A star rating of 4 out of 5.

The Crown has been on quite a journey since it first arrived on Netflix in 2016. Starting life as a critically acclaimed historical drama starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, it has since seen two major cast changes and a souring of critical consensus, as it has delved into more current and contentious subject matter.


It was evident from season 6 part 1 that the decision to split the show's final season into two parts was a strange one, and in hindsight may not have been the best move.

Centring an entire run on Diana's sudden, unexpected demise gave the whole thing a morbid air and leant away from what made the show so successful to begin with - utilising varied historical stories to explore a larger family drama at its core, and the ways in which duty and tradition interact with personal autonomy.

Given the mixed-to-negative response the first part received, the show's legacy, to some extent, was therefore always going to rest on this final batch of six episodes. Thankfully, for the most part, this is a much-improved final outing.

Imelda Staunton and Jonathan Pryce in The Crown season 6 part 2.
Imelda Staunton and Jonathan Pryce in The Crown season 6 part 2. Netflix

The new run lends its focus to the early 2000s, with storylines including William and Kate's relationship, Princess Margaret's death and the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

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Unlike the previous four episodes, which focussed almost entirely on the storyline surrounding Diana's relationship with Dodi Fayed, their deaths and the aftermaths, this season takes things back to basics, diversifying its range of subjects and topics and exploring lesser-known Royal stories from the period.

However, that's not to say there isn't a clear star of this six-part run, and it is undoubtedly Ed McVey as Prince William.

As the series bows out, focusing on the young royal makes sense – his scenes with Imelda Staunton's Elizabeth act as a passing of the torch to the future generation and help to give the series a sense of encroaching closure.

Ed McVey in The Crown wearing a navy suit with brown trousers, sat on a sofa
Ed McVey in The Crown. Netflix

Thankfully, given the amount of screen time he is afforded and the prominence of his character, McVey is up to the challenge, proving to be a captivating screen presence and impressive at capturing the essence of the young prince.

His dynamic with Charles following Diana's death is well explored, and he has natural chemistry with the rest of the returning cast. Harry, meanwhile, unfortunately suffers from a lack of the screen time, and the unfortunate mental block created by actor Luther Ford's lack of any resemblance, beyond ginger hair, to the man himself.

The depiction of William's relationship with Kate is less successful, and leads to one of the series's weakest outings, Alma Mater, in which the pair are seen meeting.

The Crown has always been a bit of a soap opera in disguise, but this borders on the ridiculous, with both painted at different times to be obsessive and stalker-ish, and high drama between the pair being fabricated when it really wasn't necessary.

The true story of the couple's meeting, as we understand it, is alluring enough, and for a show which is constantly harangued for not being faithful enough to reality, this feels like a moment where the writers could have for once helped themselves, and had the episode be better for it.

Ed McVey as Prince William and Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton in The Crown
Ed McVey as Prince William and Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton in The Crown. Justin Downing/Netflix

Stronger episodes this season include Willsmania and Hope Street, both of which see William at the centre of a larger story, and acting as the core around which all else revolves.

However, the most successful episode this season is undoubtedly Ritz, which documents the decline and death of Princess Margaret, while analysing her relationship with Elizabeth with repeated flashbacks to VE Day.

It's a fitting send-off for the character, and in its final moments ends up being somehow more emotionally stirring than anything from the first part of the season.

This is, of course, partly down to the excellent work of Lesley Manville, who has not been nearly utilised enough but gets her moment to shine. However, it is also down to some subtle, emotional writing and restraint, something the show has been more than occasionally lacking.

Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret in The Crown
Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret in The Crown.

The return of the political realm is also welcome here, after the last part almost entirely ignored Bertie Carvel's Tony Blair. He may not be as prominent as Churchill in season 1 or Thatcher in season 4, but he does get slightly more to do and is an appreciated presence (even if a dream sequence in which he is crowned 'King Tony' is The Crown at its absolute broadest and silliest).

The show's more nuanced stories of modernisation versus tradition have often been some of The Crown's best observed, and here the storyline of Blair's reforms feels like a return to the Crown of old.

Then comes the finale. No spoilers here, but Peter Morgan has previously said that he and his team changed tact after the Queen died in order to reflect what we currently know without going ahead to that point.

That could have so easily gone horribly wrong. However, the last episode of the show is actually deftly handled, working as a one-off story of the kind The Crown tells best, while also acknowledging the series's end and giving a well-deserved spotlight to Imelda Staunton, whose performance is breathtaking.

Bertie Carvel as Tony Blair in The Crown
Bertie Carvel as Tony Blair in The Crown. Netflix

All in all, while this is a batch of episodes which is unlikely to win around those who have already been fully turned off the series, it feels far more of a piece with what had come before, and feels like a positive note on which for the show to bow out.

It might not represent The Crown at the height of its powers – that moment has long passed, and it was always going to be the way as the timeline approached recent memory. However, it still marks a return to form by going back to basics, while also, at all times, keeping one eye on the future.

Staunton, Dominic West and the rest of the central cast continue to impress, and, come the end, the series feels suitably wrapped up and like it ends on a high note, in a way that, not so long ago, would have seemed unlikely.

The Crown season 6 is available to stream in full on Netflix now. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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