The Crown: Olding
November 18, 2019 6:18 AM - Season 3, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The royal family mourns the passing of Winston Churchill. The United Kingdom ushers in a new prime minister, the Labour Party's Harold Wilson, whom Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth hear might be a Soviet spy.
posted by Cash4Lead (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I watched this episode and did not believe it had been 45 minutes when it was over, it was so compelling.

Also I continue to hate Philip.
posted by jeather at 9:32 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I thought the premise was a bit weak and farcical. I get that these were actual rumors at the time, and obviously having a head of government working on behalf of a foreign power is concerning (and timely!) but it was played like a game of Telephone rather than a serious threat to the stability of the British government, and Elizabeth came off as somewhat paranoid/Joe McCarthy-esque the way she whips her head around every time someone says Harold Wilson. Not to mention the bit where the Queen and the MI-5 guy have a whole conversation before they realize they are talking about two completely different people -- it was like "who's on first" and tonally wrong for this show.

I also wish they had introduced the mole sooner and let us got to know him, because the Big Reveal is kind of like "...ok." And the pointed speech the Queen makes later in the episode, where she signals to the mole that she's on to him, feels childish. By comparison, S2's Big Reveal of the Duke of Windsor being a Nazi sympathizer was drawn out and felt like much higher stakes when QE2 sits down with him to Have A Talk.
posted by basalganglia at 9:46 AM on November 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

I think the show assumes a fair amount of knowledge about British politics and scandals. Agreed they could have done a bit more to introduce Blunt (I recognised him the moment he was standing in Buckingham Palace pointing at paintings in an episode with an espionage theme, but I'm a nerd for Cold War spy stuff).

I'd love to know if she actually did do a passive-aggressive speech after learning he had betrayed the country, but I suspect that was artistic license.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:58 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Glad to have the show back, and they did a remarkably good job of segueing from Foy to Colman. Both with the stamps, but also with how they framed and lit Colman from behind. There were several moments where I thought it was Foy. As for Philip, he showed a lot of growth and seems more present in their marriage.

The challenging part is they've also recast all the courtiers. After two season I had mostly learned to recognize who was who around the fringes of the family. Now we're starting from scratch.
posted by dry white toast at 11:39 AM on November 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

Am I right in thinking there was zero time jump from Season 2 to Season 3?

Given Season 2 ended with the Profumo affair and JFK getting shot (1963) and Season 3 began with the election of Harold Wilson (1964), it would appear to be a straight transition. It makes the rapid ageing up of some of the courtiers especially a bit abrupt.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:26 PM on November 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

Am I right in thinking there was zero time jump from Season 2 to Season 3?

Given Season 2 ended with the Profumo affair and JFK getting shot (1963) and Season 3 began with the election of Harold Wilson (1964), it would appear to be a straight transition. It makes the rapid ageing up of some of the courtiers especially a bit abrupt.

It's not even a year, just over 5 months, given that the last thing we see in S2 is the christening of Prince Edward (which apparently took place on 2 May 1964 after his birth in March) and S3 opens with Wilson's election on 15 October 1964.

You can't think about it too hard!
posted by andrewesque at 2:15 PM on November 18, 2019

Enjoyable start to the new season, I was also really surprised we were picking up in 1964 when I had simply assumed that there was going to be a bigger time jump since the ages for the actors were a bit of a jump, though not huge. Colman and Foy are 10 years apart and Menzies and Smith are 12. A bit awkward in that way but I got over it by episode 2. I watched the first 3 yesterday but will obviously reserve my comments on 2 and 3 for the appropriate threads.

I did struggle a little to adjust to the new Philip because Menzies and Smith have such different voices. Of course everyone sounds a bit different but that one was more noticeable to me. However, I do love the choices in the casting so far. Colman is such a great choice. I look forward to seeing more of the royal family as we get deeper into the season.

I think the show assumes a fair amount of knowledge about British politics and scandals.

