The Crown: A Company of Men

What happens on tour, stays on tour.

In the last episode, we saw Elizabeth’s loneliness as Philip was away on tour. In this installment, we get the other half, and see the sunshine and the sea of the Duke of Edinburgh’s tour – mostly down under. Philip, although surrounded by many men, still seems very alone – especially emphasized by the beautiful shots of the Britannia surrounded by a vast ocean.

Of course, they don’t live in solitude but are affected by those around them. Mike Parker’s infidelities, as he is such a constant companion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s, automatically causes rumors about the marriage of Elizabeth and Philip.

But the issue of whether Philip is unfaithful is left mostly open in this episode. His best opportunity for an affair – with the journalist Helen King – turns out to be a lovely misdirect from the creators of The Crown. Yes, Helen King was smiling at him from across the room, but she was using those smiles and wiles to get an interview with him. Her questions are as hard-hitting as anyone could wish. Too hard-hitting for Philip, who storms out in disgust, and a liaison with the lady is out of the question. And there’s no follow-up with respect to the ballerina whom we saw in the previous episode.

The scenes that were most interesting were those belonging to Eileen Parker – naturally so, as that character was the only one with any action and plot. A good reminder, too, how difficult it was for a woman to get a divorce back then. Of the possible grounds, the only one that Eileen Parker can use is infidelity, and for that she needs evidence – which means appealing to the other woman. An awkward conversation, but she has it. Eileen does track down one of her husband’s women, a waitress, who is sympathetic but reluctant to come forward because of the damage it will do to her own position. But the waitress manages to find other proof for Eileen Parker.

I did like how Philip insisted, using his position as Admiral of the Fleet, that they return the rescued mariner to his island home. Actually it was an excellent idea, not just out of humanity, but for publicity. It also makes Philip more sympathetic as a character – as does his reaction to listening to his wife’s Christmas broadcast, as does his stiff-upper lip approach to the reporter's hectoring questions. How can it be his fault if some of his relations were Nazis?

We also see a few of the consequences of Prime Minister Eden’s terrible decisions with respect to trying to retake the Suez Canal. “The government lied to take us into an illegal war” – a complaint that resonates today. I would have liked more on this, as I find politics more interesting than the difficulties of marriage.

Title musings: The phrase “A Company of Men” is meant, on its most superficial reading, to refer to Philip and the boys with whom he is sharing the Britannia. But the title has other readings as well. Keeping the company of men is a rather old-fashioned term for having an affair. I suppose it could also refer to the group that meets Thursdays in that pub – and the groups of men fighting for control of the Suez.

Bits and pieces

Loved the reference to a mynah bird. There was a mynah bird in a shoe store I went to as a kid.

The beard-growing competition was an absolutely charming idea. Men must get so tired of shaving! On the other hand, I prefer Matt Smith when he’s clean-shaven.

Quotes

Mike: Thankfully, there is always cricket.

Mike: In New Guinea, as it turns out, there is no such thing as infidelity.

Elizabeth: So it’s all been for nothing.
Lord Mountbatten: Rather worse than nothing. … It is no exaggeration to say that this has been the worst week for the country since 1939.

Overall Rating

The episode was reasonably entertaining, but only reasonably so. In some scenes – beautifully shot, mind you – I felt that it dragged. This review is shorter than usual for me, because I was a little bored. Two and a half out of four mynah birds.

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

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

I thought a good alternate title for this one might be 'Boys Will Be Boys.' :)

Yes, beautifully shot, but you're right, Victoria, that it felt a bit slow. Although I liked having an episode about Philip, because I have to say that the writing of this series and Matt Smith's performance have actually made me interested in Philip. So he hated talking about himself, huh? He seemed to actually believe that, other than being born a prince and being married to a queen, he was just an ordinary guy.

I liked the bit about the rescue and how he used his clout to get the poor guy home. It made me think that Philip might have been a lot happier if he really had been an ordinary guy with a real job.