The most modern depiction yet of the Monarch's continuous reign dishes out the ins and outs of Diana and Charles's drama, and remains fixated on it.
'The Crown' season five is bookended by one of Her Majesty's biggest joys - her yacht Britannia. It gives one the feeling that maybe this season's happenings will be more trivial than ever before - and when taking the grand scheme of things into account, yes they certainly are. When we first meet the "present-day" Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton), she's being poked and prodded in her bi-annual physical examination, driving home the fact that The Queen, the woman we've seen take over from her father at the young age of 25, is getting on.
But this season isn't reserved for The Queen, really. The People's Princess is a far more interesting topic to delve into. 'The Crown' season five continues the trend of season four by placing The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh (Jonathan Pryce) strictly in the back seat, once again making way for Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) in the driver's seat while her future ex-husband Prince Charles (Dominic West) vies for attention in the passenger seat.
There are no ifs or buts about it - this is Diana's season. What happened to Diana in the build-up to her BBC interview was incredibly manipulative, all sorts of wrong, and utterly scandalous, and all of that anger we felt towards journalist Martin Bashir (Prasanna Puwanarajah) for what he did to get that interview will rear its head while watching this story unfold. While the season doesn't build up to that faithful night in Paris in 1997 just yet, it is alluded to during two separate occasions, but the majority of the drama is strictly reserved for Diana vs. Charles.
The season plays out across the shortest timespan yet on 'The Crown', jumping just a few years within the same decade. The action rarely diverts away from Diana, so much so that a full episode is actually dedicated to setting up her future partner and his father, Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla) and Mohamed Al Fayed (Salim Daw). After five seasons of watching the glossy Windsors, it makes for a welcome diversion, if even just briefly.
Watching 'The Crown' season five in the wake of the news from the past two months within the Royal Family in real life does slightly change your view on the series. Charles unfortunately, as we've seen in videos leaked from inside Buckingham Palace, remains here as fed up as ever with the cards he's been dealt. There has to be a villain somewhere along the way, and West's Prince of Wales does get painted as such numerous times, seemingly usurping his mother at any opportunity given, highlighting how "out of touch" she has become. But is Charles not the one that's out of touch? He may spout some well-rehearsed remarks from time to time, but he's still unable to choose a perfect birthday present for his mother. And then there's the whole Camilla (Olivia Williams) storyline which still remains one of the biggest scandals to ever impact the family.
Imelda Staunton's Queen brings with her a more playful, more sympathetic air to the monarch following Olivia Colman's more straight-laced and unwavering depiction. As she ages, we're drawn to her warmth more than ever. Even with Diana and Charles being the focal point of the season, The Queen still controls everything that happens underneath her roof - and this time she is asking for help. The trustworthy and relatively drama-free Prime Minister Jonathan Majors (Jonny Lee Miller) is the reliable post she leans on, and when he's eventually replaced by a giddy Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel) both the audience and The Queen are sad to see him go. There's none of that Queen vs. Thatcher drama we ate up last season, and it's another example of the political happenings of the decade falling by the wayside in order to focus on the crumbling of a marriage.
For some reason, 'The Crown' season five feels like it's just giving what the audience wants this season: Diana. Where the earlier instalments focussed on historical and political happenings that many of the audience might not have been alive for, this time around we know the majority of the story, or at least the bones of it. In doing so, it doesn't feel as gripping or as genuine as it could have been, now just getting a rehash of television broadcasts. It's as if all of the major Windsor happenings have already played out in the earlier seasons, and now the series itself is struggling to remain relevant enough to the audience. We see now why the series was originally only going to have five instalments; instead, we now have to wait to see how this all plays out in a final season.
We'll likely never truly know the real goings-on within the Windsor family, so as always with 'The Crown' it's important to take everything we see with a generous pinch of salt. 'The Crown' season five makes for a bittersweet entry in the series, depicting a family on the verge of imploding and not realising that the worst is yet to come.