Sources close to the Royal Family have called Season 4 "trolling," but "they are more likely furious at it holding an unforgiving mirror up to their flaws, failures, and cruelty," says Tim Teeman. "If 'trolling' is the most devastating insult the palace can come up with, then that is an embarrassing admission in itself. It reveals not only that the palace lacks a substantial retort to The Crown’s themes and general retelling of history, but also that what The Crown is generally showing us in Season 4 is rooted in fact," he says. Teeman adds that Peter Morgan, "the show’s creator—and one of the finest screenwriters of our time; see Frost/Nixon, The Queen, The Deal, The Special Relationship—is known for distilling lives and history into fictions that are rooted in reality. Morgan himself has said, as The Daily Beast reported, that key scenes in the first episode of Season 4 in which Charles’ great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, writes to the prince and orders him to stop his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and marry a 'well-tempered girl' are 'made up.' But this doesn’t invalidate what we are watching; it does not mean the palace’s whining has any validity."
The Crown creator Peter Morgan uses Diana as a kind of scouring device that exposes everyone else as failed humans: "I don't think any show since Breaking Bad has pulled off the 'These people we have gotten you to root for are actually terrible' gambit as well as S4 of The Crown does," says Mark Harris. "Peter Morgan has used Diana as a kind of scouring device that exposes everyone else as failed humans. Olivia Colman is such an empathetic actress that it's shocking that she doesn't flinch from the indictment that the show asks her to embody--the idea that these people are devoid of a vast range of human feelings, vaguely maddened by knowing that, and incapable of fixing it. It's also an extraordinarily elegant piece of storytelling in that seasons 1 and 2 felt like they were from the inside out; we comprehended this world through the eyes of a limited but essentially sympathetic young woman asked to assume an absurd set of duties at a fraught time. But season 4 is very much from the outside in: We're now asked to look at this family largely through the eyes of outsiders--Diana, Thatcher, the intruder in episode 5--and their appalled incredulity at what they see becomes our own."
Season 4 wouldn't have worked out without the painstakingly laid foundation of the first three seasons: "When The Crown premiered in 2016, just a few days shy of Election Day, it was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, if not a little derision, from some stateside critics," says Alison Herman. "How was Morgan supposed to make a compelling protagonist out of a woman whose most remarkable trait is how adamantly unremarkable she is? What did the Brits’ outdated, offensively classist mode of government have to teach us enlightened, small-d democrats? Why was duty, constancy, and an ardent passion for protocol supposed to be not just pretty to look at, but interesting? The concept, announced up front as a six-season enterprise, felt like an overreach—of Morgan’s intense interest in the monarchy as expressed in works like The Queen, and of Netflix’s then-infamous need to throw its weight around with expensive moonshots. Many of The Crown’s naysayers have come around in more recent years. Part of that shift has to do with factors outside the show’s control; given subsequent developments in U.S. politics, mundane leadership and minimal conflict were suddenly selling points, and we Americans weren’t in much of a position to brag about the perks of self-determination either. Yet the thaw was also a reflection of The Crown itself. Over time, it’s become clear that The Crown is a show built for the long haul, growing into its golden years as Elizabeth ages into her own authority. In retrospect, Season 1’s weaknesses are more understandable: The Crown’s story simply hadn’t caught up to The Crown’s true interests, both historic and thematic. That slow burn could be frustrating. It’s also evidence of a patience and long-term thinking that’s at once unique to television and increasingly rare to find within it. As Diana’s and Thatcher’s twin meteors make their crash landing, that patience is finally paying off."
Season 4 begs the question of why we cared so much about Diana's dresses: "Why do they matter? It’s not really about the dresses, people. It’s about how they got us to now," says Vanessa Friedman, adding: "Right now, understandably, we can’t get enough of such vicarious fashion exposition, given our loungewear-limned reality. The hazy, sentimental lens of nostalgia can make even the pretty bad delicious, in an ironic, self-aware way. Rowing Blazers has already rereleased Diana’s famous black sheep sweater — the one she wore to a couple of her husband’s polo matches — to so much hoo-ha that even at $295 it is available for order only and will not arrive until January at the earliest. And this is only Diana, Episode 1"
Margaret Thatcher's hair was the toughest part of Season 4 for hair and makeup designer Cate Hall: "There’s one silhouette that looms tall over the fourth season of The Crown, one distinctive, immediately recognizable shape that defines this era of British history: Margaret Thatcher’s hair," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "It is lofty yet firm, a high-rise construction that’s easy to compare to a helmet, but is in fact more like an edifice. It is a signal of Thatcher’s impenetrability, her self-control and self-possession. It is not hair that admits weakness, and it is not designed to be beautiful. It is functional, and its function is to project strength. Nailing Thatcher’s precise, familiar hairstyle was a key element in bringing the character to life on The Crown, and it was crucial to help transform actor Gillian Anderson into the recognizable prime minister." Hall says of Thatcher's hair: "It’s my favorite thing. It’s my favorite thing in the whole season. And it was definitely the hardest."