The Crown finale recap: 'Mystery Man'
A satisfying conclusion to a fantastic season
Philip wakes up and, this seems perfectly in line with his personality, goes outside to put himself through a series of timed, vigorous exercises. (You can take the boy out of Gordonstoun, etc. etc.) But he’s pulled a muscle in his neck and it bothers him enough that he’s taken to see an osteopath named Stephen Ward. Ward apparently comes highly recommended by the likes of Winston Churchill and Duncan Sandys (what a pair!), and he quietly manipulates Philip’s neck while speaking in soothing tones about tension and emotional strain. The men figure out they know some people in common, and Ward talks about the house parties he throws. Philip’s eye is caught by a beautiful brunette in a picture frame on the mantle; her name is Christine, and Ward tells him that she’ll certainly be at the parties too. “I enjoy putting people together,” says Ward, and oh brother is that the truth.
PREVIOUSLY: The Crown recap: ‘Paterfamilias’
(We’ve hit the point in the episode when I first looked up the details of the Profumo affair — the scandal that propels the plot of this whole episode. I’ve been led to believe I’d know it all cold if I had grown up in England, but instead I am American and I have Wikipedia and let me tell you, it’s fascinating stuff and will help fill in any gaps of what exactly happened. You can read all about it here. )
There’s an investigation with the beautiful Christine — turns out she’s also been having relations with a soviet spy. Oh, and maybe John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War. Where did they meet? Stephen Ward’s house, naturally. There’s a photograph of a lanky, big-eared fellow with his back turned who sure looks familiar. Christine doesn’t say who he is. He’s labeled Mystery Man.
Prime Minister Macmillan has a man-to-man talk with Profumo. Profumo denies everything and Macmillan tells his wife later that he believes him. He tells her confidently he knows a face of a liar — remember he’s telling this to a woman who had another lover for decades. She nails it when she calls him an incredulous, trusting fool.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth has to do one of the more unpleasant parts of her job — dealing with the rest of the family complaining about Margaret. Turns out Mags is redoing her house and the banging and hammering is unbearable to Aunt Marina. Elizabeth assures her she’ll have a word with Margaret, and then, excitedly, meets with a doctor who tells her she is pregnant. Claire Foy is such a tremendous actress that you can see her flush prettily. But the joy is a little tempered by the fact that she has low iron levels and must take it easy during this pregnancy.
She goes off to tell her husband the good news but he’s nowhere. She’s informed by a rather snooty staff member that His Royal Highness is away for a house party for the weekend. “It’s Wednesday,” says the queen. Sigh.
Meanwhile things are closing in on Stephen Ward. We get a nifty piece of exposition as a reporter explains that Ward sang like an osteopathic canary — about the call girls and the Russian spy and Profumo. Profumo will be no doubt resigning any moment! Guess who he’s talking to? Hotter-than-hot Matthew Goode, a.k.a. Tony Snowdon, who is talking about going on assignment to Paris. We hear he’s just been in New York and Tokyo and shouldn’t he be spending more time at home? Nah, he says, his home is a construction site. Margaret is apparently pregnant again and Tony says it’s good to know what bonds a couple. For them, it’s absence. Oh, boy.
Elizabeth goes to see Margaret and it turns out that Tony is not wrong: There’s an awful lot of construction going on. Margaret, as usual, looks fabulous and not a second pregnant. There’s some chatter about how modern it is to have a dining room table near the kitchen and then the two sisters are sort of sweet with each other, discussing their respective pregnancies. Of course that sweetness does not last when Elizabeth tells Margaret to chill out on the noise. In fact, Margaret’s irritation may lead her to spitefully tell Elizabeth about a rumor they’ve heard: She shows Elizabeth the Mystery Man photo and is all — look like anyone we know? Elizabeth tries to keep her face neutral but it is a struggle.
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This woman needs to rest, but there’s no time for that. Macmillan has come to see her and tell her he’s ready to resign. She’s like, Uh, no way, bro. She needs him to pull it together and lead the country. She needs to go Scotland (her safe place) to rest for the baby and he needs to step it up. She tells him it would mean a great deal to her personally. Then she rings her goodbye bell. God, I love her goodbye bell.
Macmillan is taking a drubbing from the public. His wife gleefully tells him all about how this satire group makes fun of him and how she laughed and laughed and laughed. I kind of hate her. I don’t love him either, but she seems just straight up mean. She tells him to go see for himself.
Philip packs more than anyone I’ve ever seen. Elizabeth goes to see him and for a hot second thinks the luggage means he’s coming with her to Scotland. Not a chance: He’s going to St. Moritz. “How mysterious,” she bites out. “You enjoy the mountains, dear.” Yeow.
