Netflix The Crown season 4 review: ‘Gillian Anderson magnificent as Maggie’

Netflix The Crown season 4 review: ‘Gillian Anderson magnificent as Maggie’

*WARNING: THE CROWN SEASON FOUR SPOILERS BELOW*

In the ninth episode of the fourth series of The Crown, Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) tells The Queen (Olivia Colman): "The Wales' marriage is a rare example of something that is actually worse than the newspapers report."

And the few ups and many downs which play out in the doomed marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer take centre-stage in the series four of the popular Netflix drama.

Josh O'Connor is sublime as a Prince stuck between a need to fulfil his royal obligations and an ever unwavering desire to be with his true love – Camilla (played by Emerald Fennell).

The story arc of Charles’ and Diana's tempestuous relationship – or "grotesque misalliance" as Prince Charles labels it in the programme – begins with the pair meeting and sharing a jovial conversation when Charles briefly dates Diana's older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer, and evolves into them both being at loggerheads and in separate rooms at the Royal Family's Christmas celebrations, as their marriage hangs by a thread.

In between these two key pivotal moments, viewers see the many clashes between the mismatched pair, who increasingly seem to have nothing more in common than their aristocratic breeding, as their marriage plunges further into the depths of despair.

A natural when it comes to being in the spotlight, Diana becomes ever more adored by the public, as she wows Australian while visiting the country with Charles and Prince William in 1983, then winning over New York locals as she visits AIDs patients at a Harlem hospital in 1989, during her first solo tour.

While Diana continues to take the starring role during the pair's many royal engagements, Charles is increasingly demoted to ensemble cast member – and O'Connor is genius at slowly peeling back the many layers of the peeved Prince's growing resentment.

New face Emma Corrin had a seemingly impossible task on her hands in embodying the people's princess, Diana – but the young actress triumphantly rises to the challenge.

Corrin strikes the perfect balance between portraying Diana's innocence and need to be accepted, contrasted with her love of the spotlight and willingness to ruffle a few feathers.

The Crown doesn't pull any punches when it comes to showing Diana's well-documented battle with bulimia, with many of the episodes containing viewer warnings over the graphic scenes.

Viewers’ hearts will break as they see Diana's dreams of a Disney fairytale, rapidly plummeting into something that more closely resembles that of a Greek tragedy.

But the dramatic unravelling of the Prince and Princess of Wales' relationship sometimes plays second fiddle at points in the series to the increasing political tensions of the era, with Thatcherite Britain in full-swing.

Unsurprisingly, the ever-splendid Gillian Anderson is magnificent at portraying the Iron Lady.

But Anderson's Margaret Thatcher is so unerring that she takes the role of the polarising politician so far past the normal realms of character acting.

From her voice, to her gait, even down to her subtle lip pursing, Anderson's Thatcher is on the same level as Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill in 2017's Darkest Hour.

And Anderson really comes into her own as she and the Queen (Olivia Colman) begin to clash over political and societal matters and the sovereign's role in decision-making pertaining to this.

Viewers will see a masterclass in acting by Anderson and Colman as the two juggernauts of their craft subtly spar with each other as Queen and Prime Minister increasingly take decidedly different stances on everything from the Commonwealth to motherhood.

The duo’s individual internal struggles with wanting to be respected in their high-powered positions, while still being seen as good wives and mothers, also plays out in the series, giving both historical icons a greater sense of humanity – and it's only when Thatcher steps down from the PM job that the pair finally see they do actually do have fair amount in common.

The series ends with the Royal Family reuniting in the final episode for Christmas celebrations and Charles and Diana are feeling far from merry and bright.

After an unsuccessful intervention by the Queen, Prince Phillip (Tobias Menzies) makes one last-ditch attempt to encourage Diana back into the royal fold.

He tells her: "He will come around, He will – eventually, when he realises he can never have the other one.

"Would it help you to realise we all think he's quite mad?"

Diana replies: "That might have reassured me once, but I worry we're past that point now, sir.

"And if he, if this family can't give me the love and security that I feel I deserve, then I believe I have no option but to break away officially and find it myself."

"I wouldn't do that if I was you," Phillip responds.

"Why not?," Diana replies.

"Let's just say, I can't see it ending well for you.

"I hope that isn't a threat, sir," Diana responds, thus paving the way for what will undoubtedly be an explosive fifth and final series.

If it's anything like the fourth series, viewers are in for a royal triumph.

The Crown series four is available to stream on Netflix from November 15

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