Season three of ‘The Crown’ is just as good as the first two

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip in the third season of 'The Crown.'

The third installment of “The Crown” hit Netflix on Sunday — this time with a brand-new cast — however, many elements of the historical drama remained the same.

The third season of “The Crown” marks a changing of the guard as new actors take over in the series’ leading roles, with Olivia Colman now playing Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. With the critical acclaim of the series’ first two seasons and original actors, these new actors had big shoes to fill, and they did so without missing a beat.

Colman’s depiction of the Queen is consistent with that of Claire Foy in the first two seasons, portraying her as regal and fully committed to her duties. Bonham Carter similarly maintains the charming and outgoing personality of Princess Margaret that viewers saw with the previous actor. This consistency was a welcome element that maintained the tone of the earlier seasons and limited the shock that easily could have accompanied the change in actors.

Season three also introduces viewers to Prince Charles and Princess Anne as young adults, played by Josh O’Connor and Erin Doherty. Both hold their own in their roles, even when sharing the screen with more experienced actors. The pair really shine, however, in the scenes they share together, such as in episode six before Prince Charles departs for Wales.

The third season picks up where the second left off, opening in 1964 with the election of a new prime minister and tensions between the U.K. and U.S. during the Vietnam War. The new season also depicts Princess Margaret’s 1965 tour of the U.S., the Apollo 11 moon landing and widespread miners’ strikes in the U.K. 

“The Crown” handles these historical events and more with just as much care as they did in the first two seasons by staying largely true-to-fact but taking some liberties to increase the drama. This can be expected of any piece of historical fiction, but “The Crown” seems to take pride in maintaining historical accuracy whenever possible. The show includes information about the real-life events it depicts at the end of three episodes this season, more than either of the past seasons.

The third episode of the season is one of the most impactful of the entire series so far. It centers around the Aberfan disaster, in which a hill made of mining waste collapsed and slid into a grade school. The disaster resulted in 144 deaths, 116 of which were children. The episode centers around the grief and anger experienced by members of the small mining village and Queen Elizabeth’s struggle to find an appropriate response.

This heart-wrenching episode is matched in emotion only by scenes in which members of the royal family are dealing with personal losses. Seeing the highs and lows of certain relationships play out on screen can be equally frustrating and enthralling for viewers who know the eventual outcomes.

As in past seasons, some of the most captivating moments in season three portray intimate moments between the leading characters, carried out behind closed doors. One of the best elements of the season was the continued exploration of the bonds and strains between Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, which are featured prominently in episodes two and 10.

The season ends with Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, or the 25th anniversary of her coronation, marking a major milestone in her reign and the series’ run. Overall, the third season fits seamlessly into the rest of the series and moves the plot ever closer to the present.

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