The Crown is a show that has always taken me by surprise by how easy it is to get caught up in its spell. This show depicting the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding in 1947 and subsequent reign is a prime example of bringing the highest level of production values and narrative prowess to the small screen. Throughout its first two seasons, the marvelous Claire Foy brought the queen regnant to life through one of the most formative periods of her reign. During this time, Elizabeth had to reckon with the death of her father and ascension to the throne, learn the proper way to be the leader her country needed, contend with familial strife, work with Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) and so much more. The third season of the Netflix show is one of noteworthy change, as we jump to the time period between 1964 and 1977. With the change in time also comes a change in cast; Oscar-winner Olivia Coleman (The Favourite) steps into the role of Elizabeth as she becomes more confident in her role as a leader, but less certain of the place of the monarchy in relation to the needs and desires of the people. With the fourth season looming later this month, we explore this sprawling season that clears the high bar established by the previous ones.
In the third season of The Crown, revolution lingers in the air like a dense fog. Elizabeth is starting to feel comfortable in her role, but her citizens are no longer content to give the monarchy the conditionless loyalty that has been the status quo for as long as can be remembered. Elizabeth is facing an important point in her reign that will hinge on her ability to adapt, which students of history know is not an easy feat for the monarchy. While Foy’s portrayal of Elizabeth bubbled with a seething resentment of the responsibility that was thrust upon her, Coleman is forced to take these base emotions and filter them through her experience and maturity that time has brought her. The result is a dignified performance with only the subtlest micro-expressions to reveal the queen’s true feelings. The way that Elizabeth is written this season makes you grateful to have someone as talented as Coleman embodying the character. Without her, Elizabeth would nearly feel like a non-entity in her own show. Coleman can say so much with a pointed glance, but this could easily be overshadowed by the goings-on of the other characters in her orbit. The queen by her nature is a reserved character, but you are often left wanting the writers to reveal more of her feelings in the quieter moments.
Elizabeth may somewhat take a backseat this season, but the show takes the opportunity to broaden its scope to some equally as fascinating characters. Tobias Menzies expertly takes over the role of Elizabeth’s husband Philip, who still exhibits his restless tendencies while seeming more respectful of how his wife has carried herself. In one of the most inspired bits of casting, Helena Bonham Carter jumps into the role of Princess Margaret and her melancholic exuberance. Things are not getting any easier for Margaret this season, and Carter brings forth an endearing sadness in a way that very often steals the entire show. In arguably the biggest change for this period is the now-grown-up eldest children of Elizabeth and Philip, Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Anne (Erin Doherty). Much like Elizabeth in the earlier seasons, the pair are having to balance the demands of being part of the royal family with having their own identity. Doherty is giving off major Vanessa Kirby vibes with her blunt manner, and O’Connor gives Charles a warmth that conjures up some unexpected sympathy that the real-life Charlies would never get. As this generation of royals get more and more central to the story as we progress in time, it is heartening to see them laying the grounding for their immense complexity.
This third season of the show does a marvelous job of relying less on major events during this time period in favor of providing a deeper look at the royals as human beings. That is not to say there are not some major events tackled during this season. The Aberfan disaster offers up one of the most chilling experiences of the season, which also allows Coleman to deliver a career-highlight performance. Everyone is putting in their best work throughout these ten episodes. Even the supporting cast such as Charles Dance as Dickie Mountbatten, Jane Lapotaire as Philip’s mother, Alice, and Derek Jacobi and Geraldine Chaplin as Edward and Wallis Simpson are simply amazing. Even when the writing gets too far afield from where you want it to be, the actors elevate the show up to something special. When you couple these performances with some of the most gorgeous cinematography, costumes and production design that television has to offer, it is quite a sight to behold. The Crown is an extremely ambitious series, and it is testament to the talent in front of and behind the camera that it rarely falters in a significant way. This season offers up a blazing portrait of power and how it impacts the lives of those who have it.
The Crown: The Complete Third Season arrives on Blu-Ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment with a wonderful AVC encoded 1080p transfer. This show is simply one at which to marvel with its peerless cinematography that is rendered beautifully here. This transfer reveals a lot of fine detail within the costumes and intricate production design. The series remains pristine with a lovely, cooler color palette revealing vibrant colors within the various settings. The whites of the show are luminous, but do not fall victim to any blooming in this presentation. Black levels are nice and deep, giving way to a pleasing amount of detail in darker scenes. Skin tones appear very natural throughout the presentation, and compression artifacts and noise are kept to a minimum. The Blu-Ray presentation is stunning and represents an outstanding achievement from Sony.
This Blu-Ray comes with a lovely DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that recreates the soundscape of this world with care. Dialogue is the driving force of the show, and it always comes through crisp and clear without being clipped by any competing sounds. The music on the show is often sweeping and enveloping in the best way. The score is very spacious and lush with a deft handling of both the more intensive moments as well as the subtle touches. There is not too much in the way of action on this show, but the environmental sounds of the world engage the surround speakers in a really pleasing way. Whether engaging with the bustling of the city or the surprisingly dynamic rural environments, this track truly delivers. Ambient sounds are precisely placed in the rear channels. The audio track serves as a top-notch presentation for the fans of the series.
- Behind The Crown – The Making of Season 3: A ten-minute look at creating this season with the cast and crew in which they discuss bringing on new cast members to take over the roles, the character arcs for this season, hair and makeup and more. The most enjoyable aspect of this one are the human moments that shine through with the cast members, namely Olivia Coleman and Helena Bonham Carter.
- Charles’ Investiture – Growing Up Royal: A nine-minute look at the complicated family dynamic at play between Prince Charles and his mother. The cast and crew discuss bringing the investiture to life by staying true to what is known to be true and maintaining the spirit of that in the unknown moments. There is also an exploration of the locations and costumes in this episode.
- Royal Fabrics – A Look At The Costumes: A five-minute look at how the costume designers created all of these designs to fit this new era in history. This process looks very intense, but the hard work certainly shows up on screen.
- Majestic Comparison – Photo Gallery: A series of images are provided with real-life historical photos shown in comparison to how they executed similar shots in the series. This feature helps reveal the level of care the creative team takes to make this series authentic.
The Crown is one of the most impressive series currently on television with its wonderful blend of unimpeachable acting talent and awe-inspiring production elements. This third season finds new blood entering the fold, which only allows the show to grow stronger. While it would have been nice to have more private moments with Elizabeth, the supporting characters establish themselves worthy of our attention. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray with a marvelous A/V presentation and an assortment of interesting special features. Fans of the show should be more than pleased with this top-notch presentation. Highly Recommended
The Crown: The Complete Third Season is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.