The Crown’s cast change worked perfectly for a darker period in British history

The Crown Season 3 saw a major change. Claire Foy and Matt Smith stepped aside for Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies to take the roles. Did the change work?

Despite being planned, changing the cast for The Crown Season 3 was always going to be risky. Claire Foy and Matt Smith made us fall in love with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during the first two seasons. Vanessa Kirby brought life to Princess Margaret in a way that nobody else could. The idea of bringing in new actors to play those roles for Season 3 would seem ludicrous. But the show did it and did it well.

There are some who say Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth was wooden and stiff, but this was something I felt of Claire Foy’s performance in the first two seasons. It suited the role of the queen, a woman who can’t be who she wants to be because of the duties put on her. People often forget that Queen Elizabeth was never supposed to be queen. It wasn’t until she was in her teens that she learned the crown would be passed to her because of Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936. It’s an important fact to remember as it does affect who the queen has been throughout her reign.

A darker period of history

The Crown Season 3 also had the difficulty of focusing on a much darker period in British history. Episode 3 focused on the devastating landslide in Aberfan that, to this day, shocks and haunts so many. We got a look at Charles’ relationship with Camilla, the way his family would intervene, and the miner’s strike of the 1970s. The show gave us a look at how Elizabeth’s relationships with her country and her family were strained. This was a time when she closed off and lost the support of the people, so it’s only natural that the third season would deliver this. Even if Foy was still in the role and they’d aged her for the time period, we would still have had this more closed off woman as she navigated the waters.

Colman portrayed the role beautifully. There were no hints of any of the roles she’s done in the past, whether roles from BroadchurchThe Favorite, or even Fleabag. It shows her ability to take on a character and become that person.

And she wasn’t the only one. If you expected to see hints of Outlander‘s Black Jack Randall in Tobias Menzies, you’d be sorely mistaken. He was Prince Philip, continuing the fictionalized version that Smith had initially created in the first two seasons. There were absolutely no hints of Harry Potter‘s Bellatrix Lestrange in Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Princess Margaret, who continued the difficulties of being No. 2 in the household when she was far more suited to be No. 1.

The Crown Season 1 & 2 DVD SET / Season 1-2 DVD SET

Hope for the fourth season

Throughout the weekend, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The Crown Season 3 took us through one problem after another in Britain. We saw Harold Wilson come into Parliament, replaced by Edward Heath, only to get his position as Prime Minister back. Like Foy had managed with the previous Prime Ministers, Colman showed her dislike and her like of various Prime Ministers subtly. You could tell what she was feeling on the inside, but only because you know the history now and because it would later be mentioned to Philip. The standoffish to the Prime Ministers would just come across as her being queen and commanding respect, even though some of those conversations were awkward.

Ending with the Jubilee celebrations was a beautiful touch. I thought it might end with Margaret Thatcher coming into power. We were able to end on some sort of high note, as bittersweet as it was, pushing us into the fourth season. The Crown Season 4 has officially been confirmed. Now it’s time to get ready for the next decade or so of stories.

What did you think of the cast change in The Crown Season 3? Was the darker period of British history portrayed well to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Crown Seasons 1 to 3 are now available to stream on Netflix.