The Crown Season 6 Part 1 Review – A crass shadow of its former self

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 16, 2023 (Last updated: November 18, 2023)
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The Crown Season 6 Part 1 Review
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in The Crown Season 6 | Image via Netflix


Part 1 of The Crown Season 6 is detrimentally focused on Princess Diana almost exclusively, abandoning the better aspects for the earlier seasons for a crass, voyeuristic accounting of the Queen of Hearts’ final days.

As with many of its recent big originals, such as Stranger Things and The Witcher, Netflix, in its infinite wisdom, has deigned to release Season 6 of The Crown in two parts. Part 1 runs for four episodes, focuses exclusively on the final weeks of Princess Diana’s life and is in many ways rather embarrassingly shoddy.

I recall, like many, the original appeal of The Crown. It was a sprawling chronicle of British royal history condensed in blocks of ten riveting episodes, a cliff’s notes version of dynastic rule and palace politics and a terraforming England. It felt big and important thanks to an all-star cast and exclusively private input, and had decades of juicy shenanigans to draw from. Part 1 of the latest season, hamstrung by its need to be contained in one time period and largely to a single character, feels like a primetime soap opera that uses Diana’s impending demise as a cheap ticking clock.

The Crown Season 6 Part 1 review and plot summary

The Crash is teased in the first couple of minutes of the premiere and then is dealt with properly in the fourth episode. But it’s not like anyone can forget it’s coming in the meantime. The Crown bends over backward to remind us that Diana, the most famous woman in the world at the time, has been defined primarily by her untimely demise in a tunnel in Paris. That’s what the show is interested in, what it’s building towards, and what colors every scene prior, all of which occur with an unnecessarily forensic level of detail, as if it’s poring over a crime scene way before it becomes one.

It should be a romantic tragedy, one supposes, since the final eight weeks of Diana’s life were inextricably entwined with those of Dodi Fayed, the son of Mohamed Al-Fayed, aka Mou Mou, but it doesn’t feel especially romantic. This is perhaps because the genesis of the relationship is slightly inorganic – Mohamed instructs Dodi, who is engaged to another woman, to seduce Diana while she holidays with them in St. Tropez – but probably because the show is so obsessed with Diana’s death that everything just feels in service to it. All the scenes of Diana being a doting mother, an understanding romantic partner, a press darling, and so on, all just feel like they’re courting our sympathy so the outcome stings more.

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

Will it sting? Sure. The cast of The Crown remains incredible, and Elizabeth Debicki, now the star, is a dead ringer for Princess Di. So, there’s that. Uncomfortable closeness to reality aside, everyone from Imelda Staunton as the Queen – remember her? – to Dominic West as the Prince of Wales and Rufus Kampa and Fflyn Edwards as young William and Harry all do a bang-up job of selling the pain of Diana’s passing. It was an avoidable tragedy, and it will resonate seeing what the passing of the nation’s sweetheart, the Queen of Hearts, meant to so many – perhaps especially those who had never met her.

But this is small consolation for how unrecognizable The Crown has become to accommodate it. The palace – you know, the actual crown – and the Queen herself are relegated to supporting players in what is ostensibly their own story, while The Diana Show proceeds apace, taking an arch and uncomplicated approach to such a famously complex figure. “When Diana talks, the world listens,” says Tony Blair to the Queen about Diana’s anti-landmine campaign, almost in the manner of a smitten schoolboy (earlier, he and his kids had played five-a-side with Diana and William in the Chequers grounds – there might as well have been a banner reading “look how delightful and normal she was” hanging in the background.)

A shadow of its former self

The problem is that this occurred in our lifetimes. The Crown might not have quite caught up to the present day, but it’s paddling in the waters of recent memory, and thus it unavoidably lacks an element of playful mystique that made the earliest seasons such a hit. It can’t take too many dramatic liberties since it’s recounting stuff that many of us remember, that some of us were present for and that all of us have had reiterated many times since.

With this quality stripped away, The Crown Season 6 feels distressingly generic, a safe-at-best and sometimes unpleasantly cheap drama far removed from its prestige origins. Those early seasons weren’t immune to shenanigans either, but they at least didn’t have the same sense of crass voyeurism that this outing does.

What did you think of The Crown Season 6 Part 1? Comment below.


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