The Crown was supposed to run for six seasons in its original conception, with each queen playing out the Royals’ dramas over two year periods. But the final casting of Imelda Staunton will get just one season to sink her teeth into, with the period drama concluding with season 5.
Perhaps it was that deplorable interview with Prince Andrew and his links to pedophile sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Or maybe it was Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, deciding to pull the plug on their royal duties. Whichever reason, the recent controversies surrounding the Windsors seem to have affected the outcome of The Crown, with the announcement that the critical darling will end at the end of a fifth season, rather than the aforementioned season 6.
“At the outset, I had imagined The Crown running for six seasons, but now that we have begun work on the stories for season five, it has become clear to me that this is the perfect time and place to stop,” said series creator Peter Morgan, who also helmed the movie, The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, in the Oscar-winning role, according to The Hollywood Reporter . “I’m grateful to Netflix and Sony for supporting me in this decision.”
The recent Royal troubles have included Prince Andrew’s disastrously out-of-touch interview and subsequent sacking from his royal duties, to the fallout of the Sussexes, and Prince Charles’ rumored ambitions to scale down the succession line and number of active royal roles. It’s a shame that The Crown will shy away from a complete telling of Queen Elizabeth II’s story, royal warts and all.
The Crown does take dramatic liberties for the sake of making compelling entertainment on occasion, but its ambitious undertaking of tackling a decade at a time per season has served as a fascinating chronicle of the longest living monarch in England’s history. It almost seems like cowardice to shy away from taking on the final stretch of history, even if it may be the most controversial.
However, there is one bumpy road that the Netflix series will be airing: the difficult time period when the glamorous Princess Diana comes into the picture. The dynamic Diana Spencer will be portrayed by Emma Corrin. Olivia Coleman (who is an absolute revelation in The Father, which I just screened at Sundance, by the way) will close out her part in the series, playing the middle-aged Elizabeth for a fourth season, estimated to air sometime between 2020 and 2021.
Harry Potter’s Imelda Staunton—the delightfully evil Dolores Umbridge, most recently seen in the Downton Abbey movie — will close out The Crown’s telling of Elizabeth in the fifth and now final — season. Staunton is a terrific actress and wonderful casting for the final chapter, and it’s a real shame that we will not get a chance to enjoy her portrayal for two complete seasons.
It’s not that the series isn’t taking on controversy, with the next narrative arc to include the royal troubles that stem from the love triangle Prince Charles, Diana, and Camilla. I suppose, however, there is quite a difference between extramarital affairs and divorce than being linked to a pedophile criminal who sex trafficked underage girls. Still, it’s a missed opportunity to attempt a complete telling of a royal family that has fascinated the world for many decades.
The third season aired this year on Netflix, featuring three of the most incredible episodes in its entire anthology, “Aberfan,” “Bubbikins” (with a tour de force performance by the seriously underrated Jane Lapotaire), and “Moondust.” The Crown is an exemplary drama that has consistently done well during awards season, and we can expect seasons 4 and 5 to continue to fascinate with some of the highest quality storytelling.