Helena Bonham Carter radiates pain in the Season 3 finale of Netflix’s The Crown, and she could very well earn her first Emmy Award for it. Instead of solely focusing on Elizabeth, this year concludes with the end of marriage between Bonham Carter’s Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, an entirely unique union that continually tested both of them. Director Jessica Hobbs hones in on Margaret’s bruised heart, and she delivers one of the best episodes in the series’ run so far.
“Cri de Coeur” spends a lot of time repairing Margaret’s emotional well-being, but it also honors the relationship between Margaret and Queen Elizabeth. For most of the series so far, Margaret has resented her older sister’s position (earlier in the season, Margaret demonstrates her knack for schmoozing political figures when she meets the President of the United States), but there is a calmness to her views by the time the credits begin to wrap this third year.
The Crown has been lauded for its restraint, but when it runs free and places hurt and heart at the forefront. “Cri de Coeur” is a great example of how these aren’t just people living in a castle and people who will go down in history as members of the Royal Family. They ache and repair themselves the best they can.
Awards Daily: I think this is honestly one of the best episodes of The Crown because it has such a huge emotional pull for Margaret.
Jessica Hobbs: It means a lot to all of us. There’s a lot of heart poured onto that screen.
AD: Helena [Bonham Carter] gets to do something we’ve never really seen before. She’s played a lot of wild characters and Margaret is wild to a certain extent, but her heartbreak is really effective in this finale.
JH: There’s a bravery in being vulnerable.
AD: One of my favorite things about this finale is how we see how Elizabeth is concerned for her sister. Emotionally first and then later physically when there is the suicide attempt. How did you build that or pull that back?
JH: What we wanted to represent was sisters and siblings and that stage in life as a woman in heightened lives. For me, it comes in a beautiful moment when Elizabeth says that they can hide Margaret’s suicide attempt behind the resignation of the Prime Minister and Margaret asks, “How many is that now?” and Elizabeth says it’s her seventh. This woman has had seven prime ministers that she met with every week and gave credence to yet she still has to carry this enormous mantle. Elizabeth knows she never wanted it and her sister always did.
AD: Yeah, that’s finding new layers as the series goes on.
JH: We want to explore the kind of unexpected vulnerability around that scene. We had Peter [Morgan] on set with that set. He suddenly appeared and gave us three a huge fright. He said, “All this stuff going on in Britain is irrelevant. Let’s keep the focus on them.” To have that clarity to work the scene was so fantastic.
AD: We get to see a small maturity from Margaret in that scene. When she tells Elizabeth that she can’t shoot a crack because it will be a chasm to everyone else, it kind of feels like she’s stepped out of Elizabeth’s shadow a bit. Or she’s gotten over it or accepted it more?
JH: Absolutely. That plea for hope has given her some clarity about life and she knows this is what it is. We can’t escape it. This is Elizabeth’s path and this is Margaret’s. We made sure to get a look between them at the end. She doesn’t necessarily want to get into that gold carriage at the end. The weight that that woman has carried and now Elizabeth is in her nineties. I can’t say that I’ve thought much about The Queen before I did the show. The respect I have for her now is immense really. She has been so confident in her representation of a nation and that says a lot.
AD: She’s tough and steady. The Crown is really making me feel bad that our American leader isn’t as strong.
JH: (Laughs) She’s been a guiding light. It’s interesting how these women are providing a kind of competency. Life rolls on how much you rail against it. I love how you picked up how the tables of that moment. It’s one of the only times we’ve seen The Queen be emotionally vulnerable. Margaret is one of the only people that Elizabeth would be open with. Olivia [Colman] was concerned that it might be too much and she kept asking me if it was all right, and I assured her that it was more than earned by this point in the series. It will only enable it to make us feel for her more, especially since she’s an emotional performer.
AD: I love that we see how restrained Olivia has to be. We’re so used to thinking of her in The Favourite and Fleabag.
