8 Things We Know About The Crown Season 2

Netflix
Netflix

Since making its premiere on November 4, 2016, The Crown—which won the 2017 Golden Globe for Best Drama—has become an indisputable hit for Netflix. The 10-part series, created by two-time Oscar nominee Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), follows the ascension and early reign of Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy, who won a Golden Globe and SAG Award for her portrayal of the legendary royal) and the challenges it creates in her personal life, particularly in her marriage to Prince Philip (played by former Doctor Who star Matt Smith). Fans binge-watched the show as quickly as it was dropped, and have spent the better part of this year clamoring for details on the second season, which will return on December 8, 2017. Here’s what we know.

1. PRODUCTION ON SEASON TWO BEGAN BEFORE SEASON ONE EVEN PREMIERED.

In November 2016, while speaking on a panel for the nonprofit organization Visionary Women, Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos confirmed that production on The Crown's second season was already underway. "We're in production now on the second season," Sarandos said. "This is going to take Queen Elizabeth from age 29 to, presumably, the current day. We'll see it lay out over decades. We've seen a lot of things about Queen Elizabeth, but we've already learned more about her than we ever had by watching the first 10 hours."

In an interview with Vanity Fair, published on November 18, 2016, Foy revealed that they were already a month into shooting. “We literally pick up where we left off—in 1956," she said. “I think Peter’s taking [us up to] '63 or '64. We get into the '60s, and it is a whole other world happening. It’s really exciting, especially because we’ve had such a positive response and everyone’s been really encouraging. It just makes everybody, especially the crew, work even harder. When we first started shooting, and it hadn’t come out. We were like, ‘Oh god, what if they hate it?’ And then we’ll [still have to film a second season] knowing that everyone hated it."

2. SEASON TWO WILL FOCUS ON THE SUEZ CRISIS.

Season two will focus largely on the Suez Crisis of 1956. “Initially, I thought this would only be three seasons,” Morgan told The Hollywood Reporter. “It would be one season of her as the Young Queen, one season of her as the Middle-Aged Queen, one season of her as an Old Queen. It's only in the writing of it that I said, ‘Oh, my God I need more time.’ The truth of the matter is, I could've written three or even four seasons of her as the Young Queen. I did get to the point where I thought, ‘Actually no, let's leave it on the knife's edge of Suez because Suez feels like a changing point for the country. Britain was never the same again after Suez.’ Therefore, I was going to deal with that at the beginning of season two. Which we do.”

3. PRINCES PHILIP AND CHARLES WILL HAVE BIGGER ROLES.

Though Elizabeth's family was a major part of The Crown's first season, season two will devote more screen time to both Prince Philip and a young Prince Charles.

"We start to focus on Charles as a young boy and his education, and on Philip and his back story,” Morgan told People in December. Earlier this month, while discussing the show at a Royal Television Society event in London, Morgan gave a few more details on season two: "Its soul is about Prince Philip's complexity. "I find him extraordinarily interesting—his childhood, again, you couldn't make it up. The soul of season two is about his complexity."

4. PRINCESS MARGARET IS GOING TO BE "NAUGHTY."

Though audiences got to see a bit about Princess Margaret's lust for life, and complicated romantic entanglements, in the first season, we'll get an even wilder version of her in season two. "She’s naughty," Foy told W Magazine. "Very minxy. She gets even naughtier even though she gets married. The naughtiness just continues." (Margaret's husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones—a.k.a. Lord Snowdon—will be played by Downton Abbey star Matthew Goode.)

In discussing Vanessa Kirby, the actress who plays Margaret, Morgan told Vanity Fair that, “Vanessa explodes this season. We always knew she was a great actress, but she explodes. It’s a very identifiable tragedy, to have someone in the family with more apparent charisma and yet no use for it ... I love writing her.”

5. NETFLIX WOULD LIKE TO SEE A TOTAL OF SIX SEASONS.

Though it’s the most expensive television series ever made, Sarandos seems rather pleased with the results of The Crown—and the audience's reaction to it. Even if season two does bring viewers up to the present day, the series won’t stop there. In fact, from the get-go, Netflix saw the series as a long-term investment. "The idea is to do this over six decades, in six seasons presumably, and make the whole show over eight to 10 years," Sarandos said.

