‘The Crown’ begins its second season with a ship shaking, nearly on its side and caught up in a storm. Looking on from a distance are photographers, climbing cranes and the ports to capture a shot of the chaos. The moment would be heavily symbolic of not only that point in time for the Royal Family, but for many of its coming decades, as instability reigned and loyalties put into question, with tragedy often pursued by the cameras.
The marriage this sequence most distinctly represents, between Elizabeth and Philip, is one of two key relationships central to this episode, as master director Philip Martin juxtaposes the violent storm with a giddy, playful marriage months earlier. Excellently portrayed also in performance and production design, this love, and arguably the strength of the Sovereignty itself, is soon undermined by pressures upon freedom and individual rights. These are not new themes to the show, but Peter Morgan perfectly reflects them, and elevates them, with the Suez Canal conflict. As the English control of the Canal is broken by Egyptian desire for freedom of its own natural assets, the relationship between the Queen and her Government is stressed.
The notion that the world will continue on, whatever state the Queen may find her personal life, is emphasised by constant movement in camera and blocking. Elizabeth’s thoughts and personal journey often abruptly disturbed by the narrative structure that will not let her or the audience forget the ever-changing political landscape. What doesn’t change, however, is the patriarchal, masculine influence the society glows with. A heart-breaking sequence showcases a young Charles confused by the manner in which he could address his father with outside of, again, the eyes of the world.
This swirling sense of events may lead to concern, though, that Elizabeth could be seen as simply reactionary, and near the end of the episode an essence of this is felt, as her usual might is challenged by these two compounding issues. The episode only teasing her dedicated thought going into such matters. Her power is of course limited, as is her ability to voice opinion, but more should have focussed on her personal frustration. However, otherwise, ‘The Crown’ suitably focusses on the crown as an institution, whether some want to be in it or not. That instability a hallmark of an excellent episode. 9.6/10