“The Crown” Season 5: All Ten Episodes Ranked According to a Guy Who Was Never All That Attached to Princess Diana

Elizabeth Debicki and Salim Daw at a horsing exhibition in episode 3 of The Crown season 5, "Mou-Mou".

Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) enjoy themselves a little too much in the Royal Penalty Box.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: at the start of the pandemic my wife Anne and I binged the first three seasons of Netflix’s The Crown and soon caught up with the rest of fandom. One slight hitch: while Anne is a major history aficionado, that was never my forte, especially not the story of Queen Elizabeth II and her subjects, some of whom were her own trod-upon relatives:

Compared to my blissfully ignorant self, Anne is far more knowledgeable of history in general and British royalty in particular. My interest in their reigning family went dormant for decades beginning on the morning of July 29, 1981, when my family woke up at 5 a.m. — over summer vacation, mind you — to watch Prince Charles marry Princess Diana, two strangers I knew only as frequent costars of my mom’s favorite tabloids. Their wedding lasted approximately six days and was performed entirely in slow motion with British golf commentators prattling through the lengthy silences in between the happenstances of nothingness. For the next 15-20 years I retained nothing of British history apart from their role as the Big Bad in the American Revolution. Frankly, I’ve learned more about their country’s storied past from my wife and from Oscar-nominated movies than I ever did from school. Sad, unadorned truth.

So far I’ve enjoyed The Crown anyway, and understood most of what’s gone on…

I found myself so entertained by Peter Morgan’s principally fictional creation that I was compelled to compile my ten favorite episodes of those first three seasons based on my own finicky and sometimes underschooled impressions. That listicle unexpectedly became this site’s most popular entry of 2020 for lack of competition during an unprecedentedly sedentary year. Naturally I was compelled to post follow-ups as they happened — a sequel listicle for season 4 and a recount of that time on Labor Day weekend 2021 when we attended a Dragon Con fan panel about the show but suppressed our responses and ripostes behind our sweaty pop-culture COVID masks in a rather Royal Family manner.

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“Tár”: Classical Gaslighting

Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tar expounding upon the classical music world to a lunch companion in the film "Tar".

“But enough about me, let’s talk a little more about ME…”

Full disclosure: I suck at fathoming and sorting the full breadth and scope of classical music in all its storied splendor. I can be taught, but my retention sucks through no conscious choice on my part. My wife Anne is far more skilled at recognizing symphonies and suites, catching nuances, spotting themes in film scores and remembering titles of lyricless songs. But she hasn’t seen Tár and prefers to let/watch/make me write my own blog, so here we are with a philistine on the keys, hopefully not too tone-deaf.

Not that I wasn’t looking forward to this! I still recall writer/director Todd Field’s debut, 2001’s In the Bedroom, a Best Picture nominee in which Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek were equally moving as parents dealing with the death of their adult son, Terminator 3‘s John Connor. I never got around to his follow-up Little Children, but that’s my fault, not Field’s. This time I didn’t wait to be prompted by my annual Oscar quest to run out and catch his next work, a taut drama so impeccably dressed and so meticulously crafted within its very specific milieu that you’re halfway into the film before you realize you’re viewing the entire edifice through an unreliable vantage.

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” End Credits

Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright as Okoye and Shuri, wearing expensive non-superhero fashions to "blend in" with mixed results, from Marvel's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever".

Okoye and Shuri learned everything they know about “going undercover” from James Bond parodies.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: after going 2-for-2 on his first feature films Fruitvale Station and Creed, director Ryan Coogler raised the bar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Panther, and in turn gave Chadwick Boseman a long-overdue boost into super-stardom after years of his own fine works such as 42 and the still-underrated Persons Unknown. His death was among the many, many, many reasons we will never forgive the year 2020 for its endless curses.

