The Crown Episode 5 review: Smoke and Mirrors finally introduces a little more subtlety

the crown smoke and mirrors philip martin claire foy coronation crown queen peter morgan review

Here we see The Crown begin to introduce a little more subtlety, in a move away from its prior style of outlining themes in great detail – and it does so by placing greater faith in the ability of its stars, namely Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and Alex Jennings.

Certainly, it’s an improvement on previous instalments. True, there are still moments of cloying transparency, as characters are still inclined to overexplain just what exactly is going on; Jennings’ Duke of Windsor feels the need to note to no one at all but the audience that, as he’s no longer King, he must go to meet others rather than vice versa, while a footsman hammers home the point that Elizabeth owns the crown now, and so on and so forth. Thankfully such instances are few and far between, however, as The Crown allows meaning to be shaped by the unspoken actions of its stars.

Indeed, much of the spine of this episode centred around a single unspoken action – of Philip kneeling to Elizabeth, and what this represented. There’s an interesting tension there; for all that Philip speaks of a desire to modernise the monarchy, there are certain patriarchal impulses he can’t quite shake off. It helps add a further layer of nuance to the character, and it’s carried wonderfully by Matt Smith.

I don’t actually have a lot of additional commentary to add here. This one was, actually, reasonably good. If the whole show had been like that, I’d have been a lot more positive about it.

But it wasn’t.

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