THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.
In this episode we see a dense smog cripple London for days and cause serious health hazards, along with Churchill’s vulnerability to his political enemies due to being inactive.
This episode starts off with Philip going out flying. Again, this is where the shows beauty comes in. They tend to use extreme close ups on both Phillip and Peter when in the plane and talking, and then wider shots of the plane with scenery around it. It’s not too much, but it’s still nice to look at and it doesn’t drag on forever.
After the credits we move onto the Meteorological Office where it’s clear that something is going on, but we, the audience, aren’t quite aware of what just yet. A woman has been running tests outside and as we move inside we see her findings being passed around and discussed by various people. Bit by bit we find out more information. If you read the episode description before watching you knew it would be the smog, but we also find out more information, like why this one is considered to be dangerous before it even arrives, as well as being told about other places that have suffered this kind of smog before, and other details that helps to solidify how bad things are going to get before they actually happen.
Of course things do stay political. We see two men take the information to a third man so they can use it against the Tories. We also see the third man put out doubt about it due to the fact that the smog hasn’t started to appear, which seems to be a common thread in any media which has a looming disaster, a person doesn’t believe it until it’s far too late to do anything about it, and if something can still be done about it, it’s much harder and results in more casualties.
We actually stepped away from the Royal family a shocking amount this episode. Perhaps it’s just because so far we’ve focused primarily on them.We do still see them in this episode, just not as much as usual, for the first time they’re not the only focus. (If you don’t include the fact that Churchill always has his own stuff going on).
Another change is the title cards that state which day in total we’re at during the events and what the date of that day is. On day one we see that the smog has descended over night (there’s that person that doesn’t believe until it’s too late thing I was talking about), and the information is being relayed over the radio. With each day that follows we see how the smog is still there and how things are gradually getting worse.
I feel like we need to take a moment to appreciate Elizabeth walking to her destination when she’s told it’s too dangerous to drive.
Throughout we see people trying to go about their day, but with much difficulty as a lot of them slowly get sick. Churchill is being criticised for how he’s handling things and for his parties involvement in building power stations that might have caused (at the very least not helped) the smog, and a lot of the time when we see him he doesn’t seem that on top of what’s happening and/or he seems rather concerned. Elizabeth, naturally, wants to know as much as possible about the smog and get personally involved with what’s happening.
Again we see the downsides of Elizabeth being Queen as she is told by Churchill that her’s (and Phillip’s) lives are no longer private, that Phillip’s want to fly is stupid and dangerous and there’s more to think about than their own personal interests. Elizabeth manages to hold her own throughout the conversation, and it’s clear that she’s not quite ready to accept that fact. We actually see her stand her ground more than once, and it’s not a new thing to the series, however, we also see Elizabeth having to come to terms with certain things and at the very least compromise as she comes to the realisation that things are different now she’s Queen (or soon to be at least).
Despite the comment about how crossing the road can be dangerous because of the smog, for a moment I didn’t think anything would actually happen, but then she gets hit by the bus. It was obvious that something more drastic had to happen. We had seen people getting sick, but no real consequences. Also, her death finally forced Churchill to have some kind of a reaction as opposed to dismissing the severity of the smog and becoming defensive.
Overall this episode was one of the darkest so far, both in terms of actual visuals and the actual plot. Everything is very much gloomy in a number of ways and it takes its toll on both the characters and us, the audience. It’s a much different scenario compared to some of the lighter moments of previous episodes, because even when they were dark they had light to pick them up. That doesn’t necessarily make this episode bad, it just makes it different, which keeps it interesting. And with a show like this they’ve got actual history to stick to and explore as well, so order of events and such can’t necessarily be helped.
I also loved the fact that the last shot was of Phillip flying a plane and that the last bits of information about the smog were put over the screen as text. Even the information alone was interesting.