“Let them look at you, but let them see only the eternal.”
Season 1, Episode 8 – Pride & Joy
In my review of the previous episode I pointed out that The Crown has a tendency of not moving smoothly from one episode to the next. Character arcs and storylines tend to be put on pause to make room for the focus of the episode, which makes each episode feel like they could stand on their own. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can get a bit jarring at times. However, “Pride & Joy” avoids this problem completely because it directly shows the result of the previous episode’s notable development between Elizabeth and Churchill. When Churchill talks about the Queen, there is now a clear tone of respect and confidence regarding her capabilities. Gone is the patronizing tone and more importantly, in a scene between the two characters, Churchill takes on the role of advisor to Elizabeth for the first time. This role, however, is unlike a teacher guiding his apprentice. Rather, Churchill advises Elizabeth from a place of empathy, one who clearly understands the burden that the Crown places on the one who’s wearing it.
It’s a significant progression of the relationship between the two characters. Not simply because it ties directly with the previous episode, but because it marks an important change in how they go about their duties together. The fact that they’re now actively trusting one another with a mutual respect instead of clashing changes the established dynamic between the two, allowing Elizabeth’s aplomb to influence her decision-making. These changes are seen in this very episode, wherein it presents a more assured Elizabeth exerting her wishes with the prowess of a Queen instead of an unsure novice.
One of these instances comes in the form of confronting her sister at the end of the episode. After taking over some of her light duties as Queen, Princess Margaret, in her quest to steal the spotlight from her sister, acts flamboyantly in order to get the attention of the press. This reveals a deep misunderstanding on part of Margaret regarding the role of the royal family in the country, one that she has to learn the hard way. The Crown must always stay above the individuality of the ruler. All the public appearances, the events, the travels, etc. isn’t there to feed the egos of whoever reigns at the time. It’s to uphold the ancient values and traditions of the nation as well as what the monarchy represents. Princess Margaret’s naïveté on the matter serves as a contrast to the stodgy countenance of Elizabeth, who has a deep understanding of her role thanks to actually living it every day.
This is ultimately where the two sisters differ completely. Margaret envies the glory that the Crown gives to Elizabeth, while Elizabeth envies the freedom that the Crown gives to Margaret. In the end, they’re both at an impasse and are unable to reach a mutual understanding due to being trapped in the limitations that the Crown has put on them both. Moreover, they envy one another for things that the Crown doesn’t actually give them at all. It brings neither glory to Elizabeth nor freedom to Margaret, even though each of them assumes that it does. It’s a conflict that transcends mere envy because both sisters are unable to empathize with one another. It seems that the only thing they can do is to uphold their respective duties, even though one of them still hasn’t fully understood her role just yet.
The episode also finally sheds some light on the Queen Mother, a character who’s been drifting in the background of the series until this point. Still reeling from the loss of her husband, the Queen Mother goes to Scotland to properly process everything that has happened so far. She reveals that on top of the grief of losing her husband, she’s also grieving the loss of her title as Queen and the loss of her two daughters, who are now both more than capable of taking care of themselves. The scenes with the Queen Mother’s respite in Scotland adds a much-needed character arc that helps fulfill a more complete picture of the royal family.
“Pride & Joy” continues the trend that the previous episode started of providing a more hopeful direction for its characters and future episodes. For a while there it seemed that The Crown is more than satisfied with staying in the suffocating claustrophobia that the royal duties bring to its characters, but the last scenes of this episode hints at a brighter future for them. Elizabeth’s assured disposition is becoming more consistent and it also seems that the Queen Mother has found some relief from all the melancholy, even though she has to go all the way to Scotland to find it. Of course, the shadow of conflict is still present, but whereas the series began with death and darkness, it seems to be slowly moving towards the light.