Though we were blessed with chances to celebrate his life and talent posthumously in Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and the grand surprisie of an alt-timeline Panther reprise in What If…? season one, the MCU proper never got a chance to say goodbye, to give King T’Challa of Wakanda the big sendoff he would’ve deserved if only Boseman could’ve had a couple more years to perform the honors. Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole return for that very purpose — and so, so much more — with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

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“Decision to Leave”: The Mountain Between Us

Movie poster for "Decision to Leave" with the two leads atop a mountain, standing next to a victim's chalk outline.

The detective. The widow. The mountaintop. The fall.

If you’ve seen director Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, perhaps you get why his name might strike fear into my heart, because I can never unsee that film nor unfeel the Grand Guignol trauma I carried for days after. (I can’t think of a single reason to seek out Spike Lee’s remake, and pray no one ever makes an all-ages cartoon prequel called Oldbaby.) I’ve been afraid to watch any of Park’s other films until now. His latest, the crime-drama romance Decision to Leave, likewise follows broken souls careening off each other amidst secrets and death, but is far more interested in examining the emotional contents of two hearts than in spatchcocking them.

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“The Banshees of Inisherin”: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Colin Farrell bothers Brendan Gleeson in "The Banshees of Inisherin".

“So who do you think would win in a fight, Grindelwald or Mad-Eye Moody?”

Years ago I heard a pastor (not at our home church) sermonize to an auditorium full of men about what he called “radical amputations” — times in his life when he made conscious, arguably over-the-top decisions to remove potential chances for sin to enter his life by any means necessary. He knew his limits and his temptations, and took hard measures to avoid jeopardizing his family, his job, his church, and/or his relationship with Christ. Historically speaking, some pastors have fared far worse at their sin management than others. God bless those who find ways to turn away from impulsive stupidity.

The most drastic example he cited from his own past concerned a onetime assistant of his, apparently a lovely woman who was good at her job. They were frequently alone in the office. She didn’t jokingly flirt with him or do anything remotely resembling a romantic gesture in his direction, but he felt himself growing attracted to her and, shall we say, entertaining impure thoughts on a recurring basis. He never acted on those thoughts or tried to perpetrate anything Weinsteinian on her, but his imagination and hormones wouldn’t shut up. After this had gone on for a bit, he realized something needed to change. So he fired her.

This “radical amputation” on his part amounted to punishment for her despite absolutely no wrongdoing on her part — no performance issues, no rules broken, no red marks on her permanent record or whatever. But he could feel himself in danger of moral/spiritual slippage and decided he needed her permanently and immediately out of his orbit for the sake of everyone and everything that depended on him. Years later that story still doesn’t sit well with me (not once in his sermon did he suggest perhaps he should’ve hit the road), but the concept stuck in my head.

I was graphically reminded of that confession (which he positioned to us as family-man advice) as I sat raptly through The Banshees of Inisherin, the latest film from writer/director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), in which blunt decisions, sin, and stupidity become man’s worst friends.

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Yes, You Know There’s a Scene During the “Black Adam” End Credits

Dwayne Johnson IS Black Adam!

The People’s Furrowed Brow.

Longtime MCC readers may recall a quainter era when sitting through the end credits of every single film used to be my thing, a longtime viewing habit I share with my wife that the resulting traffic stats kept encouraging me to indulge here. Sometimes that still works for me, as borne out in the first few months of 2022 when search engine users wouldn’t stop clicking on my months-old, disposable entries for Venom 2 and Encanto. (The latter didn’t even have an end credits scene — just a single fancy clip-art image that amused me. And yet, for weeks strangers kept clicking and clicking and clicking, like hundreds of twitchy-fingered Energizer Bunnies.)

Now every geek-news site has at least one fan-writer on retainer who’s more than willing to sacrifice ten extra minutes of their lives to sit all the way through films in case of any clickbait opportunities. I can’t fault those gig-economy freelancers for getting paid to crank out what I’ve been giving away for free for ten years now. Nice work if you can network with the right people to get it.

