1 dec 2023

Imperial or plaintive: what is season 6 of The Crown worth?

The sixth season of The Crown, which traces back Lady Di’s tragic fate, is finally available on Netflix. As the show received a mixed reception from the critics, what are we to think about it?

Released on Netflix on November 16th, 2023, the first four episodes of the series The Crown had been eagerly awaited as always. The final episodes are even more eagerly-awaited by its audience, as they deal with the tragic death of Princess Diana, who disappeared in a car accident in August 1997. This fateful event certainly gave the scriptwriters a hard time, and up until now they have been noted for their measured, rational treatment of the facts. So, how do you tell the story of the death of an icon whose aura continues to shine on the British monarchy to this day, without tarnishing her legacy or giving in to sensationalism?


The season 6 of The Crown on Netflix at the crossroads between pathos and logos


To evoke this tragedy, the first part of season 6 of The Crown puts its foot in it and shows the violent crash of the black sedan into the walls of the Pont de l’Alma in Paris right from the very first minutes of the show. The credits roll. The episode then picks up at the beginning of the summer – Lady Di’s last one – and unfolds, week after week, a race against time whose fatal outcome is common knowledge now. While the first seasons enthralled us with their in-depth treatment of each member of the family, these four episodes fail to live up to expectations, which are admittedly very high.


Nonetheless played by a talented Elizabeth Debicki, Lady Di appears as a pathetic former princess in the series. She seems caught in the net of an overexposed mediatic life, in which she indulges, and condemned to contemplate her solitude when she is not with her sons or doing charity work. The treatment of the character plays on the audience’s heartstrings and stands in stark contrast to the previous installments of The Crown. The skilful balance between pathos and logos allowed viewers to travel through time since Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, almost like in a documentary. At times you might even have doubted that it was a work of fiction, so much so that a disclaimer was added to the opening of each episode from season 5 onwards.


An absent Queen in season 6 of The Crown


The construction of the story is therefore more dramatic than historical and marked by the small presence of Queen Elizabeth II. Played by Imelda Staunton, she very rarely appears on screen – only during a conversation with her son about Camilla Parker Bowles or when she reacts to tabloid headlines about Lady Di. So, it is hard to remember what political and social events marked the summer of 1997, even though history is usually at the core of the series, which explores every aspect and effect it has on the lives of the members of the British monarchy. The same goes for Prince Charles, who only appears in scenes related to Diana, first as a rival and then as an ally torn apart by her disappearance. That scene played by Dominic West elicits a tear, as he lets out an almost uncontrolled cry that stuns us with its spontaneity.


Flooding most of each episode with her presence – she even reappears as a ghost after her death – the former princess establishes herself as the new incarnation of the crown, whose lack of modernity and connection to the people is constantly being pointed out. As a matter of fact, the series literally becomes silent following her passing. The sound is muted, while the only action portrayed on screen is the reactions of everyone following the announcement of Diana’s and her lover Dodi Al-Fayed’s deaths. It seems that the scriptwriters didn’t know how to fill this future void, just like the whole world more than twenty years ago.



Majestic actors Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki: The Crown’s winning duo?


Despite everything, the sixth season of The Crown remains one of the best streaming content offerings of this November 2023, from its sets and costumes, recreated down to the last detail, to the performance of its award-winning actors. The two stars of these first four episodes, Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki, steal the show from the rest of the cast. The latter perfectly embodies the former princess using her own mimicry, full of empathy and eaten up with guilt, while the actor morphs into a loving and increasingly self-confident person.


They are, however, rivaled by the moving Khalid Abdalla as Dodi Al-Fayed, a lover tormented by his desire to always please his father, whom The Crown portrays as far too involved in his love affair with Lady Di. However, after their car accident, these two actors will disappear over the next six episodes, so the final installment of the series will have to find a new interest other than Diana, as it did when it started.


The first episodes of season 6 of The Crown are now available on Netflix. The last episodes will be released on December 16th, 2023.

Translation by Emma Naroumbo Armaing.