Elizabeth Debicki as Diana in the sixth and final season of The crown.
(Warning: this review discusses important details from the first four episodes of The Crown’s sixth and final season)
From the opening scene in the first episode – with cars speeding down a Paris street before the sounds of an off-screen crash – The crown makes it clear that its sixth and final season will finally show a seismic moment.
Namely, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, her friend Dodi Fayed, and their driver in a car accident while fleeing the paparazzi.
As it goes, the first four episodes of the season beautifully illustrate the series’ ongoing exploration of the tension between the royal family’s private life and public service.
Viewers see the struggle to control the terrible grief of a family dedicated to maintaining a strong public presence, which explains how Diana’s death drew the British monarchy – especially Queen Elizabeth – to a modern understanding of how to communicate with the people of England.
Documenting historical relationships
But before going fully into the details of that fateful day, The crown he goes back to show his relationship with Dodi Fayed, the son of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed. In the third episode, Diana – played with incredible charm and sensitivity by Elizabeth Debicki – acknowledges the growing misunderstandings about their romance, speaking on the phone in a presumably secret conversation with her therapist.
The therapist, Susie Orbach, is shown suggesting that Diana may want to distance herself from Dodi, who the nurse says is caught in a difficult relationship with her minister father.
“The danger is, one gets used to the abnormal and gets used to living in madness,” Orbach said. “That’s when things go wrong.”
Not too much dignity there. But this is a basic example of The crown: Personal conversations that are shown in ways that may confuse viewers about how much of what they’re watching is fictional or imaginary.
It shows the significant time since their last date
That issue comes up again at another important moment in episode three (another spoiler warning that I’m about to reveal important details).
The incident in question focuses on the fact that Dodi proposed to Diana on the day she died and how she reacted.
It’s a fascinating moment, well-told, fueled by fantastic performances from Debicki and Khalid Abdalla, who plays Dodi. Abdalla portrays Dodi as a sensitive man who is pressured by his father to marry Diana in order to raise their family – yet, close enough to him to speak frankly when he asks him what is wrong with his life.
“Look at what he has been able to achieve, in the year since his divorce,” Dodi told Diana. “A global campaign against landmines … raising millions for charity … and yet you are not satisfied. Stop being in such a hurry to get whatever you wanted.”
Representative Mohamed Al-Fayed, who died in August at the age of 94, said publicly that the two were engaged. Recently, a representative denied that Al-Fayed brought the couple together. But I asked royal filmmaker Nick Bullen of True Royalty TV – a platform with many documentaries about the British monarchy – for his opinion. He told me that Diana had been telling friends that she was reviewing their relationship.
“I think (the proposal) is probably artistic license,” Bullen said. “He certainly wasn’t in a place where he wanted to get married.”
Then I spoke with Emily Burack, a journalist City and country which has widely included the royal family and The crown. He said that the program explains Dodi’s story well in a way that portrays him as a rich man who died in a car next to Diana.
“It gives you a full picture of Dodi as a person,” Burack said. “People only think about Dodi after his death. They never think about the beautiful summer he had with Diana or the person he was.”
Drawing a distinction between fact and fiction here may sound nitpicky. But their story could be important to people who were expecting a potentially historic union between an Egyptian man and the mother of the future King of England.
It shows the conflict over Diana’s funeral
Both Bullen and Burack also said another secret moment was shown The crown it almost happened in one way or another: when the former Prince Charles, played by Dominic West, pushed the reluctant Queen Elizabeth to show her grief over Diana’s death in public and give her a public funeral.
“It’s always been difficult for us to understand the connection Diana has with people,” Charles told his mother in an emotional scene. “But the fact that it’s inexplicable, shouldn’t make us deny it… I’ve seen it myself. People who go to the streets. Not only here, all over the world… And they will expect you to show grief and compassion and be the mother of the nation.”
The first four episodes of the season — the last six will drop next month, the series finale — also provide another chance to reassess Diana’s legacy, just as the world reconsiders how many famous women were treated in the 1990s, since. Britney Spears to Tina Turner.
As a critic, I was always uncomfortable with how The crown it transitions easily from very accurate depictions to fictional moments. And last season, which revealed a detailed picture of how Diana and Charles’ marriage collapsed, he was criticized by actress Dame Judi Dench and former British Prime Minister John Major.
However, there is no denying these episodes of The crown they are incredibly well done, portraying an important family moment in a creative, expressive way.
If only the viewers remember that they are watching a TV drama, not a show on the History channel.