutely but whose belief relies on the sense that goodness comes out of pain, out of restriction, austerity, and grim self-control. Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), Charles (Josh O'Connor), and Diana (Emma Corrin) on the precipice of a would-be fairy-tale marriage. Together, Thatcher and Diana give The Crown an energy and a sense of direction it lacked in the third season, and a feeling of verve the show has arguably never approached before. The treatment of Charles and Diana's marriage is as complex and nuanced as that big deer-stalking metaphor in the Balmoral episode is not, and for as good as Corrin is as Diana, O'Connor embodies an entitled, thoughtless, jealous, and wounded Charles all the way out to the tips of his ears. Emerald Fennell as Camilla Shand is just as good; there's an especially masterful scene in which she has Diana for lunch (literally lunching at a restaurant and absolutely demolishing Diana's self-esteem). Best of all, though, season four of The Crown manages to illuminate Queen Elizabeth as a person in a way the previous three seasons of marriage-based storytelling have never managed. Sometimes it feels like trying to get inside the private life of a ceremonial hat — or at least that's about as successful as The Crown has been, through no fault of Colman or Claire Foy. She's a character whose internal life is only accessible when she's seen with a foil, someone who can put the Queen's desires and interests on display by contrasting or complementing them. To date, The Crown has tried this primarily with Philip and with Margaret (played once again this season by Helena Bonham Carter) and a bit with some of the prime ministers. The triumvirate of them — Thatcher's vision for the future, Diana's half-purposeful embodiment of the future, and the Queen's frustration with both of them — makes it not just a good handful of episodes of The Crown but the best complete season the show has ever made.