In The Crown Season 5, Prince Charles is no longer the biggest "villain"
All ten episodes of the new season arrives on Netflix this week.
It is fair to say that the fourth season of The Crown, the portrayal of the relationship between Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor) definitely placed her as the victim and him as the villain.
In the fifth season, debuting on Netflix this week, the show goes some ways to rebalance that dichotomy. Diana (now played by Elizabeth Debicki) is still very much painted as the young woman in over her head, but Charles (now played by Dominic West) is given more depth, with more light shone on his charitable and forward-thinking deeds.
The fifth season represents the final changing of the guard in terms of the casting, who will now remain in place through the sixth and final season, which will likely debut in 2023.
So we've got Imelda Staunton replacing Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth, Jonathan Pryce replacing Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Lesley Manville replacing Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, and Olivia Williams replacing Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles.
Some of these performers do better than others in the roles - special shout-outs to Debicki and Manville as incredible scene-stealers - but the new season's biggest "villain" is a brand new addition to the cast of characters.
While some of the episodes do teeter around story threads that, historically, are obviously very important but somewhat superfluous to this particular show's plot (pretty much everything to do with Russia immediately comes to mind), the centrepiece of the series is clearly the infamous interview with Princess Diana as conducted by Martin Bashir (here played by Prasanna Puwanarajah).
Seen by members and supporters of the royal family as the single biggest grenade thrown by Diana in an attempt to destroy the monarchy, very little of the hour-long interview is shown in the Netflix show. Instead, it focuses on the long, complicated lead-up to Bashir and the BBC nailing down the exclusive interview, and the tsunami-like impact it left in its wake.
But during that time of getting the interview, the show goes deep on the lengths that Bashir went to in order to win Diana over to his side, which includes completely forging documents that "proved" some of her most trusted friends and employees were actually secret spies for the royal family. When Bashir notes that Diana has a fondness for Pakistani people (this was right around the time she was dating Dr. Hasnat Khan, played by Humayun Saeed), he appears to play up his own heritage with the nation.
And when Diana voices concerns that her brother has about the interview, Bashir tells her that her own family has also been paid to turn against her.
It clearly leaves Diana in the most isolated and vulnerable position imaginable, believing she has no-one left in the world to trust other than this one reporter who claims to be the one person telling her the truth. Which, obviously, he isn't.
In reality, in 2020, the Director General of the BBC would go on to issue a public apology to Diana's brother for the actions taken by Bashir in order to win her trust and secure the interview.
In the show, in a season that at times sometimes struggles to match the high-stakes drama that the previous seasons achieved with ease, it marks a jaw-dropping moment of pure soap-opera villainy that, for many, perfectly mirrors reality.
The fifth season of The Crown debuts on Netflix on Wednesday, 9 November.