‘The Crown’ Season 1 Review: Reimagining Elizabeth

November 21, 2016 at 5:33 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This review contains spoilers of The Crown season 1. Read at your own risk!

After Downton Abbey ended its run, there wasn’t anything on television that was at par with the British period drama that would catch my attention. That is, until The Crown came along. The Crown is Netflix’s latest period drama that explores the personal life of Queen Elizabeth II during her younger years.

The series might look as splendid and glamorous as Downton Abbey, but the similarities end there. Sure, a few familiar faces from Downton can be seen in The Crown and footmen, personal valets and ladies in waiting pepper some of the scenes here and there, but the series varies greatly as it is based on true events unlike Downton which was mostly fiction.

Most of the action in The Crown season 1 center on a young Queen Elizabeth II and her relationship with her husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, her sister Princess Margaret, and the power struggle between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Cabinet.

Photo credit: imdb.com

The Crown is basically a reimagining of what might have transpired in Elizabeth II’s personal life as she copes with her position as the reigning monarch while balancing her role as a wife, mother and sister. It is an ambitious project for series creator Peter Morgan as the public knows that the British royal family is very tight-lipped about their personal lives.

The pilot episode starts in 1947 when a young Princess Elizabeth (played by Claire Foy) married Philip (played by Matt Smith) against the initial wishes of her family. King George VI is presented as a loving but ailing monarch who is suffering from tumor. Actor Jared Harris played the role of a doting father and well-loved king perfectly well, with a just a tinge of that well-known stutter.

Shortly after King George VI’s death, Elizabeth is thrust into the limelight as she inherits the crown. She is only 25 years old when the king died. This is where the high point of drama starts – when news of the king’s death spread throughout Buckingham Palace while Elizabeth is away on a Commonwealth tour in Kenya with Philip.

The following episodes attempt to explore how the royal family cope with the death of the king, particularly on how Elizabeth grieves her father’s death and her struggle to keep her personal life as normal as possible after her ascension to the throne. The episodes show how the family is left embittered with Edward’s abdication from the throne as well.

The fifth episode titled “Smoke and Mirrors” takes viewers to an inside look of how a transition to a new monarch looks like. The coronation scene, however, seems anti-climactic as most of it can be seen only through a televised footage of the event and through a distracting narration from Edward.

For the most part of the series, Elizabeth is presented as indecisive and quite still naïve of how things run at the Palace despite being the reigning monarch. She relies on the advice of her mother, her private secretary, from Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and other people. She is also adamant in following her husband’s wishes but for the most part she fails. I’m surprised to learn that she doesn’t have a college degree as she is educated only by a private tutor. She also seems detached from her children. Her husband seems to be the one spending more time with their kids.

Photo credit: engadget.com

Philip, on the other hand, is relegated to the sidelines. Apart from being with their children, he spends most of his time learning how to fly a plane, complaining and sulking about his position and being emasculated, and going out with his male friends. He doesn’t do much until he is given tasks to do, such as heading the coronation committee or accompanying Elizabeth in her diplomatic tours. He looks bored for the most part.

But perhaps the most notable of all these characters is Winston Churchill, played by John Lithgow. Lithgow presents Churchill as a grumpy old man desperate to cling on to power while a much younger and able protégé is eager for him to step down. With Churchill looking ever so frail, I thought he might drop dead at any moment. While the “Assassins” episode focuses more on him, it lacks the tension and drama needed to grab the viewers’ attention. His decision to step down as prime minister after the realization that he’s too frail and old for the position is not as emotional as I expected it to be.

The Crown Season 1 (Photo credit: vox.com)

Which brings me to the 10th and last episode of the season titled “Gloriana.” The season ended on a weak note as it veers away from Elizabeth and focuses on Princess Margaret and her doomed love affair with Peter Townsend. Throughout the later part of the series, Elizabeth’s sister tries to defy the monarchy by wanting to marry a divorcé who is also a member of staff at the Palace. But this final episode shows Elizabeth putting her foot down and forbidding the marriage – after she sought advice from the Church of England and the new prime minister.

The final scene looks uncertain as it only shows Elizabeth decked in her lavish white gown with the crown on top of her head. It doesn’t seem to hint on what lies ahead for her, or what the series will tackle in the next season.

For me, The Crown is likable enough but still lacking the depth and oomph of Downton Abbey. But perhaps this is because The Crown is merely a speculative story on what might have transpired behind closed doors of the Buckingham Palace during that period. The Crown might be based on real events, but the characters suffer from becoming fictionalized as it attempts to humanize Elizabeth and most of the royal family. In reality, they are a family notorious for keeping their private lives just that – private. We never know how they feel about certain things or events. And I think it’s better that way – that we don’t know about or pry on their private matters.

