"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Crown season 2: Standing Ovation

The Crown season 2 on Netflix exceeded season 1 - which was excellent - on all levels, which is to say it's a 10-episode tour-de-force, with stories ranging from flashbacks in 1934 Nazi Germany  (where Philip lived as a boy) to JFK and Jackie in Buckingham Palace.  Each episode was a gem, and most revolved around Elizabeth and Philip, but the final three were something else, extraordinary, indeed.

The 8th episode was about JFK and Jackie.  We're introduced to I guess would could be called the British perspective on America's Camelot - because I have no idea to what extent what is portrayed is true.  (An earlier episode with abdicated King Edward, said to have hobnobbed with Hitler, ends with real photos of Edward and the Fuhrer,  but no such proof is presented about JFK and Jackie.)  Both are portrayed as a little different from what we usually think of them.  JFK is jealous of Jackie, and nearly manhandles her as he expresses his displeasure to her about being the "man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris".  And Jackie, for her part, is portrayed as at times more rude, and more vulnerable, than we might have thought.  But the impact of JFK's assassination on Elizabeth is something which we (the public) had no knowledge of before.  We've seen the assassination and its impact on the screen many many times.  But The Crown manages to present it in a different, equally intense and deeply moving, light.

The 9th episode is all about Prince Charles and his father Prince Philip (played by Matt Smith, who deserves an Emmy for this performance - as does Claire Foy as Elizabeth).  In a single hour, Philip's and Charles's personas are explained - again in a way we haven't seen before.  If The Crown were a Shakespearean tragedy, this episode amply shows that both Philip and Elizabeth were both central protagonists - Philip in this one, especially, Elizabeth in all the others.

And the final episode about the Profumo scandal, culminating in a renewal of Elizabeth and Philip's relationship, was a masterpiece in itself.  Philip is caught up in the scandal because he knew Dr. Ward - Philip was treated by him - and Elizabeth has reason to think that Ward found all kinds of ways to relieve Philip's "tensions".   Earlier, Elizabeth has some of the best lines in the series when she softly lashes out at Harold Macmillan, her Prime Minister, who is resigning mostly because Profumo (Macmillan's Secretary of War, who was implicated in the call-girl ring which involved a Soviet spy - some things never change) was an embarrassment Macmillan couldn't overcome.  Elizabeth notes that in the extent of her reign - at this point, some ten years - three Prime Ministers have seen fit to jump ship.  They constitute "a confederacy of quitters," she tells Macmillan.  This, of course, is unfair to everyone accept Macmillan - both Churchill and Eden were forced out by their party - but it's a great line from Elizabeth, anyway.

Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television are already at work on a new season - with new people in the roles of Elizabeth and Philip, as befits their older ages.   A standing ovation for Foy and Smith, and everyone involved in these first two seasons.


It started in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn Monroe walked off the set of The Misfits and began to hear a haunting song in her head, "Goodbye Norma Jean" ...

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