Netflix recently announced that their critically acclaimed historical drama The Crown will end after season five, one season earlier than expected. First premiering in 2016, this ambitious project had English actress Claire Foy masterfully portray the Queen during the early years of her marriage to Prince Philip (Matt Smith) and her reign following the untimely death of her father King George VI (Jared Harris). Aided early on by the wise counsel of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, (John Lithgow), the Queen leads her family and the monarchy through turbulent times in Britain and learns to deal with family drama—especially that of her husband and of her sister Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby). For two seasons, Foy gave a brilliant performance as both a matriarch and a monarch, landing her Emmy nominations for both seasons and winning her the Emmy for Lead Actress for the second.
Following in Foy’s footsteps, film and television royalty Olivia Colman took over as the Queen in season three of the show released last November. Slowed down and not nearly as turbulent, season three had the Queen and Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) settle into their roles both in their family and in the monarchy as their children become rebellious young adults. The focus wasn’t on the precarious state of their marriage like in the first two seasons, but on the impact of a new generation of royals on the future functioning of the monarchy. Viewers saw a new side to the Queen—one that seemed hellbent on denying her son Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) any say in his life. The season also garnered critical acclaim, with Colman winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama in early January.
With one more season led by Colman before the whole cast changes, season four is bound to enchant audiences as it returns to the tension and spectacle of the first two seasons. Many people were surprised by season three’s general lack of constant nail-biting drama, but I doubt that this will be an issue with season four: Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s turbulent marriage and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will stir up plenty. I have few reservations about season four—but I’m curious to see where season five will take the story, knowing that the events of the last few years will not be covered. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, the subsequent drama, and “Megxit” are unlikely to show up.
In addition, Netflix announced that Imelda Staunton has already been cast as the Queen for the final season of the show. A brilliant actress widely regarded for her work on screen and on stage, she is best known for playing Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. But I think that this will greatly work against her. While Foy was a relative newcomer in the industry before playing the Queen and Colman was an Academy Award-winning actress who had already played British royalty, Staunton is etched into the minds of millions of people who have watched Harry Potter as the sickly-sweet Hogwarts professor. It’s hard to shake that kind of role, which is almost necessary when you are about to play one of the most important public figures in modern history. Staunton could make or break the final season of this beloved show. If she can move beyond that one unforgettable role, there will be nothing to worry about. Ultimately, it was showrunner Peter Morgan’s decision, and judging by the sheer quality of the last three seasons, I don’t have much to worry about.