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The second season of Peter Morgan’s royal family drama The Crown, about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), debuts Friday on Netflix. The sophomore run will tackle the period of the Queen Elizabeth’s life from the mid-1950s to 1964. While it’s totally possible to dive in without watching the critically acclaimed first season — why, though? — here’s a refresher on what the freshman skein covered, along with a roundup of world events and historical figures that will be introduced in the new batch of episodes.
Season One, Revisited
The first season of the series tackled Elizabeth’s coronation; the struggle of her husband, Philip (Matt Smith), to adjust to her position of power; her refusal to allow Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) to marry her divorced boyfriend; and Winston Churchill’s (John Lithgow) time as prime minister and eventual retirement.
Season two will begin as Philip is embarking on his five-month royal tour after opening the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. The season will also tackle some of the biggest events of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Look for the Suez Canal crisis (in which Britain backed the Israeli invasion of Egypt before withdrawing troops a few months later); two new prime ministers (Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan); John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy’s visit to the U.K.; Margaret’s marriage to photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones; Elizabeth’s second two pregnancies; rumors of Philip’s infidelities; and the Profumo affair (a political scandal involving a cabinet member’s affair with a 19-year-old woman that led to the defeat of the Conservative Party in Parliament).
It will also step back in time to take a look at the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson’s Nazi sympathies, as well as Philip’s childhood at the Gordonstoun School in Scotland.
As each season of The Crown takes on a different period in the lives of the royal family, the series will continue to add key players into the mix. Here are all the new faces joining in season two:
Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey) will play Antony Armstrong-Jones (aka Lord Snowdon), Princess Margaret’s society photographer who was married to Princess Margaret (Kirby) from 1960-1978. The couple, who had two children together, divorced after 18 years of marriage. Snowdon died in January at the age of 86.
Michael C. Hall (Dexter) will portray the dynamic President John F. Kennedy.
Jodi Balfour (Quarry) plays JFK’s charming and secretly shy wife, Jackie Kennedy.
Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones) plays Elizabeth’s third prime minister, Harold Macmillan, with season two ending with his scandal-plagued downfall.
Paul Sparks (House of Cards) rounds out the major new faces as the Rev. Billy Graham.
Season two will be the last for stars Foy and Smith, whose roles will be recast as the series tackles the queen’s later years. Olivia Colman (The Night Manager) will succeed Foy as the monarch, and while Smith told The Hollywood Reporter that he has heard who producers were courting for Philip, no one has officially been cast.
How to Watch
Friday night: Episodes 1-3
Don’t stay up late Thursday to watch the premiere. This is an intricate, beautifully shot historical drama, not a cliffhanger-filled sci-fi series. Get a good night’s sleep and settle in for three hours of globe-spanning adventure and intimate, emotional scenes between Elizabeth and Philip, on Friday evening.
Saturday morning: Episodes 4-5
Wake up, make some coffee and check in on the next two installments. The middle episodes are easily viewed solo, so sprinkling them throughout the day will also make for a satisfying viewing experience.
Saturday night: Episodes 6-7
Again, these can be viewed at a leisurely pace, so save them for Sunday morning if you have some big Saturday night plans.
Sunday night: Episodes 8-10
Regardless of how one views the middle-four episodes, the tense climax in the final three episodes deserves another mini-marathon, closing out the weekend in a satisfying way — and preparing viewers for the inevitable watercooler talk (or Slack convos) on Monday morning.
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