If you’re after a high quality historical series for your low-key date night or evening of unwinding, the popular Netflix original series, “The Crown,” is a strong choice for a lot of reasons.
Now I’ve known some people who are a little bit obsessed with royalty — you know, your friends who gush over the current British royal family members’ weddings and pregnancies and adorable children and all that. I am not one of those people. So I thought it pretty possible that I wouldn’t find “The Crown” all that amazing.
And yet, without any kind of royalty-fandom or even a lot of historical knowledge about the world in the time it’s set (1940s onward), both my husband and I still found the show to be quite compelling and very well done.
A Premise That’s Almost Too Simple
Though I was definitely interested when I saw the trailer, the show’s premise doesn’t sound all that exciting: it’s a biopic about Queen Elizabeth of England (the queen that’s still alive and ruling today), starting with the beginning of her reign.
Is there that much of interest in the life of a queen? What’s the show about, her going to meet people and doing a royal wave? Maybe some royalty school or something?
Well, no. The Princess Diaries this is not. Rather, the series tells the story of a young woman ruling in the tumultuous times of the early to mid twentieth century around a lot of people who don’t take her seriously, a younger sister who is prone to drama, and a husband who doesn’t know how to deal with being married to his ruler.
There’s a Lot to Enjoy
It’s not hard to see why the show’s first season won several Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.
The acting is superb — Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth; Matt Smith as her husband Philip (if you can forget that he plays the silly cousin Parson Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, eek!); and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.
The writing is top notch as well, with compelling and engrossing storylines that you won’t want to turn off (with perhaps the exception of an episode centering on the younger sister in season two that was a bit of a snooze-fest).
I also really appreciated the show’s emphasis on marriage. In season one, the queen has to deal with a royal family member wishing to marry a guy who was divorced, which was not very common in the time period. And as the head of the Church of England, which apparently did not approve of divorce and remarriage (I found this ironic, considering that Henry VIII essentially started the sect so he could get divorced…), Elizabeth has to wrestle with what to do about the family member’s request.
And then Elizabeth’s own marriage is quite a focal point as well. While some of the less enjoyable moments of season two do contain a few pitfalls from season one’s strong presentation of what a marriage should be, I do still think that the marriage plot lines in the series give people a lot of food for thought and discussion on what a marriage ought to look like.
Morally Speaking, It’s not Perfect
This series is rated Mature, and the first season is a pretty soft M, with only a few instances of language, some pretty brief nudity, and a few implied sexual encounters (some of which were between the married royal couple, so nothing wrong there!). So I had a pretty easy time recommending it to the typical Catholic adult crowd, before season two came out.
Most of season two is similarly harmless, with probably a few more uses of Mature language… Except for season two, episode seven, which has some additional issues that could be troublesome for the more sensitive among us: some fairly graphic sex scenes, recurring nudity, and depiction of a weird, deviant sexual situation.
My husband and I actually decided to skip this episode halfway through it, and we just Googled the history to find out what happened in real life (ah, the perks of watching a show based on true events!). We were still able to pick up on what was happening pretty easily in the next episode.
My Conclusion: A Solid Choice
With the exception of that one episode, this is a really enjoyable show without a lot of material that’s morally troubling. It even has the bonus of giving a brush up on some 20th century history. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal of the show, actually. I can’t count how many times we wondered aloud while watching whether events actually happened that way, and then felt compelled to look it up.
As for a low-key date night choice (or several — we’re talking about quite a few hours of content), just skip season 2 episode 7 like we did if you’re worried about awkwardness and the like.
But beyond that caveat, “The Crown” is a great pick.