Not being British, this has always been a bit of a challenge for me but thankfully, I've watched a lot of British shows, some of a political nature (The Thick of It, in particular) so I've developed some knowledge to guide me along. I struggle occasionally with the lack of handholding for those of us who are less knowledgable of these things, however I would hate to have the characters awkwardly explain things to each other that they should already know. So I end up doing research after some of the episodes to better understand the significance of certain events and people. In that respect, this show and other like it have been very educational for me! Even if my reading then points out the things the shows did wrong (or condensed).
posted by acidnova at 3:49 PM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree Coleman is an excellent choice and the transition seamless. As for the courtiers, I had captions on, which helped. I do say I like this actor for Phillip better than Matt Smith. Matt did alright, and played well alongside Claire, but he never seemed to fit the role for me.

I’m not a “Doctors can never be anything else” type; it just wasn’t a fit. I loved Good Omens and Jessica Jones with their Doctor; I suppose I’ll need to see Smith in more to see the fit. Also didn’t help they spent SO MUCH TIME on Phillip’s moping about last season.

And I must be dense, as I thought Tony was a suspect spy with his camera. But I don’t know much of this history, I’m afraid.
posted by tilde at 4:29 PM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Her speech about painting over one face with another, so that two faces are really two different people, also meta-works for herself, replacing Clare Foy with Olivia Colman!
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:48 PM on November 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

I also liked the meta-reference to the swapping in of older actors in the episode title - "Olding". Heh.
posted by peacheater at 4:56 AM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I kind of wish they had not picked Helena Bonham Carter to play Margaret. Don't get me wrong, I love HBC, but it was difficult not to watch her scenes as "HBC doing her eccentric HBC thing" rather than playing Margaret. I suppose it's an accurate act, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 AM on November 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

The transition of the Elizabeths was beautifully done. Really kudos to whoever blocked/edited that scene with the stamps.

Tobias Menzies does a great sleaze and I think he's going to deliver as Philip. Something about his hair didn't look quite right?

Watching this last night triggered some musings one what it does to be a person who is fundamentally engaged in falsehood. Can you be a good parent/partner/friend if you're living a double life, or a raging hypocrite? What is the different between people who do bad things and know they are bad and people who do bad things and think they are good?
posted by bq at 3:02 PM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Am I right in thinking there was zero time jump from Season 2 to Season 3?
Maybe everybody just had a really heavy night out and woke up that way?

In fact I believe the show's creators told all the actors, right from the get go, that there would be a complete change of cast every 2 seasons. The current set would be probably good to go as far as the late 80s; but no further. It is a bit jarring for anybody watching straight from series 2 to 3 - but I am enjoying seeing the new actors getting a go - Tobias Menzies most particularly.
posted by rongorongo at 12:41 AM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Enjoyable return. Loved the small touches - Philip demanding a servant adjust the volume on the TV he's sitting right in front of; the level of discomfort the new PM had when meeting the Queen (a great way of making it clear he's not from the "upper crust", which we had been told but the showing was delightful); the discussion of "two faces" which not only touches on the changes of the cast and the fact that there is a spy, but on the role that royals play where personal preferences are masked & hidden to assume the public face that the role requires.

And great to see Lithgow back, however briefly.
posted by nubs at 10:12 AM on November 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had only the vaguest idea about Anthony Blunt so I looked him up on wiki...and if that can be believed, Blunt's espionage activity seems to have been mainly during WWII when he passed on Ultra information about German troop movements to then allies, the Soviets. MI5 had questioned him as early as 1951 because of his friendship with Burgess and Maclean. Still it was one jolly old boys network even after his secret confession. It wasn't until someone decided to write a roman a clef in the late 70s that it leaked and he died a few years later.

The tv scene in which he appeared to blackmail Prince Philip about the Profumo scandal might have been a reference to a real mission Blunt carried out in Germany at the end of WWII in which he retrieved "sensitive letters" from the Duke of Windsor to Hitler and other Nazis.

In the episode, the queen tells Philip that Blunt can't be publicly unmasked because it would damage relations between the UK and the US but it was the CIA who informed MI5 about Blunt so the US already knew. Just not publicly.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:31 PM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I kept postponing watching this because I didn't look forward to the cast switch. I didn't know who people were and the plot of it bored me stiff. Why did a plot about a secret spy bore me so much? Margaret's upset over Tony's absence is the only thing that stood out to me, somehow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:24 PM on June 6, 2021

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