While the pivotal point in “Avalanche” is the avalanche, the real foundations that are crumbling with no hope in sight are Charles’ and Diana’s marriage, which is the epicenter of the story.
This recap of Netflix’s The Crown season 4, episode 9, “Avalanche” contains significant spoilers.
We recapped every episode — check out the archive.
“Avalanche” starts at the Royal Opera House. As Princess Diana arrives, she gets all the attention even though it’s Prince Charles’ birthday. The Royal Couple watches the performance together. During the show, Diana leaves her box, and she surprisingly joins the stage and dances to Billy Joel, “Uptown Girl” with the dancer on stage. The crowd loves it, but Charles is secretly furious. Afterward, on the way home, Charles has an angry outburst because she garnered all the attention and he doesn’t think she did it for his birthday. Charles heads off to Gloucestershire and leaves Diana behind, presumably to see Camilla. Ironically, Elizabeth tells Philip that she believes Charles and Diana have turned a corner.
“Avalanche” continues to show the widening cracks in Charles’ and Diana’s marriage.
And what follows is a horrific turning point for the couple.
The episode turns to the 10th March 1988, and the scene shows an avalanche. Back at Buckingham Palace, the phones are going crazy. Prince Charles was caught in the avalanche. The news footage shows rescue efforts. Elizabeth and Philip are told that a body has been found, but it is unconfirmed who it is — they both are in shock. Elizabeth waits patiently and then it is confirmed — Prince Charles is alive, but there was a death. Royal advisor Martin warns the Queen about speculation regarding Charles and Diana and their rocky marriage.
With each episode passing, their marriage is becoming increasingly unbearable.
The truth regarding their marriage
Elizabeth meets Anne to talk about the true reality of Charles’ and Diana’s marriage; Anne tells Elizabeth that Charles was already in love with someone else before they married and that they have an age chasm; she doesn’t think they understand each other and have conflicting hobbies and social groups. Anne tells Elizabeth that they are both seeing other people — she picks on Diana the most and calls her a “revolving door” with the men she sees secretly, while Charles meets Camilla with the whole of Gloucestershire facilitating it.
Interestingly, the attitude towards Diana in this scene could not be more apparent. Anne’s focus on Diana’s sex life seems to be more of an issue than Charles having a loving affair.
Charles is impacted by his near-death experience as he keeps having flashbacks. Camilla keeps on comforting him; he tells her that when he thought he was going to die, he wanted to be with her, as his wife.
Do you want this marriage to work?
Relationships that are not destined to work will always have cracks reappearing; trying to make it work prolongs the inevitable.
Charles and Diana have a meeting with Elizabeth and Philip — as they wait, Diana remembers the fond memories with Charles. The Queen tells them both that their marriage is a reflection of the crown. She asks if they want this marriage to work. As Charles is about to speak with a letter in hand, Diana says she wants to make it work. Elizabeth asks about Diana breaking her vows — Diana talks about the moment of the avalanche and that she felt an overwhelming emptiness and loss. Elizabeth reminds them both of what a marriage should involve. Diana apologizes to Charles for her part.
Charles wants to speak, but Philip stops him and tells him there is nothing else to say. It could have all ended here at this moment, but the crown’s ability to not let the suppressed be heard came to the surface in this scene. They refused to allow Charles to have a voice because they are more focused on what marriage means to the Royal Bloodline.
Making it work
Charles tells Camilla that he had a speech prepared, but Diana spoke first — he isn’t giving up. Diana has given up on all the flirtations and the men she is seeing. She wants to try and make her marriage work. Meanwhile, Charles keeps on trying to see Camilla in his schedule, but Diana’s efforts hinder it.
On their wedding anniversary, Diana has planned a weekend for them. They exchange presents — Diana gives Charles a VHS tape of her performing Phantom of the Opera — she’s singing to Charles for him on the tape. Afterward, Charles tells Anne that the tape was awful and he hates putting on a false smile. Anne tells Charles that no-one wants his marriage to end — she explains to Charles that Camilla’s marriage is more solid than he thinks. Charles gets frustrated with his sibling’s words and tells her he wants kindness in the family.
And this scene shows how the problem ran in the family. Despite Anne’s expression in a previous episode that she does not find her life fulfilling, she’s giving her brother the same advice the Queen would.
Secretly meeting Camilla
Charles meets Camilla secretly, and he asks her if she has special feelings for her husband Andrew. He tells her that it is important that they feel and want the same. He wants to know if she would be prepared to leave Andrew if he leaves Diana. Camilla wants them to remain realistic but tells him that her love for him is real.
Diana keeps trying to ring Charles and is frustrated again. He refuses to answer her calls. Diana is starting to feel lonely as Charles distances himself and the same cycle repeats. Eventually, Diana rings Major Hewitt, the man she used to see, and brings him back to her home. The Crown workers seem to be tracking what Diana is doing with the men in her life, and they alert Charles that she’s having affairs again — this is a lot of hypocritical nonsense.
While the pivotal point in The Crown season 4, episode 9 is the avalanche, the real foundations that are crumbling with no hope in sight are Charles’ and Diana’s marriage, which is the epicenter of the story. The penultimate chapter shows how murky and complicated it got between both adults and the contradictions that surrounded it.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.