6. FUTURE SEASONS COULD SEE SOME MAJOR CAST CHANGES.

Though Foy and Smith are both back for season two of The Crown, it will reportedly be their last. Because of the chronological nature of the narrative, seasons three and beyond would focus on the Queen in the later years of her reign, which would require an older actress. According to Digital Spy, if all six seasons of the series shake out as planned, the cast will change for season three then again in season five, for the final two seasons. Producer Andrew Eaton said that he and the rest of the team have had some “conversations” about who might play the royal couple next, but right now they are firmly focused on Foy.

"We saw a number of actresses in the beginning [to play the young Elizabeth] who were all brilliant, but Claire ... there was something about her," Eaton said.

"If you're going to take this character—and she's doing all of the first two seasons, so it's 20 hours with the same character—it's got to be someone that you can identify with and feels vulnerable and sympathetic and she has that quality as a person.”

7. JOHN AND JACKIE KENNEDY WILL PLAY A PART IN SEASON TWO.

As season two ventures into the 1960s, we do know that John and Jackie Kennedy will be a part of the narrative. On February 9, 2017, Variety confirmed that Michael C. Hall will play JFK, while Quarry's Jodi Balfour will play his wife, Jackie. 

"I absolutely fell in love with Jodi Balfour," Foy told Entertainment Weekly in July. "She’s just brilliant, and Michael C. Hall is just incredible. You really see how amazing it is to put Philip and Elizabeth—their marriage and their world—suddenly into the 1960s. You see how the royal family has to start changing and move with the times and realize that things and people are different, and you start to see the evolution of the modern monarchy."

8. A THIRD SEASON HAS YET TO BE CONFIRMED, BUT MORGAN'S ALREADY THINKING ABOUT IT.

If audience response to the first season told us anything, season two of The Crown is bound to be a hit. Still, Netflix has yet to confirm that a third season will be coming. "We're talking [to Netflix] all the the time but we just want to see how the second series goes," Morgan said in early August. "We're pretty swamped at the moment. I've started thinking about a third season—you have to be responsible, you can't say you'll do it and then suddenly go, 'Actually I found out it's really dull.' I have done some preparatory work, I'd be happy to do it, but at the moment I'm swamped."

The Crown is streaming now on Netflix.

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The Many Lives of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Leonard Cohen sat down to write a song about god, sex, love, and other mysteries of human existence that bring us to our knees for one reason or another. The legendary singer-songwriter, who was in his early forties at the time, knew how to write a hit: He had penned "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire," "Lover, Lover, Lover," and dozens of other songs for both himself and other popular artists of the time. But from the very beginning, there was something different about what would become "Hallelujah"—a song that took five years and an estimated 80 drafts for Cohen to complete.

In the 35 years since it was originally released, "Hallelujah" has been covered by more than 300 other artists in virtually every genre. Willie Nelson, k.d. lang, Justin Timberlake, Bono, Brandi Carlile, Bon Jovi, Susan Boyle, Pentatonix, and Alexandra Burke—the 2008 winner of the UK version of The X Factor—are just a few of the individuals who have attempted to put their own stamp on the song. After Burke’s soulful version was downloaded 105,000 times in its first day, setting a new European record, “Hallelujah” soon became a staple of TV singing shows.

It's an impressive feat by any standard, but even more so when you consider that "Hallelujah"—one of the most critically acclaimed and frequently covered songs of the modern era—was originally stuck on side two of 1984’s Various Positions, an album that Cohen’s American record label deemed unfit for release.

“Leonard, we know you’re great,” Cohen recalled CBS Records boss Walter Yetnikoff telling him, “but we don’t know if you’re any good.”

 

Yetnikoff wasn’t totally off-base. With its synth-heavy ’80s production, Cohen’s version of “Hallelujah” doesn’t announce itself as the chill-inducing secular hymn it’s now understood to be. (Various Positions was finally released in America on the indie label Passport in 1985.) Part of why it took Cohen five years to write the song was that he couldn’t decide how much of the Old Testament stuff to include.

