‘The Crown’ Season 5, Episode 9: Recap And Ending, Explained: Who Is Couple 31?

In Episode 8 of “The Crown”, we followed the controversial Martin Bashir interview with Diana and how that shook the monarchy. Episode 9, titled Couple 31, follows the consequences of the interview, as Charles and Diana finally give in to divorce. The first scene in this episode sets the tone. We see a couple discussing what went wrong in their marriage as they gear up to officially get a divorce settlement. They dive into the relationship and their individual expectations and grievances. The love between them is no longer reciprocated. It’s a cruel reminder of the way one grows out of love in a relationship and settles for terminating it. By keeping the focus on people other than the royal family, the episode suggests how even in a normal relationship, there are so many little incongruences that slowly devour the union. In the penultimate episode, Couple 31 lays out the groundwork for the disintegration of the royal marriage, with the official divorce being heard and finalized. Yet, this is another episode in this season that feels thematically redundant in a way, offering in its steady observation of the divorce settlement between royal members a reality that is not really distant from the rest. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at Couple 31.

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Now that the interview has done irreparable damage to the royal marriage, the final push comes from the Queen herself. The Crown must always win, so it cannot compromise with the ongoing battle with Waleses. She pens two duplicate letters and sends them to Charles and Diana, officially permitting them to separate. Diana is devastated and cannot bring herself to believe that the marriage is coming to an end. She also reflects on how the interview has had such a tremendous effect that people who she kept around her—all her help, her private secretaries—have either turned against her or left her simultaneously. Even Dr. Hasmat Khan has left her. But Diana also knows how to keep up with the landslide of paparazzi and attention given to her and plays her cards first. She will only concede to the divorce on the grounds that she is allowed to stay at Kensington Palace, receive a stipend to maintain her office, and, to top it all off, receive a whopping settlement amount of 35 million pounds. Charles narrates these excruciatingly selfish demands to Camilla, only to receive her point of view on the matter. Whatever the consequence, the interview has opened such a floodgate of media scrutiny that Camilla is—literally, as she puts it—under house arrest. Cameras follow her everywhere and stand guard around her house. It’s the same treatment Diana has been facing for years, and only now, when Camilla faces the brunt of it, does Charles sympathize with her. The point might be indirect, but it leaves a mark; Charles has his favors clear for the person he prefers. The only contrast this situation offers is that for Diana, the press was always positive, but for Camilla, it was overwhelmingly negative. Charles even suggests that Camilla get a spin doctor to help navigate her public image and beat down the negative press.

The Queen seeks the help of Prime Minister John Major to ease the divorce settlement between Charles and Diana. Charles wants discretion from Diana’s side, whereas she demands economic security. In the end, with the persuasion of the Prime Minister, Charles decides to settle the matter as soon as possible. Even when Charles has his eyes set on preparing to break into the open with Camilla, the Queen reminds him that if he thinks he is the only one who has been suffering due to this, then he is mistaken. Diana has been through a lot too. This leads to one of the most poignant moments in this season so far, as Charles visits Diana one last time to see her again. Did it really take place? One will never know for sure, but this scene gives a rich dialogue between two people who were so different from one another in spite of everything; it ultimately breaks your heart. Charles and Diana both acknowledge their mistakes in a playful manner, and we get a glimpse of how they have evolved so much without each other yet hold each other close in terms of knowing exactly where the other person is coming from. It doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn ugly, with each side hurling deliberate insults at the other. Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki save the scene from being repetitive and complement each other beautifully. One wishes the season concentrated more on these lines and left the grandiose line of events at bay. One wishes the season was not so apprehensive to detail the ruthlessness that these characters were able to elicit when placed in the same room. Charles and Diana. The Queen and Princess Margaret. Anne and the Queen. I am not saying that these characters only get clunky scenes filled with heavy dialogue. What I mean is that the season drifts far away from revealing the characters and their underlying motives to concentrate on the events surrounding them. At the end of eight episodes, we feel as if we don’t really know much about these characters at this stage in their lives—we only see them respond.

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We only get a peak into some of the deliberate harshnesses of these characters in this season so far, and in Couple 31, neither Charles nor Diana is given a proper outlet to walk their emotions through. This is my main concern with this season—with the years and the new faces, the show seems to feel a little lost as a whole. Perhaps more because it follows from a dazzling season 4 that unfolded with such a keen eye for detail and never lost track of its characters. Couple 31 is still one of the season’s best episodes, abundantly focusing on the number of ways the relationship was doomed from the beginning- yet how these broken people were obliterating their wishes in front of a bigger cause- the system and the duty. I also love how this episode finally hints that Diana was as responsible and accountable for the way the marriage emerged to be such a broken, publicized mess. She wanted the attention, and she received it all—just not from that one person who was supposed to be the one providing it to her. The effect of media scrutiny and how it dramatically enforces public opinion is also quite political here in its implications. We see the insatiable demands of the photographers and how the lack of privacy hits Camilla. Only then does she realize the sheer weight of it all.

I am bound to wonder why Season 5 chose to spend so much time outlining the final blow to the royal marriage by combining three episodes back into the loop. From the conception of the interview to the execution of it, and finally, the aftermath- a closer look at these three episodes and how it shapes the bigger mold of the season is quite telling. The episode ends on a cunningly dramatic note, with real footage of the thousands of people that had gathered on the day of their wedding. Did they ever doubt that the marriage would end up like this? Yet, when it does so, can they still stop looking? The Crown tells its viewers: “Here, you have it in detail; now you may know more.” The attention it deserves stands up like a mirror.

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


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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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