‘The Crown’ Season 5, Episode 8: Recap And Ending, Explained: Diana’s Tell-All Interview Shakes The Monarchy

“The Crown” Season 5, Episode 8 is the episode we’ve all been waiting for. The infamous 1995 interview of Diana shook the reputation of the monarchy to the core and went on to alter her fate forever. Aptly titled “Gunpowder,” this episode is certainly the sharpest of all, edging its way through the pivotal characters in a strikingly poignant way. Gunpowder is a continuation of the last episode and takes the show forward by dramatizing the internal conflicts leading up to the interview and the immediate repercussions of it. “The Crown” understands the significance of the interview and its everlasting effect on the royal family. Diana is a different woman now, so unstable and exhausted. Her soul-baring opinion on the monarchy is recreated in this episode. Let us dive in!


Even before the episode zeroes in on the helplessness of Diana, the creators effectively show that there were multiple factors at play in the decision to broadcast the interview. The contributions of the senior members of the BBC, which were rife with personal insecurities, played an equally important part. This point is established quite early in the episode, as a Board of Governors meeting held at the BBC becomes a tug of war between contrasting values, with Director General John Birt (Nicholas Gleaves) and Board Chairman Duke John Hussey (Richard Cordery) standing on different grounds. Whether the BBC should stick to its old principles, or should it cater to the slowly evolving role of media in the country is a question that gives way to a rather meta-debate within the periphery of “The Crown” itself. It is time we discuss that for a bit.

Time and again, “The Crown” has come under intense scrutiny for sensationalizing a family that has been through so much and, in turn, feeding on their personal lives for dramatic voyeurism. Especially this season, we saw an unprecedented amount of concern regarding the purpose and effect of a show like “The Crown” even Dame Judi Dench condemned it and suggested Netflix add a synopsis before each episode stating that it is a fictional representation and not a documentary. Has it stopped the show from running its course? No. Whatever the concerns might be, one thing is clear: the audience is interested to know more. Even if there are uncompromising truths that the royal family wishes you would forget, they are still the truth and have the ability to reignite conversations around the royal family. Still, “The Crown” has remained firm in its affirmative outlook towards the Queen and has been particularly sympathetic to her lifelong work. Both the previous actresses have won Emmys for their performances, whereas the creator of the show, Peter Morgan, has maintained a dignified assimilation of her work and life.


To be fair, this season is perhaps the weakest so far in terms of building the story and taking it forward. This season is a bit too scattered and disjointed to make an impact. More than tarnishing the image of the royal family, it has done more harm to the show itself. The ironies lie in the same space: none of the characters that were so beloved in the first two seasons feel familiar this time around. Rarely does this season get into the interplay between duty and choice, faith and reason—instances that made the first two seasons so compelling. The fourth season had a lot of blemishes but covered them up with tremendously nuanced performances, especially from Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin. This season, even the performances are not enough to save the hurried writing and uncharacteristically safe portrayal of the characters.

‘Gunpowder’ is perhaps the most important episode of the season so far, offering so much scope for drama and thrill. Fortunately, this episode does not disappoint. The events that led to the tell-all interview are cunningly dramatized, showing us a morally depraved system that manipulates and lies its way to public attention. The long, expertly direct sequence of the interview with cuts to the celebration at the royal household is the highlight- so much is revealed without a particular thread of dialogue. Debicki is a standout; her capability to capture the inner hurt of the woman strikes a chord. Martin Phipps’ background score expertly complements the imminent doom that proceeds in the wake of the interview. Cut to the scene when Diana goes to warn the Queen about the interview; Imelda Staunton gives a searing portrait of a matriarch and a monarch unable to provide any solidarity for a woman in need. You might wonder if such a conversation actually happened, if the outright gaslighting that Diana suffers, with the Queen saying that whatever lack of empathy she’s feeling is just part of her imagination. It’s a cruel reminder, yet for one poignant moment, the scene cuts to Princess Margaret when she hears Diana on the television. She’s different too, and her isolation is just as obliterating as Diana’s. Yet the two women were never able to provide each other with the shared comfort of being different. There is no solidarity whatsoever. When the interview does break out into the expected media frenzy, Diana realizes the depth and far-reaching effect of her words. When asked if she views Charles, her husband, as the future king, her answer is no. It would break him, she says. Charles bursts into anger and frustration. The Queen and Philip are stunned into silence.


Although “The Crown” overdoes (yet again) the metaphor of treason and treachery by including a scene that has William at Eton uncomfortably paying attention to the professor talking about the importance of Guy Fawkes Day (the same day the interview took place, said to have been deliberately planned by Diana herself), the implications are quite potent. The episode also shows the growing distance between William and Diana and the fear of a mother who knows that her child is growing up to be a member of the same family in which she was never included. William, on his part, steadily realizes his mother’s unhappiness and the loneliness she feels in the family. William tries his best to be there for her, but it also burdens him, as shown heartbreakingly in the brief telephonic conversation he has with his mother, where he tells her not to talk about her crushes and special friends with him. He doesn’t know what to make of her mother’s fascination with other men. It makes him uncomfortable. The pain and hurt that William undergoes silently usher in a different level of understanding of human suffering and compassion in him. The scenes with William and the Queen are underrated in their understanding of each other: the Queen sees how the child has to witness the miserable marriage of his parents, whereas William finds comfort in the traditional and more reserved ways of leading life.

What works tremendously in this episode is the way all these different personalities and storylines meet here, plus the rounded dramatic thread that binds them all. The episode feels full-circle and tightly knit, providing much-needed energy to the proceedings. The overwritten metaphors aside, here is an episode that erupts with dramatic flair.


See more: ‘The Crown’ Season 5, Episode 7: Recap And Ending, Explained: A lonely Diana Struggles To Keep Up

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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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