Previously on The Crown: Elizabeth came to the throne and almost immediately found herself browbeaten and bullied by, well, everyone.
It’s a fine, clear day, but trouble’s a-brewing. At the Meteorological Society, some disturbing results are being uncovered and, in a bid to cover various asses, a report is sent to the PM’s office. There’s an anti-cyclone forming, which is bad, because a similar weather event in the US some years before trapped toxic fumes from a nearby factory close to the ground, poisoning a lot of people. And London’s power stations have a LOT of toxic fumes to trap.
A man in the PM’s office sees the memo and runs it over to Clement Atlee at Labour Party headquarters. This guy knows that Churchill, who had those power stations built, will do nothing, and he’s actually concerned about the public interest. Atlee decides to see how events unfold.
Meanwhile, a young and eager Downing Street secretary, Letitia (am I the only one amused by the fact that the actresses who played both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour in Wolf Hall feature prominently in this?) is fangirling all over Churchill, who laps it up.
The fog descends, and everyone wakes up to discover they can’t see a hand in front of their faces. Letitia risks life and limb to get to Downing Street, of course, while Philip sulks and generally acts like a jerk because he’s housebound and can’t go flying. Elizabeth rolls her eyes a bit and tells Churchill she hopes the weather breaks, because her husband’s being a pill. Churchill completely freaks out at the idea of Philip flying for the utterly nonsensical reason that the father of the future king can’t go risking his life. Why not? Kings used to go into battle, Winston, whether they had heirs or not. And it’s not like you really have much use for him anymore anyhow: There’s an heir and a spare, plus Margaret, plus all the Kents and Gloucesters. It’s not like the House of Windsor is short on heirs.
But apparently Winston can’t get this out of his mind, and while the Cabinet want to discuss the crisis of this fog–which has now dragged on for multiple days, resulting in looting, overflowing hospitals, and deaths, Winston keeps screeching that it’s just weather and they need to talk about Philip.
Two things: it’s not just weather, Winston. Yes, this is a situation exacerbated by an unusual weather event, but this isn’t just ‘fog’ it’s highly toxic smog that’s been trapped close to the ground and is now poisoning the people you’re supposed to be caring for to death. And that smog is coming from power stations that you insisted on building.
And: what is Winston’s problem with Philip? This is personal, right? Because as I mentioned above, there’s no practical reason for him to be concerned about Philip flying. So, it seems like he’s just doing this to make Philip miserable, and I don’t understand that. I know Churchill doesn’t like Dickie Mountbatten, and resents the fact that he’s now so closely connected to the royal family, but I don’t think it’s been particularly well established why Churchill should behave so childishly and vindictively towards Philip.
Apparently no one else really understands this either, and one of the ministers reports what’s going on to Dickie Mountbatten (I don’t know if I feel exasperated or amused by all these back-door dealings. Maybe a bit of both), and Dickie goes to Elizabeth and tells her that Winston’s clearly incapable of proper leadership and she needs to tell him to go. She turns to Lascelles for advice, which is actually a pretty good move, because he’s been around for a while and has seen a lot. He tells her about Eden’s attempted end-run with her father, but adds that she doesn’t necessarily need to do what her father did, and furthermore, this is clearly a serious situation.
Serious indeed. Letitia’s roommate is in such bad shape Letitia takes her to the overwhelmed hospital, where an exasperated doctor tells her how short on supplies they are. She rushes out to go report to Winston and is immediately hit by a bus that can’t see her, and killed.
Winston is notified and goes to the hospital to be sad over her body. And then he calls a press conference right there in the hospital, because sure, it’s not like this place is too massively overwhelmed to make room for some Prime Ministerial grandstanding, right? Winston talks a good game, as he always does, but the show’s implication is clear: he was a great orator, but perhaps not quite the great leader we’ve always believed him to be. At least, not in the later years.
Elizabeth has summoned him to the Palace, and as he arrives, the sun breaks through the fog, so she doesn’t ask him to step down after all. And he tells her Philip can fly all he wants to. Did they really need his permission?