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What Makes Netflix Original “The Crown” So Good?

Update: Season 2 has a few additional moral issues to be aware of, highlighted below.

When I was about 32 weeks pregnant with my now 7-month old son, my husband and I had just finished the show we’d been watching nightly on Netflix and needed something new to try. This was right as the antsy baby inside me was continually tricking me with pre-term contractions. Needless to say, I needed a distraction.

Kind of on a whim, we started the Netflix original historical drama “The Crown,” a biopic about a young Queen Elizabeth II of England. I’d seen the trailer and was intrigued myself, though I wasn’t sure if it would be too chick-flick-y for my husband to really get into. But we decided to give it a go.

Subtly Outstanding

Turns out the show is not overly chick-flick-y at all, and we both enjoyed it quite a bit, even enough that I was able to (at least somewhat) relax and ignore the fake labor worries.

But why did we enjoy this show?

To be honest, I’m actually a little surprised at its Emmy nominations. “The Crown” is not flashy, or sexy, or in any way very gimicky. Instead, it’s just a subtle feat of artistic excellence.

The acting in the show is top notch, especially John Lithgow as Winston Churchill (yes, the guy from “3rd Rock from the Sun” – talk about acting range!). Visually, the show is quite well done, too.

But what really surprised me and almost kind of continues to baffle me is:

The Story

I feared, as we started the series, that the story’s conflict might feature excessive marital strife between Elizabeth and her husband – where else was the conflict going to come from?

The thing is, though, that conflict between the two of them is a relatively small part of the plot. There’s a bit of wounded ego on her husband’s part as they navigate what it means for him to be married to his ruler. But, despite a few imperfections, I felt that the show actually depicts a fairly strong marriage as they deal with these things and the struggles of daily life.

          (Season 2 update: At times a bit disappointing on the solid marriage portrayal front, after the high points in season 1. But even still, I feel like the issues the show brings up are at least positive in that they get the viewer thinking and talking about what a marriage should look like, and what it shouldn’t.)

So what is the story, then? Mostly, it’s just this young woman learning how to be a queen in the constantly changing times of the mid 20th century. And I admit, it doesn’t sound that impressive. But it was quite compelling. Therein lies my pleasant surprise, because even still, I can’t put my finger on precisely how they did it.

Morally speaking…

It’s rated Mature, but it’s definitely not a very strong M.

There is some language that only very occasionally is M-rating-worthy. There are a couple instances of pretty brief nudity. And a couple sexual issues.

The queen and her husband do have off-screen sex. No complaint there – it’s not shown (or heard or anything like that), and honestly it’s what they should be doing! But then there’s another unmarried character who is having an affair with a married man. This isn’t really shown much either, just an occasional start-of scene where we cut away before much happens.

In regards to this affair, there’s actually a pretty interesting plot surrounding it, as the queen is in charge of the Church of England and must figure out matters regarding divorce and remarriage for the parties concerned. Do the characters end up coming to conclusions that are completely in line with Catholic doctrine? Not quite entirely, but I do think it’s remarkable that the issue was discussed and featured at all, let alone so extensively, considering our culture’s typical treatment of divorce and remarriage.

            (Season 2 update: All of this is pretty consistent, with the exception of one darn uncharacteristically sexual episode centering around the queen’s sister. It’s season 2 episode 7 — recurring nudity and graphic sexual content. We were pretty frustrated, because there’d been nothing at all of that nature before it. We ended up just skipping the episode halfway through, and we were still able to pick up on what was happening just fine without it.)

Over All

It really is good, even if all the details of how its excellence was achieved still somewhat eludes me. Despite my surprise, I am quite pleased that it received 13 Emmy nominations. And I will definitely be eagerly awaiting the season 2 premiere later this year.



5 thoughts on “What Makes Netflix Original “The Crown” So Good?

  1. Great review! I tend to be really picky about shows and to be honest it sounds like some of the stuff in this is just beyond the point where I’m comfortable watching. While realizing it’s nearly impossible to watch any secular show without putting some form of garbage in my brain, I lean towards sticking with Formed 🙂

    1. I’m a big proponent of everyone following their own conscience and knowing their own limits when it comes to what they watch. Personally, I felt in this show that the good outweighed the bad, but it’s definitely possible that the bit of immorality it contained could be too much for some viewers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. That sounds really good! I might think about watching it now, it didn’t initially sound that appealing to me, but the premise as you presented it does sound like it could be really fascinating.

  3. I’m excited to read this review. I have heard passing comments about it and have loved Victoria, so this might be next on the list!

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