Story: In its sixth and final season, The Crown returns to unravel the stories of the British Royal family with a focus on
‘s life after divorce, her tragic death and the aftermath.
Review: For the last couple of seasons, The Crown narrowed its focus down to the royal marriage of Diana and Charles. Perhaps, not an unwarranted move since it happens to be one of the most documented marriages and Princess Diana, arguably the most photographed woman, of our times.
Season 6 is divided into two parts, Part 1 puts the spotlight on Diana’s (
) life after divorce and her death, Part 2 is on Prince William coping with life after his mother’s sudden demise, public attention in his growing up years, Charles (
) and Camilla’s (Olivia Williams) relationship and of course,
As a prelude to the looming tragedy, Season 6 opens on a seemingly quiet night in Paris, only to end the sequence with the infamous car crash under the bridge which leads to Diana and Al Fayed Dodi’s (Khaled Abdalla) death. The 4 episodes of Part 1 then go back into all that unfolded in the eight weeks prior to this accident. It is one year after Diana and Charles’s divorce. While Charles has all his attention on planning Camilla’s 50th birthday party, Diana takes up Mohammed Dodi’s (Salim Daw) invitation to join his family in St.Tropez for a brief vacation with both her sons. For Senior Dodi, this is an opportunity to set up his son, Al Fayed (already engaged to a model, Kelly Fisher) with Diana and a way for him to finally get the attention and acceptance he has been seeking from the royal family and British citizenship. As the episode intersects between a cold, grey London and the sunny, blue waters of St Tropez, Charles’ desperation to see Camilla get royal approval is apparent. It even entails him visiting his mother, pleading with her to join the party as it would send out a positive signal. With public attention and sympathy on Diana’s side, especially with her charity work calling for a global ban on landmines gaining momentum, as Prime Minister, Tony Blair puts it, “When Diana talks, the world listens”. Even Camilla’s 50th is overshadowed by the over zealous press attention on Diana’s vacation with the Dodis. Something that has the royal corridors up in arms. But as the weeks progress, surreptitious paparazzi photos of Diana and Al Fayed’s time together (most of which are already in the public domain, including the iconic one in the light blue swimsuit and of them kissing on the yacht) begin to create a stir. With some of the press branding Diana as reckless and out of control, the royal publicity team sees it as the perfect opportunity to present Charles as the more grounded and dignified of the two.
Diana takes centre stage in all four episodes, in fact in an uncomfortable creative liberty taken by creator Peter Morgan, she appears after her death to have a last conversation with Charles and the Queen. And in effect, all other characters fade into the background with little else to do. Even the Queen is reduced to giving reactionary dialogues to Diana’s life, “All one wants is for that girl to find peace” she sighs at one point or when the scandalous photos of Diana and Dodi are splashed all over the local and international press, she mutters “One would almost feel sorry for her if one weren’t so cross with her.” And when news of Diana’s death is confirmed, she stoically says, “Those poor boys”, referring to William and Harry. As for Charles, if in the first episode, he is pleading with his mum to grace Camilla’s birthday party and lashing out at the royal PR team for allowing Diana to outshine the event, in the fourth he is pleading with her to allow a state funeral for Diana and realise what Diana meant to the people.
It’s Elizabeth Debicki’s show all the way and she is absolutely on point as Diana, one can’t take an eye off her. Just like in Season 5, she owns the screen, with her deep eyes and infectious smile, which we definitely see more of in this season, owing to her carefree, summer romance with Al Fayed. But it is also overwhelming to watch the kind of press scrutiny and hounding she went through in the days closer to her death. That she was struggling with who she had become and in talks with her therapist to wean off the ‘drama’ she had gotten so addicted to. Part 1 ends on an emotional and melancholic note with Diana’s funeral. The series breaks format, to add actual footage of the public outpouring of grief at the time. For someone who was not part of the royal family anymore, Diana seemed even more present in their lives after her death. As Charles put it, she brought Paris, the busiest city on Earth to a standstill.
With most of the events leading up to Diana’s death and after, available with a single click on the internet, season 6 has a sensationalist, tabloid feel which is starkly different from the mystery and intrigue the first few seasons held. While one cannot deny that the series has kept its viewers engrossed over the years, will Part 2 sustain as much interest now? Well, only time will tell.