‘The Crown’ Season 5, Episode 3: Recap And Ending, Explained: Who Is Dodi Al Fayed?

There are always these episodes in “The Crown” that shed a spotlight on the figures outside the realm of the royal family who is connected to it in an indirect way. Recall Graham Sutherland as the painter in Season 1, who created a portrait of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Or Lord Altrincham in Season 2, whose criticisms of the Queen were not entirely discarded. Then there was Dr. Millward as Charles’ Welsh tutor in Season 3. These figures have no direct connection with the royal family in any sense of the term, but their contributions—and, for that matter, their connecting thread—play out like a reminder of those underrated figures in history who get overshadowed. In Season 5 so far, we have the figure of Mohammed Al-Fayed, who gets an entire episode concentrated largely on his background, completely existing like a solo match of its own. If you would expect that the third episode would pick up right where the last one left off—the aftermath of the huge media scrutiny following Andrew Morton’s book on Diana—then you will be disappointed. The Crown excels at nose-diving into the unfamiliar ground just when you thought it would be following familiar annals of history. Episode 3, titled Mou Mou and directed by Alex Gabbasi, is certainly the most striking episode of the season so far, offering us a deep dive into the history of a family that would go on to shake the orbit of the royal family forever. Let us take a deeper look. 


If you haven’t heard of Mohammed Al-Fayed, then it is time that you do a quick search on the internet, where his connection will be made instantly clearer: He is the father of Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. Episode 3 painstakingly details the rise of Al-Fayed (superbly played by Salim Dau), or as he is lovingly nicknamed Mou Mou, from the sidekicks of his own family to becoming one of the most powerful figures in the world. A young Al-Fayed is in constant upheaval as he tries to find his footing in the world and accomplish something bigger than everyone else. His first encounter with the royals happens from a distance (a trait that will never leave him, as this episode so poignantly depicts) when he sees King Edward and Wallis Simpson while proposing a deal with his girlfriend’s brother. This presents us with the first glimpse of Al-Fayed’s sense of entrepreneurship that will take him far and wide. They marry, and Al-Fayed is blessed with a boy. Al-Fayed knows that his baby boy is meant for bigger things and promises him that they will take over the world together someday. He names him Dodi.

Meanwhile, Edward expresses his fondness for the new valet, a black gentleman named Sydney (Jude Akuwudike), and keeps him permanently. When we see Mou Mou next, he is a rich man, climbing the social ladder with one eye, always looking ahead. He negotiates his deal to buy the Ritz hotel by offering a sum of $18 million to its smug owners, who are more interested in digging up Al-Fayed’s background than anything he has to pay. Still, in the end, he wins the deal. Next, at the re-opening of the hotel, he chides Dodi for getting rid of a black waiter. It turns out that the black waiter is none other than Sydney. When Al-Fayed learns about this, he calls him back and questions him about his work. Observing his service for Edward and given his fascination with British manners and customs, he offers Sydney the same role Edward did decades ago. Sydney accepts, and thus begins Al-Fayed’s lessons in British etiquette and impression. 


Let us take a moment to note here how The Crown is, quite deliberately, choosing to focus on an outsider who is so obsessed with royalty that he chooses to obliterate his own identity to become another person entirely. This is perhaps the same fascination and obsession, in matters like this particular story, that the monarchy has so sharply evaded. No matter how much Al-Fayed tries to build his status and get closer to recognition, he is always treated with the taint of being an outsider. Al-Fayed’s idea of legitimacy is bound by the idea of the monarchy, an institution that thrives on such grand statements of idolization. Al-Fayed’s road to climbing the social ladder is presented in The Crown with a safe sense of self-fulfillment, yet the delusion of it all is not easy to ignore for someone who knows the coarse dynamics within the family. Sydney has witnessed that paradox, having been valet to both of these individuals who cling on to material pursuits and practice fine manners to establish themselves as the ideal, and knows how it is indeed nothing but an error of judgment. Even if Al-Fayed exclaims that the mountains are moving toward Mohammed, it is simply a delusion presented in the garb of preserving one’s own interests. The personal spokesperson of the Queen arrives to retrieve sensitive historical items from Edward’s home only after news reaches the royal family that the house has been restored by Al-Fayed. There is no business that needs to be conducted further. Al-Fayed is glad he could make the Queen happy when honestly, we all know that she has not the faintest idea about him and does not want to have any. 

The crucial moment where the episode peaks are when Al-Fayed has done it all to be seated next to the Queen in a horse racing competition, yet he is still left alone for the sake of it. Here, Elizabeth II safely lets go of the tradition. In her place, Princess Diana joins Al-Fayed and instantly strikes up a conversation. Diana’s playful and open-hearted personality stands in sharp contrast to the Queen’s, and for that matter, the monarchy’s, crude dismissal of anyone from the outsider rank. The Queen and Princess Margaret observe them talking and are relieved. Diana is introduced to Al-Fayed’s son Dodi for a brief moment. It is a foreboding moment for the ones who know how this will play out in the future.


By giving us a detailed history of the man, the creators of “The Crown” have perhaps reached their most experimental episode yet. As the monarchy increasingly tries to stay relevant in the present, the depiction of the system’s outright dismissal of a hardworking person like Al-Fayed just because of his outsider status cannot be ignored. Mou Mou is a good reminder of the strengths of The Crown as a historical show—exquisitely researched and superbly staged. The suggestions that this episode makes about gatekeeping, the economic status quo as a defining factor in achieving success, and the delusion that surrounds the aristocracy are quietly political. Mou Mou works refreshingly well as a standalone episode, but one is left wondering how much of an effect it has in pacing the timeline of the season forward. Mou Mou rings like a cautionary tale on the consequences that follow when aristocracy opens up to outsiders. Maybe I am being a little too sensitive, but something tells me that the inclusion of this episode has got more implications, which will certainly be taken up in the following episodes concerning the doomed relationship between Dodi and Diana. Until then, let the sparks fly.

See more: ‘The Crown’ Season 5, Episode 2: Recap And Ending, Explained – Diana Aims At The System

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Santanu Das
Santanu Das
Santanu Das is a writer who likes to have Sally Rooney books by the table, and when not reading or writing, you will find the champ clicking pictures of the sky that brightens his mundane days. He believes a film a day can cure almost all feelings of doubt and make everything just perfect.

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