“do you make monsters of everyone you admire?”


I’ve almost choked during several episodes of The Crown. This is less than ideal, because I watch it while running increasingly longer distances for my upcoming marathon, with the result that it serves me better, oxygen-wise, not to dwell on each episode upon its finish, lest I become unable to complete my prescribed distance.

But season one’s episode nine, “Assassins,” isn’t something I can avoid dwelling upon. I thought I would be overcome by all the vignettes, in earlier episodes, of Elizabeth with her father. Of the increased easing of his speech problem around her, and the care she takes of him, even as a child. Married to someone whose own parents were rather shit about his stutter, I go into full tail-lashing leopard mode whenever media seeks to portray people with speech problems, and the care they took with this undid me. Not even just with Elizabeth, either, but when Margaret, coaxing him to sing (which, in my experience, does allow the stutter to seep into the background), gestures for him to look around, to the crowd whose presence ought to typically tie his tongue, and keep going…gah. Gah. I wiped furiously at my face in the gym at the time, pretending it was sweat.

But even so, Episode 9 is just…

I don’t suppose there’s any embroidery I can add to it that will make it novel, this fascination with, or at least desire for, guidance, in things there aren’t people left anymore in which to guide me. There’s no new story here. My swooning for the previous episode, focusing on the Queen Mother’s quest for something meaningful in the empty adult life remaining to her after her husband’s demise, was at least as much about longing for an elderly mother capable of such thoughts — melancholy though they were — as it was about guidance.

But this one, with the painting of Churchill. Their conversations, him and Sutherland. The pond. That magnificent cross-cutting at the end, splicing as it does what a relationship is and was and could be, if it survives, and how half that pair (both pairs) sees more in the other than the other will ever see in themselves. What age gives that, and also what it takes away. And then the text, even. That last little thorn. Sharp an unexpected.

I’m being vague because this is an hour of your time worthy of watching, unsullied by  some internet fool’s blow-by-blow.

I am also absurdly smitten with the relationship between Elizabeth and Churchill. I am not old enough yet, or maybe I just don’t know enough people younger than me yet, to have felt…out-seen. By my peers, certainly, by my elders, of course. But I assume — I gather — there is a certain unbalance in feeling to have been known at some deeper level than one anyone desired, by someone whose age says, by common and naive knowledge, that they should not be able to see so deeply. Not yet, and not into you. To see the tangled mess therein, and allow for it, and continue on with that knowledge in your eyes, visible for the observed to become aware of. That’s why Churchill cries.

And it is why he destroys what he does.