‘The Crown’ Season 2, Episode 9 Recap: Like Father, Like Son
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
In season two, episode nine of The Crown, we learn that Prince Charles (Billy Jenkins) is different from other kids...and not just because he stands to become the king of England. He’s shy and sensitive, which unfortunately means he gets picked on at school constantly. Because of his delicate nature, it’s suggested he study at Eton, a school just a stone’s throw from his home, instead of at his father’s alma mater, Gordonstoun in Scotland. Just what the royal family needs—more drama!
Cue another fight between Philip (Matt Smith) and Elizabeth (Claire Foy) about child rearing. Elizabeth thinks she’s informing her husband that Charles is going to Eton, but Philip is having none of it. He puts his foot down and insists Charles go to Gordonstoun, where he can get away from all this royal nonsense and become his true self.
Of course, he has good reason to think Charles might grow into himself at Gordonstoun. We flash back to Philip’s childhood in Nazi Germany. (Remember that year the blond reporter in Australia was referring to in episode two? That’s the one.) Philip originally wanted to stay with his sister, Cecilie, in Germany, but Philip’s father wanted him to be educated by a genius, so he was shipped off to Scotland, where Dr. Hahn and some pretty rigorous farm work await him. (After nearly two seasons of watching Philip mostly play sports and engage in competitive complaining, it’s mindblowing to think he spent his formative years doing manual labor.)
Back in the present, Charles arrives at Gordonstoun, where Philip asks that his son not be “mollycoddled.” Philip wastes no time signing his son up for a grueling physical challenge called the Annual Challenge…though, anyone who has observed Charles for more than a millisecond knows he’s not quite equipped to compete in anything that requires athletic prowess and survival instincts.
Elizabeth watches her sweet baby angel Charles on TV from London, and, justifiably, looks worried. But she doesn’t even know the half of it. At his new school, poor Charles nearly freezes to death as he sleeps next to a broken window with rain soaking his bedsheets. Toto, we’re not in Buckingham Palace anymore.
As it turns out, Philip’s time at Gordonstoun wasn’t a vacation in St-Tropez either. He was required to participate in frosty morning runs followed by ice-cold showers. Très good for the skin, but not so easy on the spirit. Aside from the Antarctic athletics, we see that manual labor is also not Philip’s cup of tea. Entitled even back then, Philip states the obvious to a fellow student: that he’s better than everyone else. Philip gets a dressing down by a student, who verbally tears apart his family and demands Philip get on with the work before pushing Philip into the lake. (We’re noticing a clear cold-water theme here.)
Dr. Hahn claims to understand Philip’s anger, but his mission is to rear a generation of men who put fury behind them and embrace their pain and struggle. (In other words, quit whining and get on with the work.)
Even so, embracing pain is not on Philip’s agenda. He calls Cecilie, demanding that he be allowed to leave because everyone at the school is crazy. Cecilie, who’s in the middle of a joyous dinner with fellow Nazi supporters, tells him to suck it up so he can visit her (and possibly his unborn nephew) over the holiday.
Alas, we break from Philip’s reverie and find ourselves back in the present. Charles is doing about as well as his old man did, but he lacks his dad’s desire to fight back. Philip’s Uncle Dickie comes to visit Charles and tells his mother that Charles is tormented from the minute he wakes up until the moment he goes to bed, referring to his school as hell on earth. But taking Charles out of school is not an option. Philip doesn’t care how awful his son’s existence in Scotland is. Instead, he threatens his wife that breaking promises to him may have more of a consequence to the crown than Charles being bullied.
“Charles’s education is my responsibility. Yours is to honor your word and keep your husband,” he hisses. *Icy theme continues*
Back in the ’30s, Philip gets into trouble again at school for punching his schoolmate in the face. Hahn scolds him for his use of violence, and Philip gets more construction duties as punishment for his behavior. Philip complains to his sister, who agrees with Hahn. He is to remain at school over the holidays, and instead of staying in Germany as planned, Cecilie heads off to a wedding in London.
In the present, Philip recalls being told of his sister’s fateful last trip. How the plane crash killed all 12 people aboard. How Cecilie had given birth on the plane and her newborn was found in the wreckage. Young Philip imagines the crash, a baby screaming, engines sputtering, rumbling and crying. He envisions his sister giving birth on the plummeting plane and how she was gone forever shortly thereafter.
After Cecilie’s death, Philip returns to Germany for the funeral, where he comes face-to-face with his mother, Princess Alice. Drowning in grief, she looks at him with a vacant stare. To make matters worse, Philip’s father, Prince Andrew, blames Cecilie’s death on his bad behavior.
“You’re the reason we’re all here, burying my favorite child,” Prince Andrew barrels in front of all the mourners. Um, talk about complicated family dynamics.
Uncle Dickie escorts Philip to his Scotland-bound plane. He tells his nephew he may hate his father now, but one day he will be a father himself and he will fall short as all parents do: “You will know what it is to pray for the forgiveness of your son,” he says, rather prophetically.
In the present, the grueling Annual Challenge begins, and all the boys charge toward the 18-mile route. All except Charles, that is, who glumly trails behind them. Poor kid. The boys return to the school upon finishing the course, one by one, but it appears Charles has gone missing. It’s hard to tell if his father is worried or embarrassed by his son’s absence, but it’s likely the latter.
While Philip gets on with the show, presenting the rewards to those who showed great character, stamina and courage, Charles’s bodyguard finds the poor boy crying behind a pillar, muddy and soaked. You would think, once he’s back safe and sound, that the torture would be over for the day...but no.
On their flight back home, Philip reassures Charles that whatever shame he may be feeling is nothing compared with the shame Philip felt at his age over something he did.
“The struggle is a gift. This is the moment you have to dig deep,” he says. “Toughen up, little boy, for what is ahead of you.”
Charles, frightened by sudden turbulence, looks so distressed his little heart may give out.
“Don’t be so bloody weak,” screams father of the year Prince Philip.
As a somber Charles arrives home, Elizabeth watches from the window. We guess she decides not to intervene again as we learn Charles remained at Gordonstoun for another five years, a time he later described as “a prison sentence” and “absolute hell.”
He sent his own kids to Eton College, thank goodness.