Everything You Need to Know Before Watching ‘The Crown’ Season 2 Premiere
The Crown finally returns to Netflix on Friday, December 8, and we can’t wait to see what the swinging ’60s have in store for Queen Elizabeth and the royal family.
Before clearing your weekend to delve into the complicated marriage between Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and Philip (Matt Smith), the tragic love life of Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and the juicy behind-the-scenes intrigue of the British government, here’s a refresher course on the first season of the British drama.
It seems like a lifetime ago that we first met Princess Elizabeth, the 26-year-old happy newlywed who was enjoying life in sunny Malta with her hubby, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. She could enjoy grocery shopping and make decisions that didn’t impact the greater good of an entire country. Ya know, the usual stuff. But then the unthinkable happened.
The untimely death of her father, King George VI (Jared Harris), launches Elizabeth’s trial by fire, where she must not only adjust to life in a public fishbowl but also fight for the respect of those in charge of governing the country while learning to navigate her marriage to a guy who is not exactly thrilled to be her glorified purse holder. Would it absolutely kill you to show the tiniest morsel of support, Philip? We can’t with this guy.
As if that’s not enough to keep you up at night, Elizabeth’s naughty minx of a sister, Margaret, is having a secret and highly inappropriate affair with Captain Peter Townsend (Ben Miles), the king’s very married personal attendant. Between stealing kisses and other steamy—ahem—forbidden activities, the two fantasize about a future together, which even seems possible when Peter’s wife leaves him for another man. So. Much. Scandal. But during this time, divorce is worthy of beheading still considered a big no-no, and the royal family shan’t have any part in something so pedestrian.
No, it’s not déjà vu you’re experiencing. Indeed, the royal family already dealt with—and promptly swept under the rug—a divorce scandal involving Elizabeth’s uncle, King Edward VIII (Alex Jennings), who abdicated the throne for his lady-love-cum-American-divorcée, Wallis Simpson (Lia Williams). (Fun fact: Many royal aficionados are comparing Prince Harry’s new fiancée, Meghan Markle, to Simpson for being, well, an American-turned-British-royal.)
Now, where were we? Ah, yes, Edward, who sometimes goes by the name David (hang in there with us), returns to England for his brother’s funeral, but really this heartless fool is just digging around to find out how much cash he can gain from the death of the king (his brother). Not to mention, he’s a first-class manure stirrer. Cha-ching!
Edward also has a penchant for writing whiny letters, dripping with the kind of sarcasm that would make Dr. Gregory House proud. When his mother isn’t meeting her maker fast enough, he writes his dear Wallis (or Peaches, as he lovingly refers to her) about the horrors he has to endure at the palace, spending time with the old witch...his mother. (Gasp!)
It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that his presence at Elizabeth’s coronation (to become queen) isn’t wanted, on account of his being a horrible individual (there, we said it), but Edward’s itty-bitty feelings are more hurt that his sweet Peaches wasn’t invited to the party. So he announces that since she’s not invited, he will stay home in solidarity with her. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, just stay away, Edward...err, David. Mmkay?
One brat down, another man-child to go. Elizabeth and Philip struggle to see eye to eye about the turn their lives have taken. “What kind of marriage is this? You’ve taken my career from me, you’ve taken my home, you’ve taken my name—I thought we were in this together?” mewls Philip, who doesn’t seem to grasp that his wife has a job to do that doesn’t involve boosting his ego. (Get a grip, Phil.) Elizabeth looks pained—sympathetic even—and soothes her whining baby husband with a royal binkie. (She lets him be in charge of the coronation.)
Philip, ever the master of great timing, seizes the opportunity to chat about his thoughts on Elizabeth’s coronation at the king’s mother’s funeral. Phil’s just brimming with ideas for how to modernize the ceremony, while the old guard is aghast. Elizabeth is finally forced to step in and tell him to simmer down. She tells him she will agree to a televised coronation if he agrees to be the Jon Snow to her Khaleesi (pre boat incest) and he bends the knee. Like the toddler he is, Philip initially throws a tantrum, but he eventually agrees and the coronation goes off without incident.
Well, almost without incident. When a reporter catches Margaret lovingly removing a piece of fluff from Peter’s jacket, their secret is finally exposed. Gasp! Now that all of England is officially up in her business, Margaret asks for Elizabeth’s permission to marry her Peter. Elizabeth diplomatically says she won’t oppose it, but as Philip is eager to point out, this ain’t never gonna fly.
Elizabeth is determined to find a loophole to make it work and—based on the advice given to her by a bunch of old dudes (royal lesson number one: Never trust a group of scheming old men)—suggests a two-year separation period, after which they are free to marry. Margaret reluctantly agrees, but when Elizabeth ships Peter off to Brussels sooner than planned while Margaret is out of the country and unable to say goodbye in person, Margaret swears she is Done being nice to her sister, with a capital D. Now even the media turns against the queen, condemning her cruelty against her own sibling. (It doesn’t help that Mags uses every press opportunity to drive the knife in a little bit deeper.)
And when it rains it, pours for poor Liz. She discovers that Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) has suffered a series of strokes and attempted to hide it from her with help from the Cabinet. (Yep, can’t blame her for indulging in four cocktails a day.) Rightfully annoyed, Queen Lizzie expertly dresses down the men who colluded against her, and Churchill looks at her like a proud papa. She is now truly ready to govern.
For Margaret, this is not good news. Understanding that her duty is to her country, Elizabeth tells her sister she can never marry Peter. Ugh, we’re not crying, you’re crying. And so, the curtain closes on the first season of The Crown.
The questions remain: Will Philip ever stop whining? Will Margaret ever find her one true love and overcome the shadow of her big sister’s burdensome title and status? Will Elizabeth find new ways to tell the men in her life that the buck stops with her? Only time (and season two!) will tell.
We can’t wait to find out. God save the queen!