This 10-part series about the life of Elizabeth II begins with her fiancé renouncing his titles in Greece and Denmark, taking the name Mountbatten and being properly naturalized as a British citizen so that he can marry Elizabeth. From there, the focus in this first episode rests largely on the ill health of Elizabeth's father King George VI.
Doctor Who's Matt Smith plays young Philip and does a fair job showing him champing the bit, being restive after his career in the Royal Navy. He's not keen to do a bunch of junkets, and father-in-law George (a puffy-looking Jared Harris) must sit him down and give him a talking to. John Lithgow as Winston Churchill is, unfortunately, just a bit too John Lithgow to be believable; while watching one is too aware it's John Lithgow to ever feel he could be Churchill. But that's the standout; the remainder of the cast is quite on point, and the production values are lavish.
Still and all, not a whole lot happens in this first installment. Aside from the wedding and some faux home movie footage, we're really only given the ominous sense of George's imminent death. Those of us who know our history know how and when it will happen (and the rest of you can go look it up if you like), so this we really only have a "dramatic re-enactment" to look forward to—that's the extent of the tension, waiting for the news and to see lots of crying or, being they're British, a lot of not crying until they're alone in a room somewhere. Then we'll be treated to a Coronation, and won't that be fun?
Yes, I'm making light, but in truth I look forward to watching more. The Crown is so well made that I can forgive its somewhat slow pace and heretofore lack of depth. It will get there, I'm sure. It's easing out of the dock like a steamliner, but soon enough we'll hit open water and there will be smooth sailing.