Awards Daily shines the Emmy Spotlight on The Crown Season 2. The drama doubles down on British intrigue as Claire Foy bids adieu to Queen Elizabeth II.
The Crown‘s first season seemed destined for Emmy glory. But then Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election. And then women’s rights seemed in dire straights in early 2017. Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale swooped in on a wave of zeitgeist-y love and snatched the Drama Series crown away from Netflix. The year-long frontrunner Claire Foy also lost to the equally deserving Elisabeth Moss. But it all seemed ok, honestly. Foy’s turn as Queen Elizabeth II would run only two years. As Moss stepped up to the podium, Emmy watchers all assumed Foy would get her chance the following year with The Crown Season 2.
But as Season 2, has The Crown molded enough material to guarantee Foy Emmy glory?
Much On Its Mind
The season opens as England faces a growing crisis over the Suez Crisis. That short military kerfuffle runs in parallel to a growing crisis within the walls of Buckingham Palace. After months of standing in deference to Queen Elizabeth, Philip (Matt Smith) appears to have massive wanderlust. Elizabeth sends him on travels to England’s many foreign territories, yes, but there is also HEAVY suggestion that Philip strayed from the throne. Other plots over the second season include new Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) scandals and the growing discomfort between the Queen and an increasingly modern world.
One of the things I loved the most about The Crown Season 1 was how it slowly and logically evolved. Running from her marriage to the return of Winston Churchill to power to her ascension to the throne, the first season boasted a beautiful cadence that flowed effortlessly. Contrastingly, Season 2 has a lot on its mind. The Suez Crisis and its many, many backroom negotiations. Royal marriage strife. Margaret’s love affair. The opening of the crown to the general public. The arrival of President John F. Kennedy (Michael C. Hall). There’s a lot to grasp here, and the flow feels choppier, more like a greatest hits run than a fully fledged narrative.
That’s a bit unfair, of course. The Crown has decades to cover, so it will naturally need to become something of a Greatest Hits series. We drift from plot to plot with relative ease – nothing feels awkward of out of place – but it’s not as tightly focused as the first season. It lacks a consistent theme. You have to wonder if the Television Academy will respond as kindly to the second season given how deeply it doubles down on major aspects of British history not widely known to American eyes and ears.
Update: As I’ve progressed through the rest of the series, Episode 6, “Vergangenheit,” emerges as a stunningly complex entry. It manages to balance quite nicely the visits of Billy Graham with the Queen and the ugly Nazi ties within the Windsor clan. Excellent television.
Emerging Emmy Stars?
Of the five episodes I’ve seen, The Crown continues to boast a stellar cast. Make no mistake, though, Emmy-winner John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill is sorely missed. The subsequent prime ministers pale in comparison to his sheer on-screen presence. Granted, in real life, they paled in comparison to the controversial figure. To accommodate, the creative team increases Matt Smith’s presence as Philip, giving him significant screen time to sew his wild oats across the world. Will the Academy respond in kind? He won’t emerge as a Best Actor candidate, but he could factor into the supporting race.
And what of the great Claire Foy? The Crown Season 2 remains a ladies’ world.
Foy continues to bring Queen Elizabeth II to life in a remarkable way. Her performance, in face, feels more accomplished in Season 2 thanks to her increasingly subtle work. In multiple scenes, Foy manages to at once illustrate both Elizabeth’s deep pain and ultimate repression of those emotions. Yet, she’s allowed to open up as much as a studied monarch can – the season wisely opens with a verbal altercation between husband and wife that’s not revisited until several episodes later. Still, given the wide swath of British history, the Queen sometimes feels pushed aside for an increasingly large cast. There are still great moments to cherish from Foy (her first televised Christmas address guarantees another Emmy nomination alone), but she’s not quite the center here as she was in Season 1. I can’t honestly say if this is a slam dunk for Emmy.
If awards were completely just (which they’re often not), then we’d all be talking about Vanessa Kirby’s stunning Season 2 performance right up until next year’s awards. If you thought she was great in Season 1, she will blow your mind in Season 2. Episode 4, “Beryl,” emerges as hands-down the best episode of the series thus far as it illustrates Margaret’s growing fascination with photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode). To say much more would spoil the greatness, so you must experience it for yourself. “Beryl” is a fantastic tour de force for a brilliant, amazing, fantastic revelation in Vanessa Kirby.
This is one of my favorite hours of television. Ever.
Do you remember how everyone fawned over Mad Men‘s “The Suitcase?” That’s how I felt about “Beryl.” Both great hours expertly evoked subtle characterization over luscious period decor. Both are luridly entertaining.
You won’t soon forget “Beryl.”
The Crown Season 2 still emerges as a very smart and accomplished series. Sure, I have a few nits here and there, but there’s no denying the power of the show. Writing, directing (“Beryl,” please), acting, and below the line nominations seem likely – particularly the stunning costumes. What I can’t say right now is how close anyone will get to the actual podium. Last season, Lithgow soaked up all the glory with his amusing Churchill, but will his absence allow room to breathe for others? I would hope the great Vanessa Kirby steps into that role along with Claire Foy, who deserves an Emmy for growing this character so dramatically over two seasons.
Lead Actress – Claire Foy
Supporting Actress – Vanessa Kirby
Actor – Matt Smith