Three years ago, when The Crown was introduced to the interweb, even ab anti-monarchists fell for its lavish, high-budget and schmaltzy Netflix charm. Olivia Colman, 45, replaced Claire Foy, 35, after two series of playing Queen Elizabeth in the early years of her reign. The rest of the cast is also updated to reflect the ageing of the royals, with Helena Bonham Carter taking over as Princess Margaret from Vanessa Kirby and Tobias Menzies replacing Matt Smith as Prince Philip. Colman plays Queen Elizabeth with a certain calmness and stoicism. She is no longer a young woman finding her place but a settled matriarch comfortable with her role. The relationship between Elizabeth and Margaret drives the first part of The Crown. Tensions between the sensible Elizabeth and the outrageous Margaret have been explored previously, but this season the tensions aren't palpable. It feels like season three is moving as fast as it can to the scandals of the eighties and nineties (the season ends in 1977). Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) is now a young man, and the makers are super sympathetic to him, for how misunderstood he is within his family—where only his sister Anne (Erin Doherty) is a real ally—and for his uncomfortable position, waiting for his mother to die to start living his life. The Crown season three has a lot to recommend it—though it completely skips over Princess Anne foiling her own kidnapping. The result is that, as lavish as it looks, The Crown feels a little shallow—except for “Aberfan”, which is truly an excellent hour of storytelling—and a lot rushed. The standout episode in this season is “Aberfan”, which deals with a terrible tragedy in a Welsh mining town. This episode finds Elizabeth struggling with a changing public's expectations of her. So the 1966 Aberfan disaster proves to be a vehicle for her overcome her reluctance to show emotion in public. In the episode we see the Queen rebuffing pleas from Prime Minister Harold Wilson to visit grieving families in Aberfan. The tragic accident claimed 144 lives, mostly children. The creator Peter Morgan gives us 10 episodes around a job lot of headline events seemingly selected on the basis of providing learning opportunities for Elizabeth and the gang. This show looks as good as ever, and it certainly has its moments—including one of the best hours of television in recent memory—but the overall impression of The Crown in season three is uneven and patchy at times. The Moon landing and a visit to Buckingham Palace by the Apollo astronauts draw into focus Philip’s mid-life crisis. It looks gorgeous, as you could expect of the grand and elaborate $130 million budget. And there are other notable performances by Jason Watkins as Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten (essentially Tywin Lannister in a suit). And if you’ve been paying attention to Smith’s Philip it will come to an as little surprise to discover that the older Duke feels unduly constrained by his obligations as the husband to the Monarch. And Charles’s budding romance with Camilla Shand sets the table for the arrival of Diana in season four. But that’s the problem. It is hard to avoid the sense that the show is clearing its throat after the departure of Foy and the gang and killing time before Diana and Elizabeth have a face-off. Just like the Queen herself, The Crown season three is expensively put together yet ever so slightly dull and predictable.