Olivia Colman's Queen Elizabeth II feels sidelined for much of the Netflix series' third season. "Strangely, Season 3 adopts just as much of an exasperated tone with the royals, especially when it comes to the Queen herself," says Shirley Li. "Across its 10 episodes, the season holds Elizabeth at arm’s length, showing her going through the motions of her limited duties without interrogating her actions or excavating her feelings." As Li notes, "he first two seasons of The Crown showed the limitations of Elizabeth’s role, but at the same time emphasized her intelligence and her emotional burdens...Even when the series examined others in the royal family, the episodes would still be about the way they affected the Queen. The third season, though, seems afraid to sympathize with her or antagonize her, and so it treats her apathetically, at a remove. Yes, the sovereign should remain politically neutral while maintaining a posh, buttoned-up image—and Colman does a fine job of capturing Elizabeth’s steely resolve against interfering in any drama—but the show seems to have lost interest in her as a character. Season 3 diminishes Elizabeth and, despite being a show that’s about the human behind the crown, makes her an inscrutable cipher."
It's hard to complain about The Crown's Royal family portrayal because "the Windsors, even in real life, are functionally fictional": "Nobody really knows them; they rarely say anything, except when one of them does, and it’s so bizarre that it makes them all seem further away," says Zoe Williams. "So when you turn that mediocre fiction into good fiction – characters behaving in a three-dimensional way that you can empathize with – this will, inevitably, flatter them more than the patchwork of Hello! photoshoots and Emily Maitlis interviews. That’s before you consider the casting: Olivia Colman beams human being out of her face. I don’t think she can help it. Helena Bonham Carter would have you on her side in a war against a kitten – it’s something to do with the fine line she treads between light and dark energy, I’m afraid I can’t be any more specific than that. So yes, in that sense, and before you consider the visual sumptuousness, which leaves you with a vague feeling that the world is enriched just because they exist in it, this season of The Crown in particular is a right royal PR exercise. It’s the only thing that could have saved them from the birthday-party-cancelling maelstrom in which they find themselves."
The Crown Season 3 makes the case for monarchy: "the toll of it, the grandeur, the absurdity, and, as the show presents it, the desirability of an institution that can seem painfully archaic," says Parker Richards. "Now entering its third season, complete with a new cast, The Crown is making even more explicit the idea that the monarchy is not merely a showpiece but an essential component of modern British democracy."