For the sake of my mental health and sensible allocation of my free-time resources, I try not to treat the end-credits thing as a competition. If I did, after last Sunday’s nonstop busyness I’d have been neck-deep in despair the next morning when the scene during the Black Adam end credits took mainstream entertainment headlines by storm. The sincerely shocking surprise had already been ruined online by boorish bigmouths over a week earlier, but after opening weekend Warner Brothers and Dwayne Johnson jointly decided it was cool to spread the same major spoiler to anyone with narrower internet feeds who’d missed out. So my pro bono end-credits monitoring services aren’t needed here.

Fun trivia, though: did you know if you pay to see the scene during the Black Adam end credits in theaters, you also get a whole movie for free? It’s true! It’s called Black Adam. I sat through that too, for better or worse. It’s miles ahead of the worst thing I’ve seen in theaters so far this year, and a few streets ahead of Justice League, but it isn’t making my Top 10.

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My 2022 Reading Stacks #2

Kate Mulgrew Memoirs!

Our year-long personal Trek-fandom revival keeps on rollin’.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife Anne or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my reading results…

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A Dream Journal, As It Were: Too Many Thoughts on “The Sandman” Season 1

Tom Sturridge IS the Sandman!

Remember, kids: don’t dream angry!

I was in high school when The Sandman #1 hit comic shop shelves in the fall of 1988. Springing forth from the mind of Neil Gaiman, whom I chiefly knew from Miracleman and Black Orchid, it was unlike anything I’d read before in comics or other media, and was a must-buy over the next seven years — through its transition to DC Comics’ subsequently inaugurated Vertigo line, in its rise to alt-culture superstardom, and even during some of the least favorite parts of my life. The Sandman lasted longer in my life than I lasted in college. I still have all 75 issues, the special with Orpheus’ story, the two Death miniseries, the lovely hardcover edition of my favorite arc (Season of Mists), and some (not all) of the other ensuing spinoffs. (Of most recent vintage, I loved the Gaiman-approved two-issue crossover with Locke and Key, which may have meant more to fans of the latter but contained key prequel scenes to the world of Dream, including front row seats to the fall of Lucifer.)

I rarely allow myself high expectations for anything anymore, but The Sandman left a deep enough mark on my psyche that I insisted the all-new Netflix adaptation — closely supervised by Gaiman — simply had to be The Greatest Netflix Show of All Time. Nothing less would do. The jury’s out on that for now, but after having watched all ten episodes within a 21-hour span (with wasteful intermissions for sleep and life, not necessarily in that order), I can enthusiastically say for now it’ll do. It’ll very much do.

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Nichelle Nichols, 1932-2022

Nichelle Nichols!

The last time we met Nichelle Nichols, at Indiana Comic Con 2017.

Today we were saddened to hear of the passing of Nichelle Nichols, a.k.a. Lieutenant Nyota Uhura from Star Trek, life-changing inspiration and role model of millions. Millions of actors, creators, celebrities, fans, and news sites are online to explain who she is or what she meant to so, so many. For me as a youngster who caught the OG Enterprise crew in reruns, she was an integral part of a stellar interstellar ensemble who showed us, despite innumerable obstacles in their path, that theirs was a potential future for humankind, in which everyone works, lives, and succeeds side-by-side in forging new paths together.

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Yes, There’s an Ad After the “Nope” End Credits

Nope Alien!

Cowboys vs. Aliens, but way better.

The following thoughts on Jordan Peele’s new film Nope are entirely about spoilers from start to finish except the two obligatory postscripts at the end of every MCC entry, which cover additional cast and the end credits. While Get Out remains his best film so far, Nope is a rare treat for me: a film which, the more I dwelt on it, the more I loved. This is a welcome opposite of my previous summertime theatrical experience, one more deserving of fun exploration. Courtesy spoiler alert in advance, then.

We do love to watch, and under the right circumstances we love to be watched. Among the most thrilling and obvious ways to chase fame and/or fortune is to be among the most watched. Young or old, regardless of your assorted demographic memberships, anyone can be among society’s celebrated objects of attention with the right combination of talent and luck. When one ingredient is lacking, push the other to its limits. The talent doesn’t have to be great if circumstances usher the would-be idol past the velvet rope anyway. And the luck doesn’t have to be good.

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