The Crown: Pride & Joy

“I am aware that I am surrounded by people who think they can do the job better.”

Recap

Queen Elizabeth makes her tour of the Commonwealth, with Philip at her side, or rather, a few paces behind her. In her absence Princess Margaret fills in while the Queen Mother goes to Scotland and buys herself a run-down castle for a hundred quid.

Reactions

This episode had plenty of potential, as it shows not just Queen Elizabeth doing her duty but the activities of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, both so close to the throne themselves. From the phrase “had plenty of potential” you can guess that I think it did not live up to its promise.

After the unveiling of the statue of King George VI – during which the Queen Mother becomes so upset by the reminder of her departed Bertie that she leaves to cry in the car – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip prepare for the Commonwealth tour, the round-the-world visit to one place after another to wave the flag. This tour is taken very seriously, with Churchill expressing confidence that the Queen will be able to improve relations with all the places she will visit – he seems to respect her more after his scolding in the last episode – and has a wardrobe to match. One hundred dresses! Fifty pairs of shoes! And a grueling, far-flung, exacting itinerary. I enjoyed the display of dresses to the Queen.

However, let us move to the fitting for Philip. A problem with this episode is that it is overwritten. Instead of just telling us something once, or maybe twice, stuff gets repeated repeatedly, as if the writers came up with too many ways to say the same thing and then couldn’t bear to cut. Or the episode was running short – each episode is 57 or 58 minutes long, a real hour, unlike the “hour-long” programs which are just 45 minutes in order to leave time for commercials. At any rate when Prince Philip, being fitted for one of the many outfits he will have to wear during the tour, talks about how this trip is just a coat of paint to hide the cracks in a crumbling Empire – important information for the audience – he rephrases his assessment many different ways. I sensed that Matt Smith, as an actor, also felt that his lines were repetitious; he hurried through a few so as to get to the end.

The episode goes from one part of the tour to another during the hour, and we get a sense of how hard these royals sometimes work. The schedules are so tight that they can’t go to the loo; they are hot, tired and cross; the Queen’s face hurts so much from smiling that she takes an injection (we symbolically see the drop of blood afterwards). They are tempted to make shortcuts (well, Philip is but the Queen keeps on going, even to Gibraltar despite the unrest) but they slog through it all. They are on camera much of the time, even when they think they are not, so that a serious quarrel between the two is caught on film. The photographer, however, gives the Queen the embarrassing reel.

The Queen Mother is asked to take over Queen Elizabeth’s duties – hosting, some ceremonies – while her daughter is away. Instead the Queen Mother gets Princess Margaret assigned to the task. The Queen Mother goes up to Scotland where she has a teary fit about being retired since her husband died. I agree that she was young to retire, but if she feels that way, why did she refuse the duties when Queen Elizabeth asked her? She complains about Queen Elizabeth not being experienced. Princess Margaret is even less experienced, and the Queen Mother could probably assist Margaret with more tact than Queen Elizabeth could. I try to have sympathy for people’s feelings and complaints, but I struggle when the solution lies right before them, as it does in this episode. Besides, I believe that if the Queen Mother wanted additional duties in general, more could have been found.

I thought the scenes in Scotland were beautiful – and very slow. I also thought the episode's pacing extremely odd. Usually when a show hops from one storyline to another, it’s implied that a following scene is either simultaneous or later with respect to time. Yet our time with the Queen Mother is interspersed with scenes from Queen Elizabeth’s world tour, and given how far Philip and the Queen have traveled – from Jamaica to Australia to Malta – weeks, even months must have passed. How long did the Queen Mother impose on her friends in the north? How long did she need to decide to buy that run-down castle? But I did like the castle's owner.