I know it might seem unfair to compare the two shows, but part of the appeal of Downton was because of its larger than life characters like Lady Violet and Mr. Bates. And even though some of its story arcs were based on real life, it was mostly fiction. Thus, its creator was given more freedom to take the characters to wherever he wanted, with a humor or two thrown in.

 

(NOTE: This article originally appeared on creators.co)

Top 5 Reasons Why I Love ‘Stranger Things’

September 22, 2016 at 8:49 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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Spoiler Warning: This article contains major spoilers of Stranger Things season 1. Read at your own risk!

Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things practically came out of nowhere this year, but it’s currently enjoying immense popularity. I’ve been hearing a lot of good reviews about this show and since horror is one my one favorite TV genres, my interest was definitely piqued. So one weekend, I binge-watched all eight episodes and immediately loved it.

Apart from the fact that it is set in the ’80s, Stranger Things also pays homage to classic ’80s movies I loved — from The Goonies and Stand By Me, to E.T. For me, the show has all the elements of a really good horror story without the campy tropes. In fact, even its theme song has that distinct, creepy sound.

But that’s not all I love about Stranger Things. Here are the main reasons why I love the series.

1. The Mystery

I’m always hooked on stories that deal with mysterious circumstances, the supernatural and unexplained phenomena. It piques my interest and curiosity when I’m not presented with all the answers to the mystery right away. The show kept me guessing about the characters and the situations they found themselves in.

The disappearance of Will Byers kicked off a series of strange events that pulled me into this mysterious world where a monster lurks in a parallel universe.

GIF image credit: giphy.com

2. The Tone

When I watched the pilot episode, it reminded me of The X-Files pilot where it set the tone for the rest of the series. I got a sense of foreboding and dread — that something unexplainable was about to happen. The soundtrack of the pilot heightened that foreboding sense and emphasized the dark tone of the show with songs that were rather melancholic (“I Shall Not Care”) and ominous (“White Rabbit”), which can be felt all throughout the series.

GIF  image credit: giphy.com

3. The Characters

While Winona Ryder may be the biggest star of this show, it’s the kids who consistently steal the scenes. It’s interesting and amusing to watch these kids play, argue, tease, and fight each other as they struggle to hide Eleven from their parents and the bad guys. Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven might disagree on things, but eventually they were there for each other to work on a common goal: finding their friend Will.

GIF image credit: giphy.com

Eleven has also got me intrigued not only because of her psychokinetic powers, but also because of her back story. Why was she named Eleven? Were there any kids before her who were kidnapped by Dr. Brenner and his team of scientists? Perhaps Dr. Brenner previously did tests on other kids and Eleven was the 11th child he experimented on.

Photo credit: screencapped.net

It’s also interesting to watch Joyce Byers as she tried to maintain a sense of sanity while finding her son Will. It sort of amused me that she went a little crazy with the lights and the wall, but later events proved that she’s right all along.

Barb seemed to be a fan favorite, and her early demise had left viewers wanting to know just what happened to her in The Upside Down. I, for one, would like to know how she died.

4. The Monster & The Villain

The faceless monster that resides in The Upside Down provided enough chill to put me on the edge of my seat with my heart racing. Admittedly, the monster itself was not that all scary for me, but the threat and danger it poses to the residents of Hawkins town got my adrenaline pumping.

Photo credit: screencapped.net

I’m not just talking about the faceless monster that took Will and killed Barb. I’m also referring to the show’s main villain, Dr. Brenner, who can be considered as a monster himself. Not only did he kidnap Eleven, but he also did experiments on her for the sake of science and espionage against the Russians.

For me, he is the ‘80s equivalent of the Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files. He is ruthless and only cares about his experiments for his own gain. He does not hesitate to let anyone get killed as long as he gets what he wants.

GIF image credit: giphy.com

5. The Sci-Fi Element

The sci-fi elements in the show complement the mystery that surrounds the story. Finding out about a parallel universe was enough to keep me intrigued. I liked the fact that the show incorporates this seamlessly into the story with the introduction of the science teacher who acts as the kids’ primary source of scientific knowledge.

All these elements have greatly contributed to the success of the series along with the astounding cast. Now that Stranger Things has been renewed for a second season, I can’t wait to find out what new mysteries are in store for Joyce, Hopper and the kids of Hawkins town.

 

(NOTE: This article originally appeared on moviepilot.com)

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