In the past century, we may have moved to living in democracies and republics. But the lives of kings, queens, princes and princesses still seem to attract immense attention in our collective imagination. The story of the longest-reigning monarch in recorded history and her family have blitzed viewership charts for four years running. Netflix’s The Crown (Season 4) has had more attention than the previous three seasons. All that is thanks to the on-screen introduction of one of the most admired public figures in decades, Princess Diana.
The first three seasons of The Crown have given us some great moments, offering a glimpse into the lives of one of the most prominent royal families in the world. Stellar performances by a skilled cast have regularly been elevated by the presence of master actors like John Lithgow and Charles Dance for short bursts of storytelling brilliance.
But Season 4 marks a change into a different gear. It is as much about the internal thought processes and emotions of these prominent people as it is about the events that we too have lived through. No one character embodies this on the show than Diana. The show tracks her introduction to Prince Charles, their wedding, their marital struggles and the tensions within the larger family.
Diana, however, is not the only major figure introduced this season. Gillian Anderson, probably best known as Agent Scully from The X-Files, makes a commendable splash as Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Iron Lady and first woman Prime Minister, whose names continues to evoke strong emotional responses to this day.
Even off the moments that are not about Diana or Thatcher, the show shines. For instance, the conversation between Queen Elizabeth and a man who broke into her bedroom at Buckingham Palace is a masterclass in how a television episode can be written.
The Crown has fascinated us with its non-melodramatic portrayal of the story of Britain’s ruling family. That the dramatic events of Prince Harry’s partial break with his family happened in real life shortly before his mother was brought to life on screen in The Crown (Season 4) underscores that royalty or not, these are human stories too.
Watch The Crown (Season 4) on Netflix for your next binge with few reservations. In case you have not watched the first three seasons of the show, we recommend you binge those first over the weekend.