The Crown season four, first look review – enter Diana, Thatcher, bombast and bomb blasts

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana

The best series so far of the royal drama, with the family sliding into dysfunction and new characters providing 80s shoulder-padded spectacle

The Crown (Netflix) has finally reached the blockbuster era, thanks to the pincer-like introduction of Diana (soon to be Princess) and Margaret (Thatcher), at long last, who both elevate the season to its best form yet. It begins in 1979, with the election of Britain’s first female prime minister, and ends in 1990, amid the furious flames that were beginning to consume the marriage of the heir to the throne. It is grand, gorgeous and as soapy as ever, perfect for a wintery period of hunkering down.

I have not always been convinced by The Crown. In the past, it has been prone to sentimentality, and never knowingly using one word to hint at a situation when several thousand will do. The sumptuous look of it all and the delicious performances have frequently been called upon to come to the rescue of the writing, which is sometimes clumsy, over-explaining subtext, not trusting its own subtlety, eventually spelling any emotional conclusions out all in bold capital letters.

 

This season does not suddenly find a low-key groove – it deploys a hunting metaphor with which it repeatedly slaps the viewer around the face in these first episodes – but because the subject matter is so big and bombastic, it does fit together with more ease. It helps, I think, that the coldness and cruelty that runs through the Firm – the snobbery, the resistance to outsiders, the refusal or inability to act with anything resembling parental affection – is shuffled to the front, while the question of what must be sacrificed in the name of duty is ever-present. Its sympathies are leaning less towards to old guard, and more towards the new.

Emma Corrin, fresh out of drama school, is a wonder as Diana. She first appears dressed as a tree, hiding behind a plant pot, impish and youthful to the point of child-like. Later we see her dancing to Blondie when Charles first telephones, having spied the potential of what she might have to offer him, or what he might take from her. That hunting metaphor, we know, is about to become all the more pertinent. The role is demanding, and asks a lot of Corrin; with the assistance of Josh O’Connor, who has emerged as one of the true stars of the saga, she pulls it off with remarkable skill.

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How Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’ Subverts Teen-Movie Tropes

Netflix' Sex Education
Netflix’ Sex Education

Late in the second season of Netflix’s Sex Education comes a scene familiar from multiple teen movies: the ritualistic dissemination of a person’s private notebook, weaponized to cause maximum chaos. You might remember this exact scenario from Mean Girls, when Regina George papered her high school with xeroxed pages of the same Burn Book she’d helped create, sparking a fracas of hysteria and recrimination. Or from the end of Cruel Intentions, when a journal is handed out in bound copies at Kathryn Merteuil’s brother’s funeral, sealing her downfall.

The setup is enough of a trope to feel hackneyed, until you realize how Sex Education is subverting it. The person doling out secrets in hope of causing chaos isn’t a teenage girl looking for revenge, but a middle-aged man grasping at the last vestiges of his waning power.

When Sex Education debuted early in 2019, it felt like a delightfully earnest (and anglicized) patchwork of teen classics: the raunch comedy of American Pie, the small-town romanticism of Stranger Things, and the British oddball kids of Skins and The End of the F***ing World, with the sweet sex-positivity of Big Mouth thrown in for good measure.

The show seems to exist in a parallel universe that’s both our own (there are cellphones and STI outbreaks and horny teenagers) and entirely alien (no one ever goes on social media, every store in the mall is a small business, the action takes place in an idyllic English community where it never, ever rains).

Source: How Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’ Subverts Teen-Movie Tropes – The Atlantic