“It had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from the beginning to the end,” Cohen said. “Finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore. And I rewrote this song; this is the ‘secular’ ‘Hallelujah.’”

The first two verses introduce King David—the skilled harp player and great uniter of Israel—and the Nazarite strongman Samson. In the scriptures, both David and Samson are adulterous poets whose ill-advised romances (with Bathsheba and Delilah, respectively) lead to some big problems.

In the third verse of his 1984 studio version, Cohen grapples with the question of spirituality. When he’s accused of taking the Lord’s name in vain, Cohen responds, hilariously, “What’s it to ya?” He insists there’s “a blaze of light in every word”—every perception of the divine, perhaps—and declares there to be no difference between “the holy or the broken Hallelujah.” Both have value.

“I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world,” Cohen once said. “The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

 

Amazingly, Cohen's original "Hallelujah" pales in comparison to Velvet Underground founder John Cale’s five-verse rendition for the 1991 Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan. Cale had seen Cohen perform the song live, and when he asked the Canadian singer-songwriter to fax over the lyrics, he received 15 pages. “I went through and just picked out the cheeky verses,” Cale said.

Cale’s pared down piano-and-vocals arrangement inspired Jeff Buckley to record what is arguably the definitive “Hallelujah,” a haunting, seductive performance found on the late singer-songwriter’s one and only studio album, 1994’s Grace. Buckley’s death in 1997 only heightened the power of his recording, and within a few years, “Hallelujah” was everywhere. Cale’s version turned up in the 2001 animated film Shrek, and the soundtrack features an equally gorgeous version by Rufus Wainwright.

In 2009, after the song appeared in Zack Snyder's Watchmen, Cohen agreed with a critic who called for a moratorium on covers. “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told The Guardian. “But too many people sing it.”

Except “Hallelujah” is a song that urges everyone to sing. That’s kind of the point. The title is from a compound Hebrew word comprising hallelu, to praise joyously, and yah, the name of god. As writer Alan Light explains in his 2013 book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah,” the word hallelujah was originally an imperative—a command to praise the Lord. In the Christian tradition, it’s less an imperative than an expression of joy: “Hallelujah!” Cohen seemingly plays on both meanings.

 

Cohen’s 1984 recording ends with a verse that begins, “I did my best / It wasn’t much.” It’s the humble shrug of a mortal man and the sly admission of an ambitious songwriter trying to capture the essence of humanity in a pop song. By the final lines, Cohen concedes “it all went wrong,” but promises to have nothing but gratitude and joy for everything he has experienced.

Putting aside all the biblical allusions and poetic language, “Hallelujah” is a pretty simple song about loving life despite—or because of—its harshness and disappointments. That message is even clearer in Cale’s five-verse rendition, the guidepost for all subsequent covers, which features the line, “Love is not a victory march.” Cale also adds in Cohen’s verse about sex, and how every breath can be a Hallelujah. Buckley, in particular, realized the carnal aspect of the song, calling his version “a Hallelujah to the orgasm.”

“Hallelujah” can be applied to virtually any situation. It’s great for weddings, funerals, TV talent shows, and cartoons about ogres. Although Cohen’s lyrics don’t exactly profess religious devotion, “Hallelujah” has become a popular Christmas song that’s sometimes rewritten with more pious lyrics. Agnostics and atheists can also find plenty to love about “Hallelujah.” It’s been covered more than 300 times because it’s a song for everyone.

When Cohen died on November 7, 2016, at the age of 82, renewed interest in “Hallelujah” vaulted Cohen's version of the song onto the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. Despite its decades of pop culture ubiquity, it took more than 30 years and Cohen's passing for “Hallelujah”—the very essence of which is about finding beauty amid immense sadness and resolving to move forward—to officially become a hit song.

“There’s no solution to this mess,” Cohen once said, describing the human comedy at the heart of “Hallelujah. “The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say 'Look, I don't understand a f***ing thing at all—Hallelujah! That's the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.”

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