A couple of weeks ago we saw a teaser for The Crown season four, which promised Diana Drama! and only hinted at Gillian Anderson’s turn as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Well, the full trailer dropped yesterday, and it is a much more even-handed preview of the season, balancing the Queen’s historic meetings with Thatcher alongside Charles and Diana’s trainwreck marriage. There is also a single shot of Princess Anne: Best Royal Of Her Generation, and I am still FURIOUS The Crown completely skipped over the time Anne foiled her own kidnapping. I will not lie: I like the show less for it.
This trailer introduces the Thatcher era as the era of women running the show, with a queen as monarch and a woman as Prime Minister (and a princess-to-be waiting in the wings to energize the public). Prince Philip’s sarcastic line about women running the show is a little on the nose, but this is as “girl power” an institution like the monarchy is going to get. So here it is, The Crown: Girl Power with Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher making uncomfortable small talk. (Did they hate each other? Legit asking.) In the clip of Thatcher and the Queen meeting, I love the look on the Queen’s face when she asks if Thatcher actually likes being surrounded by enemies; it’s the English equivalent of “bless your heart”. What I do NOT like is whatever is happening with Anderson’s mouth area. I don’t know if it’s fake teeth or some kind of insert to force an overbite, but it is distracting. Anderson is a great actress and I never doubted for a second her ability to channel Margaret Thatcher, but I am not in love with the overly affected voice and that mouth situation. It smacks too much of impersonation, not inhabitation. Here’s hoping the full performance is more immersive and the mechanics of it aren’t this distracting the whole time.
On the Diana side, there is a portentous warning from Princess Margaret that if Diana can’t “bend” to the royal life, then “she will break”. This more than any other real-life royal saga adapted into The Crown is leaning on public perception and What We Know about what happened between Charles and Diana. Of course, we know Diana did not break, she, in fact, almost broke the monarchy. Every scene excerpted for the trailers thus far has counted on our memories of the real-life events and perceptions to imbue the scenes with meta-meaning. I don’t necessarily mind this—to some degree it’s unavoidable as these events are more recent and SO well documented—but I worry that being able to lean on that meta layer might undercut character development. In the first couple seasons, Princess Margaret was a fully fleshed out character, because we needed to understand and sympathize with her romantic predicament. But when public sympathies are already so aligned with these public figures, is there any point in making Diana such a full-fledged character? Or will they just take advantage of how we already feel about her?