Season Two of Netflix's royal drama The Crown is available to stream on Friday, Dec. 8, and the reviews are in: nearly every single critic adores it. Judging from the praise heaped upon the series, about the reign of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, the second season is just as beautiful, well-acted, and engrossing as the first.
Here's what to expect from the new episodes, per the reviews:
1. Claire Foy is fantastic as Queen Elizabeth.
The Telegraph: "As with series one, though, it is Claire Foy’s consistently sympathetic portrait of the Queen that is at the centre of The Crown. Sensible as a pair of Brevitts, tough as a Barbour wax jacket, and with an unwavering commitment to serve the nation, Foy’s Queen is a character you root for at every stage of the drama."
Entertainment Weekly: "Foy channels the private struggles of a relentlessly public figure with divine subtlety, emotions playing across her face like weather. She’s both fierce and vulnerable, a mother and a daughter and a wife and a sovereign constantly renegotiating the shifting, tricky borders between her often thankless roles."
Variety: "Foy is doing the best performance currently on dramatic television in her Elizabeth, and this season gives her the opportunity to tease out the Elizabeth that befriended Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour), met privately with the Reverend Billy Graham (Paul Sparks), and confronted her uncle — the former king Edward VIII (Alex Jennings) — about his encouragement of Adolf Hitler. It is difficult not to be on Elizabeth’s side in every scene she is in, because Foy cuts through what might be self-seriousness in the script to seize its emotional center. Her Elizabeth is both infinitely powerful and infinitely terrified, a woman who has no choice but to be what others put upon her. The season depicts how prematurely aged she is by her station — how she has the life of an elderly woman, in her mid-thirties, because she has to be the better person in every single encounter she has. It’s a fascinating trap, royalty: Elizabeth ought to be the happiest woman in the world, with her palaces and gowns. But because she is determined to be a good monarch, she can never really live for herself. Every mistake is dissected in public; every criticism must be accepted with a smile and a mantle of politeness."
2. The season will delve into Philip's complicated inner workings.
Variety: "Philip, who in the first season remained a mostly dutiful husband, becomes a frustrating pain in the arse in the second season — and Smith leans into Philip’s public-school education and old-chap athleticism to create a devastating portrait of poisonous masculine pride. The second season covers a lot of ground, but ultimately boils down to an exploration of this very complicated marriage — between a man too proud to accept his wife is in charge, and a woman who wishes she could obey her husband like all the other wives she knows."
The Observer: "Just as interesting as Elizabeth this season is Philip, who at one moment can be remarkably petulant and the next showcase a more complicated and fragile interior. A particularity revealing run in with a journalist in the second episode helps to explain some of his behavior and round out a more sympathetic characterization, even as Elizabeth tells him flatly that he’s 'lost in yourself.' As their marriage ebbs and flows, so to does the state of the country. Early episodes leave you wondering whether personal issues are impairing their judgement when it comes to their royal duties and if the reverse is true as well. It’s interesting to see how their relationship bleeds into national concerns and how the outside worlds continues to pry its way into their union.
3. The season will delve into Elizabeth and Philip's marriage troubles.
IndieWire: "Peter Morgan’s second season fittingly opens on a bleak, rainy day in February, 1957. Queen Elizabeth (Foy) and the newly crowned Prince Philip (Smith) are at a crossroads. Sitting in the shadows, reluctant to face each other, the married couple’s allegiance to one another is being questioned in the public, and the two must decide how to move forward. Before an answer is given, the series shifts back in time five months to examine how the royal pair ended up in such a state. Mercifully, this isn’t a framing device for the entire season — Morgan catches up to this scene in the third episode — but it does draw attention to the predominant themes of marriage, equality, and progress."
4. It's gorgeous.
The Hollywood Reporter: "Foy remains surrounded, as always, by one of television's most sumptuous productions, a triumph of costumes, cinematography, set design and corgis."
5. It's informative.
The Telegraph: "As with the first series, The Crown excels in its two isolated episodes which have very little to do with the continuing narrative. The first, a story new to me, is that of John Grigg, the 2nd Baron Altrincham (played by rising RSC actor John Heffernan), who complained that the Queen sounded like a “priggish schoolgirl” and was attacked outside the recently opened ITV studios by a member of the League of Empire Loyalists, a sort of lunatic fringe bristling with anger over the attenuation of British overseas territories. Taking on board Grigg’s criticism with an astonishing degree of equanimity, the Queen eventually took Grigg’s advice to televise her Speech."
The San Francisco Chronicle: "Elizabeth visits a factory in 1957 and gives a speech that unintentionally belittles the “average people” by referring dismissively to their tiresome little lives. The speech rouses the ire of a lesser peer, Lord Altrincham (John Heffernan), who vents his frustration with the queen in the pages of a previously little-known journal he publishes, saying that she sounded like a 'priggish schoolgirl' and that her speaking voice was 'a pain in the neck.' The attack causes an uproar, but over time, it leads to the first steps toward modernization of the monarchy, through a greater effort by Elizabeth to welcome those 'average people' to Buckingham Palace."
6. Vanessa Kirby is also fantastic as Princess Margaret.
Radio Times: "Vanessa Kirby is even better in season two as Margaret’s vulnerability and anger comes out in full force. She’s funny but difficult, loveable but loathsome, drinking too much and being overdramatic and winding up her sister. Then along comes charming society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones – this princess was never going to fall for someone conventional or straightforward."
The Independent: "Margaret, too, travels an emotional journey that feels complete. She feels shunned, at first, for daring to pursue a love match with divorcee Peter Townsend (Ben Miles). That conflict is clear in the divide between identity and passion. She’s a caged bird of her own. That struggle is reflected, too, in the men who orbit around her: at first, 'old faithful' Billy Wallace, who presents the cold, opportune match. Then by Antony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode), the photographer whose artistry revolves around catching his subject off guard, and who, perhaps, indulges some secret level of self-hatred she may hold."