Season 6 Part 2 of The Crown draws the curtain on the show’s extensive history while still looking to the future in a somewhat misguided ending.
Although fans were notably confused when The Crown decided to split season 6 into two separate parts, the arrival of Part 2 has proven that creator Peter Morgan made a smart choice by doing so. These two sets of episodes couldn’t be more different – in fact, the sharp change in tone and narrative focus almost makes them feel like two separate seasons of television. While the first four episodes focused on the conclusion of Diana’s (Elizabeth Debicki) story, tying her character’s journey neatly together, the remainder of Season 6 essentially leaves this story in the dust and returns to the more sporadic format of storytelling that’s worked for The Crown in the past. The result is something that feels somewhat rushed and unfinished despite the immense highs that the show manages to reach in between.
When a show attempts to cover such an extensive time period as The Crown has done, starting in the late 1940s and stretching into the early 2000s, it’s inevitable that certain characters are going to come and go from the spotlight seemingly at random. The first two seasons centred almost exclusively around Elizabeth’s story, the third and fourth were much more interested in Prince Charles and his collapsing marriage, while the fifth made his wife Diana the star of the show. However, the main problem with Season 6 as a complete product is that it doesn’t know whose story to prioritise, and as a result, each character’s journey feels somewhat underwritten and unresolved by the end.
The biggest strength of Part 1 was the clear focus on Diana, offering meaningful insight into her struggles and her relationship with the rest of the family – it might not have been as compelling as Elizabeth’s story in the early days of the show, but at least it was consistent. Part 2 essentially forgets about Diana now that her story is over, using the remaining six episodes to focus on countless other characters that have been sidelined in Part 1 and rushing the show to its final conclusion. Each episode is really strong on its own, and that’s something The Crown has always been good at, but the season struggles to maintain any clear narrative thread. The cinematography is beautiful, the performances are emotive and gripping, and the writing is absolutely bursting with passion in certain moments – but there’s so much left unspoken between each episode that none of the characters get their story told to its full extent.
In the fallout of Diana’s death, her two sons William (Ed McVey) and Harry (Luther Ford) are the natural choices to take the spotlight. Episodes five, seven, and nine follow the pair almost exclusively as The Crown sets the stage for William’s fairytale romance with Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy) – but this is easily the least compelling aspect of Part 2. The actors are all great and their chemistry is palpable, but it’s difficult to get invested in these characters from the beginning when the rest of their families already have storylines that need immediate resolution. Characters like Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce) and Prince Charles (Dominic West) all find themselves in second place once again, when their stories are the ones that audiences have actually been following since the beginning. It feels like a strange way to end the show, introducing new characters that aren’t going to get a chance to develop in the future.
Episodes six and eight are dedicated to newcomer Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel) and Princess Margaret (Leslie Manville) respectively, with the latter finally getting a chance to steal the spotlight from her sister and shine as the protagonist for an hour. Manville gives one of the show’s most understated performances, and this episode is a perfect way to pay homage to one of the few characters that have been around since the beginning. The season finale finally remembers who The Crown’s main character really is, giving Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) the final story and reminding audiences how great this show can be when its focus is in the right place. It’s a great celebration of both the character’s journey and the real-life work of Queen Elizabeth II, speaking tenderly about her legacy and how she’ll be remembered in the years after her death.
That’s all to say that each episode of The Crown’s Season 6 Part 2 has something exciting and interesting to say about the Royal Family and its evolution over the years, but the season as a whole lacks the coherence that’s made previous outings so exceptional. Part 1 shines thanks to its dedication to one particular character, whereas Part 2 is much more ambitious and ultimately tries to balance too many subplots with each other. Perhaps if the show had spent less time setting up characters that audiences will never get to see developed and more time resolving the arcs that have existed since the beginning, The Crown’s conclusion would’ve been a little more satisfying.