So, let us move to the joy part of the episode: Princess Margaret. She maintains that Daddy loved her best, and that she has more character than her sister. I don’t know about the first bit, but this is the first episode of The Crown in which we see she has any character at all, except for woman-in-love-with-a-man-she-may-not-marry. I liked the speech she gave when she was hosting the ambassadors – the writers did well – and I appreciate the way she insisted that she should be allowed to have some personality (Churchill of course disagrees). Her initial performance is so lauded that Queen Elizabeth has a bout of insecurity, and is only reassured by Philip’s saying that Margaret will eventually make a muddle of it (which she does).

Perhaps that is the foundation of Queen Elizabeth’s problems: she is insecure, and she has reason to be. She is aware of how precarious her position is. We may take the British monarchy for granted, or even if we don’t, its rise or fall may make little difference to us. However, the Crown does not take its position for granted. Moreover, any individual monarch has even less job security, and Queen Elizabeth is aware that others around her – her husband, her mother, her sister – believe they could perform just as well or better. Perhaps Queen Elizabeth thinks Daddy did love Princess Margaret best.

The scene in which Queen Elizabeth scolds Princess Margaret for the damage she has done is again, overwritten. The writers make the same points multiple times. Eventually Margaret promises to apologize to those she offended (and the offenses seem out of character, which may be one reason they were only told and not shown). Margaret is tired of being dominated by one who is apparently so perfect. But we know that Queen Elizabeth is not perfect; the illusion is only maintained by the cameraman handing over his reel.

Title musings. The phrase "pride and joy" is supposed to refer to Elizabeth and Margaret, respectively, the nouns that King George VI used to refer to his two daughters. We saw lots of pride throughout the episode, on all sides. I detected very little joy, except when Margaret was initially filling in for her sister. Still, if it was a phrase truly used by their father, I am glad to learn it.

Bits & pieces

At the unveiling of the statue, I liked the shot of all the black umbrellas.

Given how much waving the royals have to do, I now understand the “royal wave” – anything more vigorous and Queen Elizabeth would be incapacitated by carpel tunnel.

I have sympathy for the man who sort of recognized the Queen Mother but not quite. I once had a long conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson without realizing who he was. He was as charming and articulate in person as he is on television, and I only realized my idiocy months later.

Liked the shot with the confetti. Lovely visual.

I have shown little charity toward Philip in earlier episodes, when he whined about moving from one palace to another. But I do have sympathy about the smoking. I don’t smoke myself, but if you told me that I could never drink coffee for the rest of my life, I'd be pretty cranky.

Quotes

Queen Elizabeth: But she’s not head of the family. I am. And I will make the speech.

Churchill: The Crown does not back down.

Prince Philip: You wear uniforms to battle. This is a costume fitting.

Queen Elizabeth: Just remember who you’re standing in for while I’m gone.
Princess Margaret: My characterless sister.
Queen Elizabeth: Your Queen.

Churchill: The minute you become yourself, you shatter the illusion, you break the spell.

Overall rating

I had several problems with this episode. The pacing was off; it was repetitious; they told instead of showing some of what might have been the best bits. And yet, right after I watched it, I did something I have not done with any other episodes – I watched another. I haven’t been watching the episodes back to back, which is unlike me. One reason may be due to the fact that I finally had the time (I had some big deadlines to meet), but I was also in the mood to watch another immediately. So I’m not sure if I’m being too harsh. Nevertheless, my rating: two and a half out of four royal waves.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I kept thinking during the tour scenes that Elizabeth must have been constantly reminded of being told her father had died during the last one. And I have to admire her for being determined to keep every appointment and not disappoint anyone, no matter how difficult it was.

I just saw an article that says, reportedly, Queen Elizabeth really likes The Crown. That's delightful.

http://www.vulture.com/2017/05/queen-elizabeth-reportedly-quite-likes-the-crown.html

Victoria Grossack said...

I love that article! And I'm so happy to know that the real Queen loves the show. And how charming to know that she watches with her son and daughter-in-law, who have a Netflix account, and that she also occasionally binges.

My problems with this particular episode are artistic; they by no means reflect on my opinion of the royals.

They say that much of success in life is based simply on showing up, but we sometimes forget how difficult showing up can be. And Queen Elizabeth has done it for decades.