"The Crown" released the first four episodes of its final season on Thursday.
Elizabeth Debicki's performance as Diana was universally praised by critics.
But reviewers have mixed feelings on the rest of season six, part one, currently rated 57% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Netflix's critically acclaimed royal drama "The Crown" premiered Thursday and announced its main intention almost instantly — the first four episodes tell the story of a crash and its aftermath.
That crash, of course, is the car accident that occurred just after midnight on August 31, 1997 in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, during which Princess Diana sustained fatal injuries. She was declared dead nearly four hours later, per the Associated Press. Her boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, and a driver named Henri Paul died on the scene.
Diana's death is a historical tragedy that sent shockwaves around the world. People young and old still remember where they were when they heard that the woman once called the People's Princess had been chased into a tunnel by paparazzi, who then brazenly took photographs of her as she lay in pain at the scene of the accident.
Plus, Diana's tragic story has already been told from nearly every angle possible in fictional adaptations for TV, film, and even in musical form on Broadway.
So, though many critics agree that "The Crown" creator Peter Morgan approaches the story as respectfully as possible, they're all asking the same question — is another telling really necessary?
Although nearly everyone agrees Elizabeth Debicki's performance as Diana is captivating, some also believe that "The Crown" — which was praised in its early seasons as a refreshing, artistic take on what goes on behind closed doors within the royal House of Windsor — has lost its luster.
Here's a round-up of reviews from critics, who tend to agree that at the very least, Morgan could've let the ghost of Diana rest in peace.
Elizabeth Debicki's performance as Diana was near-universally praised
"Debicki's embodiment of Diana's grace is effervescent." — Aramide Tinubu, Variety
"While it's still a splendid cast, center stage inevitably belongs to Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) as she begins her romance with wealthy heir Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), who, despite being engaged, is egged on by his imperious father Mohamed Al Fayed (Salim Daw) to woo her." — Brian Lowry, CNN
"If nothing else, Elizabeth Debicki's take on Diana is so excellent it's a pleasure to see her get such a full, and tall, spotlight." — Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter
"Despite the scripts' attempts to diminish Diana herself, Debicki's performance remains a standout within the rest of 'The Crown's' cast. The first half of the season doesn't spend much time, if any, in Diana's head, but there are instances when her wistfulness, her moments of contemplation, and her longing for privacy are palpable on-screen." — Carly Lane, Collider
"She's more like Diana than Diana ever was." — Tom Gliatto, People
But for the most part, critics really did not like the inclusion of Ghost Diana as a plot device
"Later, in what is easily the show's worst creative decision to date, Diana and Dodi appear from beyond the grave, to assuage the Windsors' and Mohamed's guilt and helpfully advise them on how to process their respective deaths. Whether they're supposed to be literal ghosts or simply figments of the other characters' imaginations isn't clear. Either way, these scenes cement the impression that 'The Crown' has devolved into a mega-budget Lifetime Original Movie." — Judy Berman, TIME
"There are certainly strong choices that are made, specters of deceased former princesses aside … The first time she appears, on Charles' plane back from Paris after retrieving her body, is its own-out-of-body experience: What?! No! That's not… They're not…" — Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast
"It's an odd flight of maudlin fancy for a series that's handled most events in the royal family's lives with a grounded — if fictionalized — realism." — Kristen Baldwin, Entertainment Weekly
"She thanks Charles 'for being so raw, broken and handsome' in the hospital when he saw her body. 'I'll take that with me,' she adds. My notes at this point are indecipherable, which is just as well, as I suspect what they say would be unprintable. By the time Ghost Diana takes the Queen's hand and gently whispers 'You've always shown us what it meant to be British. Maybe it's time to learn, too,' and prompts her to cave in to the headline's demand to 'Show us you care, Ma'am,' I am having quite the out-of-body experience myself." — Lucy Mangan, The Guardian
"Diana's ghost is a ridiculous device, and far more insulting to Elizabeth than anything else 'The Crown' might have thrown or will throw at her." — Tom Gliatto, People
Diana and Dodi's relationship was a mixed bag
"Morgan's decision to treat the brief coupling as just an ill-fated facilitator in Diana's life — the moment she realized she needed to focus on herself and not on being a wife or girlfriend — is uninterestingly utilitarian." — Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter
"Debicki happens to be great at looking melancholy on a yacht — it's half her performance in 'Tenet' — but those scenes don't quite push her range. She and Abdalla court each other with mutual sweetness, but never much of a spark, and their scenes keep within prescribed boundaries." — Jackson McHenry, Vulture
"Debicki and Abdalla are so good in the roles, honing these profiles of famous dead people into tangible human beings. 'The Crown' shades their relationship with sad nuance: This was not true love, it argues, but rather a fling that might have led to a beautiful friendship." — Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
"Abdalla and Debicki inspirit Dodi and Diana's bond with their warm and affectionate chemistry, which also permeates their many moments of tender vulnerability." Kristen Baldwin, Entertainment Weekly
"The last full scene in Paris between Diana and Dodi, before they fatefully get into that limo, is extraordinarily written and acted." — Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe
Overall, many find that 'The Crown' is losing steam as it nears its conclusion
"When it's not simply boring, the season can be weirdly audacious, milking the mystery of Diana's last days — as well as, unfortunately, her imagined afterlife — for manufactured poignancy. Like the tragedy on which it fixates, it's a wreck on a scale that the show has never seen before." — Judy Berman, TIME
"Whether it's the Royals or the filmmakers who lost their golden touch, after all those well-deserved laurels "The Crown" and its perfectly stiff upper lips remain intact, but reputationally, the buildup toward the finish has dulled at least some of its luster." — Brian Lowry, CNN
"Instead of righting the near-disaster of last season, it leans into its flaws, including the miscasting of the earthy Dominic West as Prince Charles and the endless unenlightening reconstructions of the real images and videos that have become part of the culture, recognizable around the world even to viewers too young to remember the 1990s or Diana's death first-hand." — Caryn James, BBC
"It's never been clearer that 'The Crown' has shifted further and further away from what once made it a standout in its early seasons … Overall, the impression is that the series is trying too hard to squeeze in as much relevant history as it can before wrapping things up for good, but the side effect of that is also feeling like 'The Crown' is simply checking off boxes with each episode." — Carly Lane, Collider
"Beyond all its formal failures, late-period 'Crown' is also impossibly hamstrung by being set well within living memory. Even if there were anything to engage with, the memories and consequent questions that crowd into the viewer's mind at every stage would make it impossible." — Lucy Mangan, The Guardian
"While I'm able to watch and enjoy it for Debicki's performance, I feel like it's also a good thing that the show is ending now, the time has come." — Liz Kocan, Decider
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