17 November 2019 14:39
The Crown Olding Season 3 Episode 1 Editor's Rating 4 stars * * * * « Previous Next More than a decade into Elizabeth's reign, her role as head of state continues to render her powerless over not just what happens within her country, but within her own home. It's been just under two years since a new season of The Crown hit our Netflix queues, and while only a handful of months have passed in the series' timeline (season two ended in March 1964, with the birth of Queen Elizabeth II's fourth child, Prince Edward), the message of the third-season opener is quite clear: The times, they are a-changin'. Anyone who is a fan of the Peter Morgan–created series knew that the third installment would feature its biggest transformation to date: a brand-new cast stepping into the roles vacated by Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, and Matthew Goode. (Most of the supporting characters have been recast as well.) As sad as it was to say goodbye to Foy & Co., we've had ample time to prepare for the cast transition over to an equally robust acting foursome, who have so seamlessly slipped into the main roles of the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, and Antony Armstrong-Jones that I'm not so sure it was necessary for "Olding" to be so heavy-handed with the, "Hey! Do I even need to go into what a joy it is to watch British national treasure Olivia Colman, an actress faced with the formidable challenge of breathing life and depth into a monarch who must be emotionless yet human, step into the Queen's shoes?
So in case you weren't certain that we've reunited with the royal family at the dawn of a particularly turbulent time in British history, by the end of "Olding," it's pretty hard to remain in doubt. But we cannot talk about "Olding" without mentioning the adorable cold open, in which The Crown addresses the cast change via a bit of lamp-shading: Colman's Queen is presented with a brand-new stamp featuring her profile, while being forced to confront her encroaching mortality, as the new stamp is compared with the previous one, featuring Foy's profile. (Also infuriating is how Elizabeth, and even Margaret, to an extent, in both the real-life world of the royal family and the faux universe of The Crown, have reached middle-aged doyenne-dom when neither have even hit 40 yet.) "Olding" begins in earnest on October 15, 1964, when, for the first time during Elizabeth's reign, a general election sees the old-guard Conservative Party voted out and the Labour Party set to form a new government. Still, Liz is plenty nervous having to work with a prime minister, Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins), who not only doesn't come from her rarefied circles (as evidenced by the first-ever voice-over of an equerry reciting the rules for meeting the Queen), but is rumored to have been a KGB spy. There's her husband, Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies, making his Outlander absence far more bearable with this new gig), dishing about Wilson's Russian code name, "Olding." A bedridden Winston Churchill (John Lithgow, making a welcome single-scene cameo), also raises his own suspicions.
The Queen is swiftly assured by the head of MI5, Martin Furnival Jones, that her new prime minister is not running a treasonous operation out of 10 Downing Street. Fortunately for The Crown, there was a way juicier espionage story coming straight out of the Queen's residence that Morgan, who wrote "Olding," didn't even have to make up. It was the unassuming, or, rather, "unremarkable," Sir Anthony Blunt (Samuel West), an art historian employed as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, who had been working for the Soviets longer than Elizabeth had been on the throne. But the real pathos of this story, at least the way The Crown is telling it, is how Blunt's unmasking once again demonstrates how more than a decade into Elizabeth's reign, her role as head of state continues to render her powerless over not just what happens within her country, but within her own home. Nor can Philip's whispered threats of exposure, because The Crown is still suggesting that the Duke of Edinburgh was involved in the Profumo Affair, despite, you know, proof: Blunt, ever the smooth operator (you need to be one if you're a spy!), blackmails Philip into clamming up by revealing he was responsible for hiding away multiple portraits of the Duke drawn by the osteopath at the center of the scandal, Stephen Ward. But The Crown fails to mention the reason why this story could even be told in the first place: In 1979, Blunt's treason was made public by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and his knighthood subsequently revoked. There's a moment early on in "Olding" when Elizabeth, having visited with Churchill for the last time, gazes wistfully at a group of voters queuing up at their local polling station from the safe distance of her chauffeured car. It's an image that I think best sums up the new season, with Colman's somber visage acknowledging the continued irony of Elizabeth's position. As monarch, Elizabeth must do little more than watch as the world makes decisions around her, yet somehow find a way to maintain control. The Crown returned to Netflix on Sunday (November 17), marking the show's very first outing with its brand new cast. Olivia Colman took the mantle from Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, and Tobias Menzies stepped into the shoes of her husband Prince Philip. Also making their debut appearances for season three were Josh O'Connor (who dazzles as Prince Charles), Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret), Charles Dance (Lord Mountbatten), Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother), Emerald Fennell (a young Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) and last – but certainly by no means least – Erin Doherty as a scene-stealing Princess Anne. Filming for The Crown season four has been going on for a while now, and as a result there have been plenty of pictures surfacing that drop some pretty big hints at what's to come. This included a very first look at Emma Corrin in her role as the late Diana, Princess of Wales, leading many to believe that she would be appearing in the third instalment. If you have already made it through the ten new episodes, you'll know that (among other historical moments such as the Aberfan disaster and the moon landing of '69) the focus for Prince Charles is very much on his introduction to his role of Prince of Wales – a title that was given in 1958 and confirmed in his 1969 investiture – and his internal battle with the role of heir to the throne. Romantically, he only has eyes for one woman as far as The Crown's third season is concerned, and that's Camilla Shand, who he first meets at a polo match. Prince Charles and Camilla first crossed paths while she was in an 'off' stage of an ongoing on/off relationship with military man Andrew Parker Bowles. To make things even more complicated, Andrew also dated Princess Anne (yes, in case it isn't immediately obvious, that's Prince Charles's younger sister). I think he's really fallen in love," the Queen (Colman) at one point tells her husband (Menzies), although Prince Philip pooh-poohs the idea by making a sweeping statement that "you don't love a girl like Camilla Shand, she's just a bit of fun and a welcome distraction from the rigours of the Navy". "What we have is special," the Prince tells his lady at one point, while Camilla is seen on the receiving end of the phone with Andrew hovering around in the background. In the series, Prince Charles was later seen confiding in his Uncle Dickie about his true feelings, implying that he was considering a proposal so as not to lose Camilla. This kick-started some top-level scheming from Lord Mountbatten (Charles Dance's moment to shine), with a big helping of assistance from the Queen Mother, in a bid to drive the young pair apart and put Shand back "where she belongs" – in the arms of Parker Bowles. Prince Charles confronted Camilla in an emotional telephone call, where she maintained that she had feelings for both of them but that it would be "better for everyone in the long run" if she were to go along with the royal family's wishes. In real life, we know that Camilla and Andrew wed in 1973. For the dramatisation, it is here that The Crown's third season leaves Charles's romantic life. It was the Queen's Silver Jubilee that took the final scene of the season. This occurred in 1977, 25 years after her coronation, which is also the same year that Lady Diana first met the Prince of Wales at the age of 16. This leaves the door wide open for Princess Diana to appear in season four. It's not entirely sure at what point The Crown season 4 plans to pick up from, but filming photos give us some indication of the time frames it will explore. The very first time that Corrin was seen in her role as Princess Diana was the recreation of the royal couple's trip to Australia in 1983, two years after their wedding in 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral. To be a little more precise, the outfits that the actors were sporting pinpoint Prince Charles and Princess Diana's famous visit to Ayers Rock. This was part of the pair's royal tour, which also marked the first time that Princess Diana had traveled overseas. Further set photos for The Crown have also emerged, thought to be showing the royal visit to Perth's Fremantle Hospital in April 1983. The Crown seasons 1-3 are available now on Netflix.