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If you've never watched Netflix's 'The Crown,' just skip ahead to season 4 - it's that good

Claudia Willen   

If you've never watched Netflix's 'The Crown,' just skip ahead to season 4 - it's that good
  • Season four of Netflix's "The Crown" is the series' best installment of episodes to date.
  • For those that didn't watch the first three seasons, they might as well skip ahead.
  • Between Princess Diana's tragic fairytale gone wrong and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's clashes with Queen Elizabeth II, season four of Peter Morgan's fictional series is must-watch television.

While The Queen Mother awaits news about Prince Charles' impending proposal on season four of "The Crown," a rat scampers across the Buckingham Palace floor.

Sitting on a couch inches away from the tiny palace intruder, she was seemingly too preoccupied staring at the phone and daydreaming about the next royal wedding to take notice.

Details like these - which contrast the onscreen royals' grandiose, out-of-touch existence with the reality of the situation surrounding them - are precisely what make Peter Morgan's latest season of "The Crown" the series' best yet.

That's why I'm recommending that those who haven't watched the first three seasons of "The Crown" skip ahead to the fourth.

Sure, you'll miss Queen Elizabeth II's dramatic ascent to the throne, Princess Margaret's boozy dinner with President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Prince Philip's midlife crisis masqueraded as an astronaut obsession.

But season four, which is set between 1977 and 1990, is a breath of fresh air, honing in on a love triangle that people still can't stop talking about and giving the stage to a fierce power struggle between two female leaders.

Even though the show is Morgan's fictionalized version of real-life events, there's never been a better time to turn on the historical drama.

You don't necessarily need to watch the first 3 seasons to understand the plot of season 4

Of course, season four of "The Crown" makes more sense if you've watched the first three seasons. But if you haven't seen them, it won't stop you from enjoying the newest episodes.

Almost every hour-long episode in the first three seasons felt like a self-contained story that wasn't directly linked to the events before or after it. The chronological sequence, often skipping chunks of time between episodes, makes sense since the plot of "The Crown" is loosely based on real historical events.

Season one spanned from 1947 to 1955, season two from 1956 to 1964, season three from 1964 to 1977, and season four from 1977 to 1990. And though major themes and characters tie the story together, each season feels like its own distinct era, especially because the entire cast changed at the beginning of season three.

The show's fourth season is the closest yet to the modern day makeup of the monarchy, so it's likely that you're already familiar with the inspiration behind some of the main characters.

And since Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher, two of the buzziest characters this season, make their debut on "The Crown" during the season four premiere, it feels like the beginning of a new story.

The cast is stacked, with Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson rising to the challenge of playing two of the most famous women in British history

Season three favorites like Helena Bonham Carter's brooding Princess Margaret, Tobias Menzies' stern Prince Philip, and Josh O'Connor's whining Prince Charles return for season four, flocking around the most important person in the British royal family: Queen Elizabeth II.

And Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman's reprisal of her role as the British monarch certainly does it justice. Measured with each word and movement, Colman's Elizabeth manages to make viewers feel a flurry of emotions by showing nearly none herself.

She's only one of the women that make season four stand out from the episodes preceding it.

The true scene-stealers are newcomers Gillian Anderson as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as Princess Diana. Both actors took on a seemingly impossible challenge: bringing two of the most famous, most analyzed women in British history to life.

Through Anderson's studied facial expressions and hair-sprayed wig, she does just that to the divisive "Iron Lady," and many critics have lauded her performance.

As for Corrin, the 24-year-old mastered the Princess' signature sideways gaze and half-smile, painting young Diana as a bashful rising star leading a lonely, misunderstood life.

Season 4 gives more screen time to younger royals and is mostly set in the 1980s, so it hits closer to home

Since season four of "The Crown" is slowly inching forward to present day and takes place in the '80s, so it naturally feels much more modern than past seasons.

Whether it's Stevie Nicks blaring in a nightclub, Corrin's Diana roller skating through Buckingham Palace to Duran Duran, or the recreation of the young princess' iconic outfits that still yield influence today, this season feels less like a stuffy period piece and more like a nostalgic throwback.

And if puffy sleeves, feathered bangs, and the "people's princess" aren't reason enough to dive right into season four, viewers also witness the births of Prince William and Prince Harry, two of the most popular royals today.

Season 4 is also flooded with outsiders, and it's Morgan's most scathing portrayal of the British royal family yet

There's a reason that Oliver Dowden, the UK government's Culture Secretary, said that Netflix should put a disclaimer before each episode of "The Crown" to inform its audience that the show is fiction. While season four of "The Crown" humanizes the royals by peeling back their layers and portraying them as complex individuals, it's also the most scathing criticism of the monarchy yet.

Throughout seasons one, two, and three of "The Crown," members of the royal family struggled with their roles and the sacrifices they had to make in their personal lives.

Elizabeth was thrust into the spotlight at a young age, Margaret couldn't marry the man she loved without losing her family, and Charles had to prioritize his status as the heir apparent over his immediate desires.

And even though they may have felt lost at points, they were all born with royal blood and grew up in the system, so much of the focus was placed on holding the monarchy together from the inside-out.

Season four, however, introduces the opposite problem: complete outsiders unwilling to conform to the crown. Characters like Princess Diana, a former kindergarten assistant trying to shoulder her global popularity, and Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of the grocer forcing change upon the most powerful family in the world.

This new dynamic makes the newest episodes far more interesting. Instead of the rebellions coming from inside of the family, it's the change inflicted on it that poses the greatest threat.

By the end of season four, it's plain just how different the royals' world is than the one existing outside their doors.


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