We get a cross-cut between Elizabeth on the beautiful scenic train ride up to Scotland, pensively looking out the window. Macmillan has taken the masochistic path of seeing the show for himself and it’s just as bad as you might imagine. We also see a bit of Ward’s trial and of him sketching in a notebook. Things do not look great for him as we hear things like: “Men like Ward don’t deserve our pity, only our contempt…he is a thoroughly filthy fellow.” Before he can hear his verdict, he kills himself. While going through his things, they flip through his sketchpad and find a drawing of Philip. The plot thickens, does it not? (Next: Elizabeth and Philip finally have it out)
Poor Elizabeth is now really pregnant and exhausted. She’s napping on the sofa when she’s interrupted by poor Michael, who definitely has a hard job. He has to deliver the news about Ward killing himself, and about the sketch of Philip. They apparently knew each other from that lunch club. Oh, lord: that goddamn lunch club. You know who hates being humiliated more than anyone? This queen. She thanks him and sends him out. (BTW: Has anyone else thought about how much Claire Foy and Emily Blunt look alike and how someone should cast them as sisters?)
Then we get what is truly one of the most beautiful shots of this whole beautiful series: a stoic Claire Foy, face unreadable, motionless in the snow. It’s stunning. Meanwhile, Michael has still more unpleasant news to deliver. Turns out Macmillan thought he had a cancerous tumor but really it was benign. Still, this loser wants to resign. She visits him in the hospital and he’s super dramatic about the whole thing. His mind can’t be changed, he’s resigning. He suggests his replacement, her close friend the Lord Home of the Hirsel (great name). Elizabeth is straight up furious at every single dude in her life failing her. She switches over to calling him Mister Macmillan and man, is she mad. She gives a fantastic speech about how during her near decade of rule, she’s had three prime ministers and none have lasted. “They’ve been too old, too ill, or too weak.” Guess which one you are, Harold! “A confederacy of quitters.” Dang. The look of disgust she gives him on the way out is priceless.
Philip returns and is shocked by protestors outside the gate. Inside is Margaret, quite pregnant. Tony — whose natural state is languid — lies and smokes on the floor. Margaret is cold to Philip: She informs him that the choice of PM has blown up in Elizabeth’s face and that they had come to check on her. But Elizabeth has flown the coop to Scotland. Margaret stomps off and Tony gets up with a sigh and tells Philip that he’s happy to cover for him in the future. Off camera we hear Margaret sharply call Tony’s name and Matthew Goode nails a very sincere “F—.”
There’s a fun shot of the back of Philip’s head, which looks a lot like that picture. He makes his way to Scotland. He’s very pensive. If he was worried maybe his wife was ready to murder him, he’d be correct. He finds her not in the big house, but a much more humble one, outside on her knees, pruning the roses. It’s sad when you think about the life Elizabeth probably really wanted: just to garden and be with the corgis. She is ice cold. “The idea was to be alone,” she says, snipping a rose with way too much force. Philip tells her if she wants him he’ll be in the main house. There’s a moment when these two stubborn people almost turn toward each other but then each holds their ground.
Neither one budges all night. Perhaps these two are much more alike then we had previously imagined. Finally, he breaks and goes to her. And man, the rest of this scene is just so good. She’s so mad and he tries to explain to her that he gets it. And he’s there for her come what may. She just gives him a withering look and says,
“If only.”He’s fighting tears as she looks at old pictures of her dad and refuses to make eye contact with her husband. He finally is like, Okay, tell me what you are so mad about and what’s up. She spits the name: Stephen Ward. Philip does a hilarious kind of, Who? She tells him about the portraits. Philip denies it all. Especially the Mystery Man photo.
Elizabeth says that he is a mystery man to her. She’s like, Listen, level with me. I’m strong. Tell me the truth. I can’t stand not knowing. They go back and forth for a bit and then she reaches for the ace up her sleeve — she opens a desk drawer where that photo, of the dancer from the first episode, is stashed. Philip walks over and looks at it. She looks at him, at first triumphant to have a winning hand, and then her face crumbles as she can no longer push aside the reality that has been there all along.
He shuts the drawer. He tells her there are two people in the world: There are those whom you assume are reliable and trustworthy who turn out weak (here’s looking at you, Macmillan), and then there are people who appear difficult and complex but are in fact more dependable than anyone thought. “Like me.” Huh! He says quietly he knows that his job is Elizabeth, he’s always known. He’s in, not out.
She’s unmoved. She’s like, Listen, we’re adults: I can look the other way if you need to let off some steam. And here is where Philip really rises to the occasion. He says everything she needs to hear and…am I a sucker for believing him? He kneels before her and tells her he’s not there because of duty or an agreement but because of love. She waits a moment and then puts her head down on his and the camera stays with them and it is truly sweet. Let’s be optimistic and think that maybe Philip got scared straight and this marks a new chapter for the couple.
He’s in the room when she gives birth. She’s pink and crying and the baby is born and his face is incredible — a mixture of awe and affection. She turns and smiles at him and you can see how much she still adores him. He grins at her.
It’s the christening and there’s a royal photo with that super annoying photographer who goes on and on about sunsets and empires and the like. There’s a lot of fussing around in this family and it’s noisy and Elizabeth has her blank face on and finally Philip stands up and tells them to pipe down and to get this picture taken. Everyone is sort of stunned into silence and then…and THEN. My favorite moment ever happens!! Elizabeth gives the tiniest hint of a smile and reaches for Philip’s hand. He turns to her with a smile. AND YAY, we are ending with these two in good shape. I’m super glad and am also super sad that this is the last time we’ll see Claire Foy and Matt Smith in these roles. What a tremendous job they did and have certainly set the bar for seasons to come. Till then The Crown!