Elizabeth II has had her share of problems this year: The Brexit crisis dragged her into a constitutional kerfuffle, and Harry and Meghan have been sulking in public.
The Crown’s season 3 won’t cheer her up — it’s brilliant but unflattering. The original cast has been replaced, with Claire Foy’s dewy, resolute young Queen giving way to Olivia Colman’s helmet-haired, middle-aged one.
The new Elizabeth, pinched by her tiresome, ceaseless responsibilities, never quite loses an expression of mute, wide-eyed dismay, like a goldfish that sees a cat outside its bowl. Colman plays her with an irreverent touch of comic impersonation — this could be Carol Burnett as a Windsor.
The rest of the royal family festers along with her. Charles (Josh O’Connor), in love with Camilla soon-to-be Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennell), tells her how awfully sad it is that he needs Mummy to die so he can become King. Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) has become a fabulously blowsy disgrace. Only Prince Philip (Outlander’s Tobias Menzies) has any innate dignity.
If The Crown were Succession, these people could find a sick joy in ruthless ambition. But only one head is destined to wear the crown — and, in a deflating moment, Elizabeth tacitly acknowledges she isn’t sure Charles is up to the job.
Season 3 of The Crown hits Netflix on Nov. 17.