Posted on November 20th, 2023
The first half of the "final season" of The Crown dropped on Netflix last week. The four episodes are entirely devoted to Princess Diana's final days and death, and anything to do with The Crown is largely ancillary. Sure you've got Prince Charles struggling to get his relationship with Camilla legitimized with both Her Majesty The Queen and the public at large, but make no mistake... this is the Diana Show. She's stealing the headlines. She's driving the narrative. It's her world and everybody else is just living in it.
Which is very much as I remember it.
Diana is a fascinating person. And admirable. She tried to use her fame for a number of good causes (the two most famous being compassion and understanding of people with AIDS and the global removal of landmines, but she also advocated for the homeless, shined a spotlight on the struggle of people living in poverty, and supported numerous cancer charities... to name a few). That she also dared to try and build a life for herself and find happiness bothers an awful lot of people, which is profoundly sad.
A sympathy that The Crown definitely shares.
Right up until her death in the third episode.
Although the story that Netflix is telling has been refuted on several fronts. The foremost of which being that Mohamed Al-Fayed was the driving force behind his son Dodi Fayed and Diana's romance and, by further extension, is responsible for their death since he set up the infamous photos that escalated the paparazzi frenzy. Every photographer wanted their million dollar payday, and that ultimately resulted in tragedy.
It's just speculation.
Which, from the beginning, is all The Crown really has.
And yet we watch it anyway.
I've mentioned how I was eating breakfast and watching television before driving to the airport for work on August 31st, 1997. The morning the news broke here about the car accident in Paris. When I got to Seattle, it was being reported that all three passengers had perished. Then, as I was waiting, it was reported Diana was still alive. As I was boarding my flight to Orlando, there was serious confusion as to whether she had died or not.
After landing, all the televisions were reporting the sad news of her passing.
It didn't really register.
Not until the next day. My work was at one of the Disney World hotels. I had finished up my first meeting and went to Epcot for lunch with a friend in "Italy." I was early, so I walked counter-clockwise to pop by the France Pavilion for a pastry first. To get there, you have to pass through the pavilions for Canada and The United Kingdom. Which is to say "A member country of The British Commonwealth and The United Kingdom."
And since Disney endeavors to make each country's pavilion be as authentic as possible, the staff is populated by people from those countries. And they were grieving far from home. Far from the people who could truly comprehend what they were feeling.
Though the people at Disney World that day were far from unsympathetic. Flowers were piled around the UK Pavilion just as they had been back at Kensington Palace. The usual murmur and laughter was greatly muted.
Then you'd cross the bridge to the France Pavilion... and everything was back to normal.
Or as normal as it could be considering a person loved and admired around the world was gone.
In the end, I think The Crown could have ended with Season 05 and we'd all have been better off. The wild speculation about Diana in Season 06 serves no purpose. It's not even very entertaining. And the drama surrounding The Royal Family was already portrayed far better by the 2006 movie The Queen.
Not that Netflix hasn't wasted money on useless programming before, but this time it just seems so unneeded.