Elizabeth's Rocky Marriage Gets Even More Tense In The Penultimate Episode Of The Crown
In 'Assassins,' the return of Elizabeth's old friend puts even more strain on her troubled marriage.
In the first episode of The Crown, King George tells his son-in-law, Philip, that his job is simply to be there for Elizabeth. Philip says he understands, but George -- knowing that the growing cancer in his lungs will make his daughter queen much sooner than anyone anticipated -- says, "Do you, boy? Do you really?" And, for a moment, we see that Philip doesn't understand, can't understand his role in his marriage or the effect that his support or indifference will have on his young wife.
By the show's ninth episode, we've seen what a disappointment Philip is as the husband to a queen. He's taken every opportunity to act out, to question her judgment and her authority, to make her feel small. By this episode, Elizabeth's defense of Philip has grown weaker. Even she can no longer pretend that her husband is the partner she needs.
Taking her mind off her rocky marriage, she turns to an old friend, Lord Porchester, known to Elizabeth as Porchy. Porchy shares Elizabeth's passion for horses, and the two spend much of the episode together, as they decide to breed one of the queen's prized stallions. Porchy still carries a torch for Elizabeth, but she has only ever had eyes for Philip.
Throughout the episode, Philip comes home late and drunk and makes rude comments about his wife's friend every chance he gets. His terrible behavior leads to one of the most compelling scenes of the season, in which Elizabeth finally calls her husband out.
As they're getting ready to go to a dinner in honor of Winston Churchill as he steps down from his post as prime minister, Elizabeth turns to her husband and tells him that while there were people who would've preferred that she had married Porchy, and that a marriage to him might have been easier and worked better than theirs, she has only ever loved Philip. But, she asks him, can he look her in the eye and say the same? He doesn't respond. She leaves the room; he starts to go after her, but stops short.
It's a beautifully shot sequence. As this scene unfolds, Elizabeth stands in their suite between her bedroom and his, quite literally meeting Philip halfway, while he stands at the foot of his bed, firmly planted in his own territory. After Elizabeth exits, the camera pans back, leaving Philip alone in his private space.
It's refreshing and gratifying for the viewer to see Elizabeth finally acknowledge the problems in her marriage. Through most of the season, she seems to be waiting for her husband to settle in to his role, to grow up and become the partner that she needs. In this scene, we see that Elizabeth is starting to realize that he's not going to get there on his own.
Going into the final episode of the season, we get the sense that Elizabeth is learning that, not only does she have to lead her country, she's going to have to lead her family too.