AD: In the finale, we get some looseness in some of these parties. It feels like we get a glimpse to the people who might be watching the Royal Family in a world that is so rapidly changing. I love the caftan everywhere. I love all the color. What was it like introducing that element when Margaret meets Roddy?
JH: It was a strong choice and I talked to Peter about it before I took on the job. In the scripts, it will often say there are montages, and he gave me enormous freedom to do with them what I wanted. For as long as I was sure what he wanted from it. What we talked about was that even though you’re in a new love affair, it’s when you’ve really been in love, the loss and the absence of Tony [Armstrong-Jones] was what we feel the most. That mystique is what I wanted to include. When Margaret is dancing with Roddy and playing around, Tony and I wanted to do a moment where she sees him and he’s not here. Peter didn’t see that until the edit, and he told me how much he loved it.
AD: How did you want to calibrate the flirtation between Margaret and Roddy?
JH: I tried not to calibrate it! Although having said that I created as many different scenarios as possible to reflect the development of their relationship in a shorthand form. The sequence where she takes him shopping for swim trunks was written but not the pool afterwards. Helena and Harry were so playful and funny together it was a case of setting the scene and then letting them take off within it. There was a sense of panic from producers about the rain but I felt that could only work to our advantage. Scottish rain on the water, butlers in morning suits holding umbrellas and dry towels while keeping their eyes carefully averted. I really wanted to let these two actors play and delight in experiencing each other.
In Harry Treadaway, we discovered an actor who was prepared to be vulnerable and in love – truly in love – with her. I wanted it to feel heady and free and yet dangerous – not in a societal sense of “danger” (although that was a factor) – but a true affair of the heart. Regardless of what anyone else may have thought, Margaret and Roddy were kindred spirits. Flirtatious, outrageous, funny. He “got” her and was prepared to be himself with her no matter what. And she loved him for that. He let her know she was wanted by him. And with him Margaret was truly fearless too and allowed herself to be vulnerable—to open up to someone. Drinking the champagne by the pool—not a prop Harry discovered!—diving into the ocean to make her laugh—the sheer connection of the two of them making love—that sequence was one of the first things we shot and I was working with the cinematographer Adriano Goldman for the first time that day. Turning around to see him at the monitor with tears in his eyes made me realize how lucky I was to be working with someone so sensitive to what I was hoping to achieve. He understood the tenderness between these two.
AD: I love the scene between Elizabeth and Harold Wilson when he resigns and they make plans for future meetings. Tell me about the ease in that scene between them.
JH: This was all about the trust the two actors had in each other. Jason and Olivia and I discussed Wilson’s Alzheimer’s—the idea that everything was oddly familiar to him and yet nothing was quite right. And the notion that there can be moments of real clarity for people with the disease—Jason captured this so perfectly when he made the choice to smile at the Queen right after he’d told her about his condition. It broke Olivia (in the best way) and she and I spoke afterwards about the poignancy and brilliance of his choice in that moment.
And we also spoke about the fact that they had earned their farewell. This wasn’t to be rushed or pushed through. These two characters had started out at such odds—he never expected to fall for her, to truly admire her, but by the end he did and she him. But the moment of that final goodbye, Wilson’s last “your majesty”—that floored Olivia the way that Jason played it. His respect, his love for his queen—she was taken entirely outside her careful carapace.
AD: In the final moments, Margaret reminds Elizabeth of the importance of her role and the weight of her duty. What did you tell Olivia for that final moment where Elizabeth finds herself in the carriage looking back through the window?
JH: We talked about the weight and loneliness of duty, that she alone must go forward regardless of how she felt at that moment in time. And that the memory of her sister’s desperate act sat heavily within her still. she felt raw, exposed, uncertain and yet she has always understood her destiny, her role, and accepted it. But in this particular moment it was particularly tough for her. She was aware of the price those she loved also paid for both the privilege and destiny of her as Monarch. Sometimes you just don’t feel up to facing “your public.”
The Crown is streaming now on Netflix. Season 4 will premiere on November 15.