With a primary focus on a freshly divorced Princess Diana, played compellingly by Elizabeth Debicki, the first part of the sixth season of The Crown provides a magnified look into the Princess of Wales’ final months, including her jet setting with Dodi al-Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), the paparazzi’s control over her life, and her philanthropic ventures. Jam-packed with opulence, tension, and grief, the first half of this new season, which premiered on Nov. 16, chills audiences with its dramatic renditions of real-life events.
The season opens with Diana summering in Saint-Tropez with business magnate Mohamed al-Fayed (Salim Daw), a friend whom she met during royal engagements in previous years. During her stay abroad on al-Fayed’s grandiose yacht, Diana becomes intimately close with Mohamed’s son, Dodi, a partnership that Dodi’s father enthusiastically encourages. The depiction of this relationship in the show questions the organic root of Diana and Dodi’s connection and implies an artificial creation orchestrated by Mohammed.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s decision to miss Camilla Parker Bowles’ (Olivia Williams) birthday party at the Highgrove estate further drives a rift between her and Prince Charles (Dominic West). The show, however, spends very little time covering any other events unrelated to Diana.
The season continues detailing Charles’ efforts to portray himself as a good father in the tabloids by setting up photo shoots, as well as following the hurried development of Dodi and Diana’s relationship.
Viewers may note the particular emphasis that this season places on the paparazzi, which is done by emphasizing the sound of camera shutters and the appearance of heckling—a premonition of the accident that unfolds in the penultimate episode.
The soundtrack of this season also warrants compliments, with chilling compositions, such as “Gunpowder” by Martin Phipps, enhancing the emotional depth of tense scenes. These sounds also contribute to the blurring between fact and fiction—a common tendency for the show.
Common discussion of the latest season on social media platforms, such as TikTok, convey the general feeling that the presentation of the Royal Family was kinder and much more complimentary than it has been in earlier seasons. For example, the depiction of Charles’ reaction to Diana’s passing contrasts greatly with how Prince Harry details the event in his autobiography Spare. In the third episode titled “Dis-Moi Oui,” Charles yells out into the Scottish Highlands, creating a dramatic peak unexpected of his mostly nonchalant character.
Although Imelda Staunton, as Queen Elizabeth II, takes more of a backseat in this season, she ought to be praised for her convincing effort at the Queen’s broadcasted address to the United Kingdom following Diana’s passing.
Helen Mirren last attempted this task in The Queen, however, Staunton’s pace and cadence make for an uncanny resemblance to the real speech televised on Sept. 5, 1997. As ever, the Queen makes for a challenging character, and much like her Crown predecessors, Staunton’s interpretation is stellar.
After wrapping up the first half of season six, The Crown enthusiasts wait with bated breath for the release of the final half. Airing on Dec. 14, Part 2 is expected to take a more optimistic tone, following Prince William’s experiences at university, where he encounters the future Princess of Wales, Catherine Middleton.