The Failure of The Crown’s Latest Season


What made Netflix’s The Crown, a historical drama surrounding the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, such a crown jewel show (pun intended) for the streaming service was its ability to successfully form an emotionally cohesive narrative around recent historical events that still persists in the minds of many. 

This royal soap opera was a sophisticated attempt to examine the Second Elizabethan era through not as a documentary, but as a fictional tale.  

From the premier season showing us the now late monarch as a young and inexperienced princess forced to bear the duty of an ancient institution which refuses to grow or evolve. 

To season four where we see her and the institution conspire to force her eldest son and future monarch into a loveless marriage. A choice that will eventually threaten to burn the House of Windsor to the ground. 

All of the pain, heartbreak, and self sacrifices we see the characters go through were all done for the sake of the monarchy. This theme runs throughout every second of this award winning show. And what made it such a success was the fact that it, in a sense, mythologized the Queen and examined the legacy she leaves behind. 

However, that sophisticated magic and intellectual glamor that made The Crown what it was has seemingly vanished in a puff of smoke. 

This latest season is a frustrating contradiction. It’s both dull yet exciting. Beautifully well-made yet lacking any creativity. Offensive yet unwilling to make a stand on any single controversial topic. To sum it all up, season five of The Crown is a failure. 

But is this too harsh of a conclusion? 

Like I hinted at earlier, the brilliant writing is what made this show a success. Yes, the acting was and is incredible. Yes, the casting has always been spot on. And yes, the set and costume design has always been an iconic aspect to the show.

However, the truth is you can have all of these ingredients and more, yet if it’s poorly made. It will ruin everything. Without the backbone, everything falls apart. 

And what was the strong and seemingly unfailing backbone of The Crown? It was the writing.

The Crown is solely written by Peter Morgan, a British screenwriter who since the start of The Crown has been praised and named the mastermind behind the royal epic. 

Morgan and his story of the Queen’s constraint struggle between being either loyal to the nation and its monarchy or to her own family is what keeps us tuning in for more. 

But the sad truth is season five left much to be desired. This latest installment felt too rushed, too on the nose, and perhaps too recent. 

It’s been said since the creators announced that they would be delving into the tumultuous events of the 1990s that The Crown will touch some sensitive nerves for the British royal family. 

The most famous and most sensitive nerve is of course Diana Spencer, the previous Princess of Wales. 

The war between Charles and Diana that was said to be the main conflict within the fifth season seemed at the time like the perfect plot for the Netflix series. 

However, it seems like the concept far exceeds the actual story. 

All ten episodes were a lackluster and stale attempt to dramatize and fictionalize these real events. But that wasn’t because of the new actors portraying the royal family. 

The entire cast did an amazing job with the material they were given. But that’s the problem. The material they were given felt like a first draft we were never meant to even see. 

It pains me to criticize my most beloved show, but it must be done. 

The “War of the Waleses” that was discussed and feared all throughout the season, felt less like a war and more like a small skirmish. 

It is not until the last episode of season five that we are ever able to see the “war” everyone talked about. 

Peter Morgan forgot the one rule as a writer. Show don’t tell. 

And the greatest example of Morgan telling us rather than showing us is in season five, episode four “Annus Horribilis”

This was the episode inspired by the Queen’s public admission that the year 1992 was the lowest and most embarrassing part of her entire reign. From most of her children divorcing their spouses, her castle being burned to the ground, and the public seriously considering ending monarchy in the U.K. 

This was the year everything changed. But, you wouldn’t know that if you only watch the show. 

Instead of focusing on the Queen, the literal main character of the show, the episode wastes time with Princess Margaret and her reunion with a past lover. 

Morgan completely ignores all the drama of 1992 and in turn, ignores the main reasons why the 1990s is such a memorable time in royal history. 

The real world history is far more interesting than what the show portrays. And when your filling your story with historical inaccuracies, like Morgan is known to do to enhance the story, none of that matters if it’s not truly entertaining. 

The next season, season six, will be The Crown’s last. It will take from the death of Princess Diana to the events surrounding the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton. 

If you asked me just a few weeks ago if I would be excited to see how Peter Morgan ends this royal epic, I’d tell you I was eagerly waiting for those last batch of episodes. 

But now, as I look at the wreckage that is season five of The Crown, I’m left wondering if I will even be tuning in.