The final season of The Crown is coming later this year, and it will be split into two parts. “Part one” will drop on November 16 and focus on the period of time around Princess Diana’s death. “Part two” will then premiere on December 14 and will focus on then-Prince Charles’s marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles, as well as Princes William and Harry becoming young men (and Will’s university years with Kate Middleton). 


A teaser dropped with the split date announcement, featuring nods to Claire Foy’s and Olivia Colman’s iterations of Queen Elizabeth II, before coalescing in Imelda Staunton’s somewhat dour visage as QEII as she asks in voiceover, “But what about the woman I put aside?”

The hook here is obviously the split date premieres. This is a good move by Netflix. The Crown is one of their legit smash hit shows, it’s entering its final season, time to milk that cow for all it’s worth. Also, while binge watching is undoubtedly a preference among audiences, there is no question that bingeing is bad for shows, at least in terms of cultural footprints. No matter how big a show is when it premieres, by the end of the following week, it’s gone from the discourse. Worse, oftentimes binge shows see diminishing returns in ratings from season to season, premiering big only to see the audience whittle away with each new multi-episode drop. While I think The Crown has suffered from a creative diminishing of returns, popularity-wise, it is one of the few original series on Netflix to buck this trend. So, yes, by all means, split the final season in two.


Also, narratively, it makes sense to allow a moment between Diana’s death and Charles’s second marriage and William and Harry’s first years of independent adult life. Diana’s death represents a major rupture for the royal family, not just the high-profile divorce that proceeded it, but the queen’s “annus horribilis” in 1997 and the public reaction to her non-reaction in the immediate wake of Diana’s death. That’s a lot! Letting these two pieces of narrative stand apart and have their own space within the audience’s mind is a good idea.

But while there are creative considerations in play, let’s be real, the main reason to split the final season is to milk ratings, especially since, despite some rumors that they would try weekly episodes for scripted series, Netflix doubled down on their binge model. Breaking up a new season into chunks is the only way to both stretch a show’s cultural footprint and still honor the binge model. (I, personally, prefer the hybrid model utilized by series like Loki and Our Flag Means Death—drop two or three episodes as a premiere, then go weekly with the remaining episodes.) By splitting The Crown’s final season in two, Netflix can dominate the streaming landscape at the end of the year, with the hope that The Crown is the show we’re all watching during the holidays. 


Whether or not it works depends on how tired everyone is of the royals after several years of scandal, mourning, and family drama. The Crown has always been about imagining the behind-the-scenes drama of the Windsors, but the last few years, their drama has been very much in front of the scenes. I expect Part One will do well because of the insatiable appetite for all things Princess Di. But Part Two? Do people really care about Prince Charles’s wedding drama? There’s only one royal wedding which behind-the-scenes drama interests me, and spoiler alert, it’s not his. Although, there would be something sort of meta-delicious about everyone tapping out on The Crown after Part One and Diana’s exit from the narrative. Art imitates life, and all.