Critics have mostly come out in force to praise the third series of The Crown, calling it a “class act”, “beautiful”, and “confident”.
Anita Singh’s five-star Telegraph review said: “The Crown remains, by far, the best soap opera” on TV.
Carol Midgley’s four-star assessment in The Times highlighted the acting, including Olivia Colman’s “skill” in playing Queen Elizabeth II.
Colman deftly plays the monarch’s “vulnerabilities”, she added.
The Mirror’s Lewis Knight gave the drama five stars, describing it as “a majestic return”.
Writing in the Financial Times, Suzi Feay was effusive about how “wonderful” the Netflix drama is visually, making viewers “feel as though we’re peeping into the Royal apartments”.
However, Feay also felt there were signs the show’s writer Peter Morgan is finding it harder to dramatise something as long and complex as the history of the current Queen.
“As the years trudge on, and the big national events are counted off, the storytelling shows signs of strain,” Feay wrote.
“Peter Morgan’s script is ever-efficient with a twist of elegance, but some scenes are reduced to the most banal of stock phrases.”
The reviewers have had the benefit of watching season three in its entirety, which spans the years 1964-1977 and sees a raft of new actors – those taking over roles, or playing newly introduced characters.
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Morgan’s handling of the multiple twists and turns in a story spanning so many years was also a concern for other reviewers.
“How much artistic licence has been taken?… Is it good or bad?” asks Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. “Yes. On the one hand, it’s tremendous. You’re riveted.
“And on the other, it has the action stop every 12 minutes or so – usually for a new prime minister to come for his first audience with the Queen, or a state dinner at which somebody under-informed sits next to someone fully informed – for a chunk of exposition so we all know who everybody is…
“But like the royals themselves, it is so confident and so precision-engineered that you don’t notice the defects.”
The third season of The Crown sees Colman take over from Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth in the two preceding series.
Most critics agreed the adjustment from Foy to Colman felt somewhat uncomfortable at first but went on to echo the sentiments of Ed Power in The Independent.
Colman “brilliantly inhabits the Elizabeth we all know and take for granted. There’s something dazzlingly banal about her. This is the monarch who cuts ribbons at motorway openings and sends you to sleep mid-Christmas message,” he wrote.
Power, who gave the series three stars, also had misgivings about the script, writing that “Morgan initially seems at a loss as to what to do with his magnificent caricatures”.
In the Telegraph, Anita Singh referred to a revelation scene at the end of episode one: “Colman conveys her (the Queen’s) sense of betrayal – the shock, the disgust, the anger and the sadness – with one look. Ah, you think. Here it is. This is why she’s so good.”
Colman herself has admitted becoming “almost obsessed” with the real-life Queen while playing her in The Crown.
“She’s a rock for the nation,” she told BBC Breakfast.
“Her training is she has to be stoic and strong,” the actress said. “You never see what she’s thinking, which is eternally fascinating.”
Colman is joined by Tobias Menzies, who takes on the role of Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham Carter, who takes over from Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister.
Both actors received mixed comments from reviewers. Menzies “deserves special mention for his portrait of a charming, brutal, wounded man,” said Mangan.
However Ed Power in the Independent said Menzies “looks and sounds like the Duke of Edinburgh. Yet he’s never completely alive in the role”.
In the BBC Breakfast interview, the actor said: “The show is as much an investigation of the institution as it is of the people – the pressures, the weird loneliness of it and what happens to a family within those strictures.”
As for Bonham Carter, as Princess Margaret she performs the role with “magnificently casual disdain”, according to Mangan.
Bonham Carter told BBC Breakfast it felt “very special” to be portraying “fantastically complicated”, real-life individuals.
The new series of the Crown will be released in its entirety on 17 November.
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