(CNN) — Questions of propriety over the fifth season of “The Crown,” set to premiere two months after Queen Elizabeth II’s death, are largely overshadowed by other issues as the Netflix series reloads with new talent. of prestige in key roles and old problems, but it feels more disjointed than unusual. The result is a lopsided campaign that reinforces the sense that the Emmy-winning series is in danger of extending its reign too long.
That topic is among the juiciest bits of palace intrigue in the new season, as Prince Charles (Dominic West) bristles at his status as heir and openly talks about “Queen Victoria Syndrome,” a reference to his mother, the queen (Imelda Staunton), too rooted in the past and tradition to meet the changing demands of a modern monarchy.
Of course, the season opens in 1991, so there is the tantalizing knowledge that Isabel would retain that title for another three decades, and that Carlos is about to seriously damage his public image thanks to the breakdown of his marriage to Diana (Elizabeth Debicki), who perfectly captures Diana’s pensive and vaguely sad look. Her character fares worse in terms of emotional insights, as she is portrayed less sympathetically this time around, at least in her naïveté about the hell that speaking publicly about the royal family would unleash.
The discomfort associated with such public outbursts falls on the new prime minister, John Major (Jonny Lee Miller), who recognizes the dynamic of what’s going on better than the key players, which doesn’t make his role any less uncomfortable for him.
Writer/producer Peter Morgan gets into all kinds of situations again throughout the 10 episodes, including the unlikely friendship that develops between Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce, who plays a major role) and Penny Knatchbull (Natascha McElhone). , the much younger wife of Felipe’s godson, which begins when he seeks to comfort her over the tragic death of her daughter.
Felipe is also in charge of reprimanding Diana for not understanding the institution in which she got married, reminding her that “it is not a family. It’s a system.”
Still, given the focus on Diana and Charles this decade, the digressions seem more pronounced, and in some cases questionable, this season, from the plight of Princess Margaret (now Lesley Manville), who hasn’t made amends. with her past entirely, to an extensive detour into the backstory of Dodi and Mohamed al-Fayed (“The Kite Runner’s” Khalid Abdalla and Salim Daw, respectively), Diana’s eventual boyfriend and her husband-obsessed rich dad. status, in whose eyes the young man can never achieve enough.
There’s also an episode dedicated to Russia and the sordid history of the reals surrounding the Revolution, and occasionally it feels like a bridge or two too far.
Great characters remain incredibly rigid, even under the most trying of circumstances. When Carlos privately tells his mother about Diana: “I did what you asked me, Mom. I’ve tried to make it work,” she replies tartly that “being happily married is a preference rather than a requirement”.
The cast remains eye-catching on almost every level (Timothy Dalton even appears in a small but significant cameo) and for those who can’t get enough of royal gossip, Morgan brings audiences back up to speed on his version of what happened to closed door, like Carlos and Diana talking quietly after finalizing their divorce.
“You have never been young, not even when you were young,” she tells him.
“The Crown” has been great, as the Emmy Award for its fourth season attests, and it’s still pretty good. However, given the ups and downs that younger versions of these characters brought, to borrow from the queen, watching the current season feels more like a preference than a requirement.
“The Crown” begins its fifth season on November 9 on Netflix.