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12th December 2023

The Crown Season 6 review: A tragic triumph

Season 6 of The Crown has released its first four episodes. Following the final months of Diana’s life and the immediate fallout of her passing, it was always going to be controversial but to what point?
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The Crown Season 6 review: A tragic triumph
Credit: THE CROWN Season 6 Part One @ Netflix

The Crown Season 6 has dropped parts 1-4, and it’s safe to say it was fantastic. As always with the series, there is the continual question of authenticity and respect for the living royal family. The Crown toes the thin line between invasive and respectful depictions of fictionalised realities, but this season I feel was done with taste, beauty, and upmost respect for the family.

Following the years of Diana and Charles post-divorce, the series could have easily created an oppositional narrative between Charles (Dominic West) and Camilla (Olivia Williams) against Diana (Elizabeth Debicki), as was represented in tabloids at the time. Instead, Charles and Camilla’s love is celebrated in its own right. Without the taint of Camilla’s media villainization or Diana’s jealousy, Camilla’s birthday party underlined a true moment of happiness and enjoyment for the couple.

In this season we also meet Diana’s final lover Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdallah), the viewer meets him with an empathetic, generous gaze neither painting him as fame-hungry, nor superficial, but instead as a man who genuinely came to care for ‘The People’s Princess’.

The settings for this season are (as always) gorgeous from; the sweeping shots of St Tropez, the locations of the boats, to Balmoral and Paris. But whilst the sets and locations were brilliant, it was the depth of emotional connections this season that made it top-rated. Each scene whether in love, in grief, or in quiet affection, were performed so delicately that it was sometimes hard to shake that this cast were not in fact the real royals.

Debicki’s portrayal of Diana was absolutely wonderful here, perfecting the Princess’ mannerisms from her head tilt, her knowing smiles, her stooping posture, and her iconic leg poses. What was most captivating about Debicki’s performance was her relationship with her sons, through pain and heartbreak her love for the boys was palpably seen just through her expressions. The few scenes we had depicting their relationship were so intimately shot, it made the inevitable ending of this series even more agonizing.

Both Rufus Kampa and Fflyn Edwards, playing young Prince William and Prince Harry, gave stellar performances. They captured well the shift between innocent boyhood, their loving relationship with their doting mother, and the harrowing confusion after the accident. The quiet sadness of the two boys were careful not to romanticise the real-life pain of the two Princes depicting grief in its simplest form.

Dodi Al-Fayed’s father Mohamed (Salim Daw) is also a significant character in season 6. While the Harrods owner was initially set up as a meddling father to Dodi objectifying Diana and utilising their relationship for commercial gain – Mohamed’s grief was beautifully depicted. His personal regret and confusion are exemplified in a conversation between himself and Dodi’s ghost, his teary “Don’t leave me” line (episode four) was absolutely heart-wrenching. In telling the story of Dodi and his family’s loss, The Crown ensures that his memory was not forgotten, nor was his loss totally eclipsed by Diana’s death.

Another standout performance was West’s portrayal of Charles. By including a conversation between Charles and Diana about co-parenting and their strive to move forward with respect and care for each other, The Crown made his grief all the more heartbreaking. Charles’ growth in his respect for Diana across all four episodes was sensitively and beautifully conveyed, garnering more empathy for his character than arguably any other season of the programme.

This season worked fantastically to instil the familial values of the royal family. “Great pain and sadness doesn’t discriminate. It comes to those with beauty and privilege too” says the Queen (Imelda Staunton), encompassing the feeling of the season. Season 6 humanises each character with their shift from loving Diana despite their disdain for her public image, ultimately missing her, and coming together to support the family she left behind.

The stylistic choices to use silence and black screens during the accident and the private revelations of each death granted the families, as well as Diana and Dodi, respect in death. The Crown therefore deliberately denies the romanticisation of Diana’s suffering and the capitalisation of her death which the press enacted at the time. The grief is not explicit, nor exploitative.

Given the proximity of the accident to the current time this season would always be controversial, but The Crown handled such emotion with care to all characters. The portrayal of boundless familial love and the agony of loss is beautifully curated, each cast member creating memorable, stand-out performances. The Crown Season 6, part 1 is then a must-watch.

The Crown is available to stream on Netflix.

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