Ahead of The Crown season six, catch up on what happened last season. This may be obvious, but spoilers ahead for the entirety of The Crown season five.
Season five of The Crown was much darker than previous seasons. (Literally, the costumes were intentionally darker.) This chapter of the popular Netflix series focused on Queen Elizabeth's "annus horribilis," Prince Charles and Princess Diana's messy, public divorce, and Prince Philip's relationship with Penny Knatchbull.
Dodi Al Fayed's relationship with American Kelly Fisher.
Episode three of season five introduced viewers to Mohamed Al Fayed and his son, Dodi Al Fayed. The father-son duo reappear in the final episode, with Dodi hoping to buy a home in Malibu with his girlfriend, Kelly. He flies her to London to meet his father, and Mohamed does not hide his dislike for the American model. "Do you know her family? Are they our equals? We have to be careful," Mohamed cautions Dodi over dinner. The same scene also features Mohamed questioning Dodi's career path, telling him he's making flop after flop.
"The one thing you have always had a talent for is women," Mohamed tells his son. "The one area where I think, 'He might still hit the jackpot.'" Clearly, Mohamed doesn't think Kelly is a "jackpot," to use his crass terms. However, the viewer knows that Dodi's next romance will likely be approved by his father. Near the end of the episode, it seems as if Dodi proposes to Kelly. In real life, when news of Dodi and Princess Diana's relationship broke, Kelly told the press she was engaged to Dodi. Dodi, at the time, said they were never engaged.
Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister and Prince Charles goes to Hong Kong.
The Crown doesn't just focus on the royal family, it also weaves in British politics through the years. In the final episode, John Major loses the election in a landslide to Tony Blair. The fictional Blair proclaims, "Well, a new dawn has broken, has it not? We have been elected as New Labour, and we will govern as New Labour. And as we head into the millennium, we have the opportunity to change Britain." During Queen Elizabeth's reign, she worked with 15 prime ministers; Blair served as PM for a decade, from 1997 to 2007—he will surely be a factor in the final season of The Crown.
In 1997, UK transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to China, ending 156 years of British rule. Both Blair and Prince Charles were in attendance at the handover ceremony, and after, The Crown shows Charles speaking to the new Prime Minister privately. He tells him, "the royal family needs a similar renovation," referring to the upcoming decomissioning of the Britannia.
When Charles gets back to the UK, he is chastised by Queen Elizabeth, and they have this telling exchange:
Queen Elizabeth: I do want to make clear that the only person in this family to have a direct relationship with the first minister is the sovereign.
Prince Charles: Which will one day be me.
Queen: One day. But not yet.
Queen: You should know the answer better than anyone because, God willing, you will one day take the oath yourself. This job is for life.
Charles: Let's hope there's still an institution for me to take the oath for.
The two clearly have different views of the monarchy. Charles tells the Queen how in Hong Kong he saw "how easy it was to dispose of us," and ends their conversation with, "I'm just worried, Mummy, that... if we continue to hold onto these Victorian notions of how the monarchy should look, how it should feel, then the world will move on. And those who come after you will be... will be left with nothing."
Princess Diana packs for vacation.
After bumping into Mohamed and his wife at a theater performance, Princess Diana agrees to join them on vacation on their yacht in Saint Tropez. This is where her romance with Dodi begins.
"Everyone focuses on the crash," Khalid Abdalla, who plays Dodi, tells Town & Country. "And strangely, as a result, what they miss is this fabulous summer that Dodi and Diana had with each other. From an acting perspective, that's the real challenge—and that's also been the real joy to explore. They're falling in love, but you know what happened afterwards. You look at the images of Diana at that time, and she was really happy. It's been a real pleasure as Dodi, as a character who makes Diana happy, having those scenes with a happy Diana." Season six will clearly show their burgeoning romance before their tragic deaths in August 1997.
Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Diana, viewed the final scene of her packing as a "really hopeful beat." As she tells Tudum, "There’s a huge amount of sadness, but also this sense of making a choice to move through something and create a new chapter, a new experience. And then, on a really practical level, [to get to] be with your children and go on vacation and have a nice time — that’s precious when you can do that with the people you love. For me it was about packing [her] kids’ clothes to go on vacation. It’s very simple, but moving. Sometimes the simplest things are the things that get us the hardest."
The Royal Yacht Britannia is decommissioned.
The royal yacht was a major theme of this season. "From the beginning [of the season], we start with the concept of relevancy, specifically through the relevancy of the Queen," director Jessica Hobbs tells Netflix's Tudum. "By the end of the season, we are questioning the relevancy of the institution itself. That is really the arc."
Season six, too, will perhaps see Queen Elizabeth grappling with how to modernize the monarchy.
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