There is not a single yam in the entire third season of The Crown. Not one. No turkeys either. In fact, only a whisper of it takes place in America at all. (In episode 2, Princess Margaret, played by Helena Bonham Carter, goes to the White House and recites naughty limericks to President LBJ.)
So why, then, is it exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to holiday viewing? Why, later this week, when the Thanksgiving feast has been gleefully inhaled and the cozy family vibes are starting to curdle, should we all queue up Netflix and settle down for a few hours with Liz (Olivia Colman) and Phil (Tobias Menzies) in their creaky old palace? Because The Crown is fundamentally about a very dysfunctional family, and very dysfunctional families is what all good holiday pop culture–from The Family Stone to Love Actually to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation–is really about.
How can you stay mad at your overbearing but well-intentioned mother after watching The Crown? Has she ever called you–and here you must excuse me while I check my notes–“the floozy” and “a whore”? Because that is what the queen mother, god rest her soul, calls her own daughter Princess Margaret. I bet you’ve never started seeing someone nice, a ‘gel’ with feathered hair and a penchant for polo shirts, only to have your own grandmother conspire to separate you by calling their parents and demanding that they marry them off immediately. This is what happened to poor Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell), soon-to-be Parker Bowles. The rest of that sorry story is history.
There are twin theses at the heart of every season of The Crown. The first is that the queen is the rock upon which the waves of society constantly crash. She is solid and immoveable and impassive; she is on postage stamps and banknotes and those little commemorative thimbles you can buy at corner shops and landmarks. The second, though, is that underneath the surface of that rock–stay with me now–is an absolute fucking disaster of a sub-oceanic ecosystem. Here, there are not only dragons but all sorts of creatures and creepy crawlies, and they have names like Lord Mountbatten (Charles Dance) and the Duke of Windsor (Derek Jacobi) and Anthony Armstrong-Jones (Ben Daniels).
The royal family is a mess! In season 3 of The Crown, Prince Philip throws a tantrum because he doesn’t want his old, ailing mother to come live with him in his literal palace; the queen can’t cry, even when faced with horrific tragedy; and Princess Anne is off sleeping with her brother’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. The royal family is a big old mess who can barely stand the sight of each other unless it’s through the bottom of a fat crystal tumbler into which gin has been very generously sloshed.
Which is exactly what Princess Margaret says in episode four, while being filmed for a quasi-fly-on-the-wall BBC docu-series inside the palace. “This is nothing like a normal evening,” she sighs. “If this were a normal evening we’d all be on our own, in sad isolation, in individual palaces. This is like some kind of nightmare Christmas.”
Happy holidays, everyone!
All three seasons of The Crown are streaming on Netflix now.
Images via Netflix