Emmy episode analysis: Claire Foy (‘The Crown’) faces a marital crisis as Queen Elizabeth in ‘Assassins’

Claire Foy has been nominated for Best Drama Actress for her role as a young Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s “The Crown,” a performance which has already earned her equivalent prizes at both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globe Awards. The freshman series, which earned a total of 13 Emmy nominations, including Best Drama Series, focuses on the challenges facing the young British monarch in the early years of her reign.

Foy’s performance in the season’s ninth episode, entitled “Assassins,” has been submitted to Emmy voters. In the episode, Elizabeth’s love of horses has reconnected her with Lord Porchester (Joseph Kloska), or “Porchey,” who manages the horses and to whom Elizabeth was once possibly involved. Their closeness aggravates Prince Phillip (Matt Smith), who has been spending more and more time out at night getting drunk with friends.

While Elizabeth makes plans with Porchey to breed one of her prize horses, Phillip makes a lewd comment about their friendship, leading to a tense confrontation between the two. Elizabeth says that although many preferred that she had married Porchey, she has only ever loved Phillip, and expresses her doubts that he can say the same. Later, Elizabeth bids a private farewell to Winston Churchill (John Lithgow), who has announced his intention to retire. At a dinner in Churchill’s honor, Elizabeth salutes him for his service and for his friendship.

Will the Emmys crown Foy with a win for her performance? Let’s examine the pros and cons of her submission:


Foy gets three consecutive scenes that have a ton of emotional impact. First, there is her scene with Churchill, where she is tender and gracious, thanking her friend for his many years of service. Then there is her scene at the dinner for Churchill, where we see the queen performing her royal duties in the elegant and officious manner that we expect from the monarch. But these scenes serve as bookends to Foy’s strongest scene — the confrontation with Phillip. Foy conveys Elizabeth’s anger and sadness as she upbraids Phillip, both for his accusations and for his own possible infidelities. These scenes give Foy the chance to show all facets of Elizabeth, displaying a great deal of range.

“Assassins” is one of the most acclaimed episodes of television from the past year. It is not only Foy’s submission, but is also Lithgow’s submission in the Drama Supporting Actor category, and it earned a nomination for Best Drama Writing for Peter Morgan. The acclaim for this episode could boost Foy’s chances.

British monarchs win awards. From Glenda Jackson (“Elizabeth R”) to Helen Mirren — who won an Emmy for playing Elizabeth I and won an Oscar (“The Queen”) and a Tony (“The Audience”) for playing Elizabeth II — Foy could conceivably become the next actor to win for playing a royal.

SEE 2017 Emmy nominations list: See all the nominees


Foy gives a very understated, subdued performance, lacking the kind of flashy, emotional moments that Emmy voters love. Even in her strongest dramatic moments, Elizabeth never raises her voice or sheds a tear. Foy’s subtle work may be overshadowed by some of the other, more dynamic performances in the category.

Elizabeth’s storyline in the episode is secondary to Churchill’s, and her big moments don’t really come until the last third of the episode. Foy’s chances might be hurt by voters who choose not to watch the submission in its entirety.

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