The Crown Season 6 Part 1 Ending Explained – Grim, intrusive, confounding nonsense

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 16, 2023 (Last updated: November 18, 2023)
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The Crown Season 6 Part 1 Ending
Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth in The Crown Season 6 Episode 4 | Image via Netflix


By far the worst episode of an already bad season, “Aftermath” is a grimly intrusive affair further sullied by bonkers creative decisions.

For reasons of taste and decency, it was always agreed ahead of time that Netflix would not be showing Diana’s fatal crash in Episode 4 of The Crown Season 6. If we’re being truthful, it would have been in better taste and decency not to make the episode at all, or perhaps even the season as a whole, since the whole thing’s been a bit icky and this episode in particular, the ending of Part 1, feels especially intrusive.

Even without this, you could easily claim that the creative decisions are an affront to taste on their own. I have no idea what the logic behind any of this was, the show still can’t keep its ducks in a row in terms of characterization, perspective, or even tone, and whoever’s bright idea it was to have Diana reappear as a sage ghost dispensing soft wisdom to Charles and the Queen should be asked some difficult questions.

There’s one thing I can’t quite figure out, which is whether The Crown wants the Queen to look this bad or it’s simply an accidental consequence of Imelda Staunton’s portrayal. Either way, she comes across as wildly bitter and more than a little psychopathic in this episode, like someone trying to replicate real emotion having only seen it before once or twice.

A bitter Queen

“Those poor boys,” she mutters at one point after Charles has woken Harry and William up in the middle of the night to tell them their mum is dead with all the warmth of a serial killer. (For some reason Harry’s distraught 12-year-old face is given almost the entire frame, which is a little grim.) Nothing suggests the Queen meant this sentiment. To be fair she’s challenged on the manner of her grieving later, by Charles, so it doesn’t go entirely unnoticed, but I also don’t think she’s intended to come across quite as coldly as she does.

The recurring theme here – as it has been throughout the entirety of The Crown – is how the royals must keep buggering on, and maintain appearances despite great personal strife and difficulty. This is what Charles is complaining about, the impossibility of having one’s cake and eating it when it comes to being both a private and a personal family. In previous seasons this has been one of the most consistent forms of drama, and during the Queen’s actual reign, her devotion to duty has defined her (nobody can forget the image of her sat alone at Philip’s funeral.) But that’s only an admirable quality if she’s seen to care in the first place. Here she’s just bitter, as when she corrects Charles’s claim that Diana was part of the family.

Back from the dead

She’s even shitty with Diana’s ghost, so this seems as good a time as any to talk about that monstrosity. It’s a confoundingly ill-advised creative decision, having Diana show up for imagined conversations with Charles and the Queen that are so clearly designed to make viewers cry that their insensitive use is even more egregious.

RELATED: How critics and audiences have reacted to The Crown Season 6

The one with Charles is terribly written but spectacularly performed, which could be said about the season overall, but the one with the Queen is worse – just a nasty spat giving way to a preachy lecture that, ultimately, causes the Queen to about-face on her viewpoint and give a public address and make a big deal of Diana’s death.

This is supposed to be a serious drama.

Cold, cheap, and delusional

The ending of The Crown Season 6 Part 1 feels both emotionally and literally cheap. Its intention at various points is to emphasize the coldness of the monarchy in relation to the warmth of the public sentiment around Diana, but it’s so badly written it depicts that chilly response in illogical ways. The Queen’s pointing out that Diana was divorced from the family is one. Her struggling to understand why William goes missing from Balmoral is another (he just lost his mother and he’s going to have to walk behind her coffin – he’s clearly grieving!)

The funeral itself is a hodgepodge of real-life footage and some tactical close-ups, as if even trying to recreate the scale of the event was a bridge too far. Once again, Harry’s young face is used in close-up to make a point, but it’s Philip’s line to William as he, Charles, and Harry all walk behind the coffin that is the most telling. “Why are they crying for someone they never met?” asks William. “They’re not crying for her,” replies Philip, “they’re crying for you.”

There’s a case to be made, I think, that they actually were crying for Diana, whose death was avoidable and sudden and tragic. I know what Philip meant, but it reads as yet another instance of the royal family being utterly unable to frame anything as not being, in some way, about them. Diana lived and died apart from the family, “divorced from it”, as the Queen said. Even in her death, Philip couldn’t imagine the outpouring of emotion being directed at anyone other than William and Harry.

How does The Crown Season 6 Part 1 end?

“Aftermath” ends, after Diana’s funeral and the Queen’s address to the nation, with the Queen kneeling by her bed to pray, sparing a brief look over her shoulder as if she’s expecting to see Diana’s ghost again, perhaps crawling out of the TV.

It’s an odd note to end on, to say the least.

What did you think of The Crown Season 6 Episode 4 and the ending of Part 1? Let us know in the comments below.

RELATED: The Crown Season 6 Episode 3 Recap

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