Friday, February 24, 2017

"The Crown" rules all the current series

Netflix's recent original series, The Crown, is the kind of wise, mature entertainment that David Lean would have made, if he had focused on episodic shows rather than feature films during his prime.  This great looking drama by writer/creator Peter Morgan evokes memories of Shakespeare's greatest plays had they been merged with George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga - but without the nudity, bloodshed or vulgarity.  In other words, it is the PG version of the war for Westeros, the writing which is just as bold and audacious as anything in the mythical Seven Kingdoms.

Each episode of The Crown is a historical account of the early days of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who comes to power abruptly (and perhaps before her time) after the unexpected death of her father, King George VI (Jared Harris).  The storylines effectively shift from social, political and international themes, all the while keeping the point of view of the Monarchal heroine, played gracefully by Claire Foy.  Her husband,  Prince Phillip (Matt Smith), is the kind of easy going womanizer who hates it when his wife "commands" him, and who spends his free-wheeling days learning to fly airplanes.  But the series, for the most part, belongs to John Lithgow, who plays the legendary British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, spitting out the perfect amount of noble growling and barking whenever his universally acclaimed leadership is considered to be past his prime by his contemporaries.

Highlights of Season 1 take place in Episode 4, titled Act of God, in which a thick, heavy smog envelopes London, causing land-wide deaths and accidents due to the toxins in the air and the poor visibility.  Churchill is faced with a great dilemma, and the episode's climax, in which an important character's death finally shakes the Prime Minister's soul, is deeply powerful and emotional.  Similarly, Episode 9, Assassins, incorporates high art and thoroughbred horses, and how each impacts vital periods in the lives of both English rulers.  Churchill, observing his own portrait by a great English artist, is at long last faced with his own fading mortality; the Monarch, coincidentally, will call out her husband's extra-marital affairs to his face with just the right amount of honesty and mandating.  The episode is a masterpiece of style and substance, superb in every single definition.

The Crown may not have the sexy brutality of Game of Thrones, but its drama and superb characterizations give every single current series a run for their money.  I imagine HBO is envious that they didn't think of it first.

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