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S03.E03: Aberfan

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A horrible disaster in the Welsh town of Aberfan leaves scores of children dead, but when the Queen takes a week to decide to visit the town to offer solace to its people, she must confront her reasons for postponing the trip.

Dropping on Netflix on Sunday, November 17, 2019.

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2 hours ago, Helena Dax said:

I was surprised when she admitted she couldn't cry or maybe feel grief, I don't know, but seeing her crying at the end maybe means that she's been forced to repress her emotions for so long that it's normal to become a bit robotic or numb. It was touching to know that she's been back several times.

It's different to cry alone (as she did in the end) and in public. The latter can also be acting.

As for having no emotions when Charles was born, that could be due sedations. Or it could simply be that when one have great expectations to feel something special, the reality seems lame.

In S1 and S2 Elizabeth has had strong positive and negative, feelings at least towards Philip (and her horses!). 

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Please stick to the episode ; future events, as always, are not to be discussed in the episode topics. Posts have been removed. Thank you.

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If I remember right, the sovereign didn't use to attend at the non-royal funerals. 

Spoiler

Churchill's funeral was the first non-royal funeral that Elizabeth attended at and therefore an exceptionally great honor.  

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57 minutes ago, swanpride said:

I also love that the episode didn't really end on this tear, but on all those children playing in the playground with the long shadow, hinting to the adults they never got to be.

I interpreted playing children as those children in the future when the Queen used to visit this village more often than any other village.  

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I didn't see any cuts in that last scene, so a real tear from Olivia Coleman which I always love to see in an actor.  Well done, and a good place for me to stop because I don't want to binge the entire show. 

crown3_3.thumb.jpg.1ef749cf37f7ef80712945f248ce6b21.jpg 

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Being an American and not knowing about the Aberfan disaster, I had to do a bit of research after this episode, and hoo boy...  It was just as bleak and difficult and gut-wrenching as this show made it out to be.

The image of the schoolteacher, looking out the window at the sludge approaching, will probably haunt my dreams soon.  He went from a rather cool-mannered character ("don't peak early", he tells his singing student dryly) to screaming at the kids to take cover.

That last scene, from the terse conversation with the PM to crying over the hymn, is why I adore Olivia Colman.  It seems effortless with her.  (Although, seeing candid pictures of her, I imagine there has to be some work!)

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I wonder if the "hide under your desk" order actually rescued one of the children or not. I would like to think that it did, that his last act actually had some meaning.  But realistically speaking, I fear a flimsy desk isn't enough protection in a case like this.

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Reading up a little bit more about it, I am now kind of bummed that the episode didn't include Nansi Williams. I guess it would have undercut the bleakness a little bit to do so, but still.

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6 minutes ago, swanpride said:

I wonder if the "hide under your desk" order actually rescued one of the children or not. I would like to think that it did, that his last act actually had some meaning.  But realistically speaking, I fear a flimsy desk isn't enough protection in a case like this.

It's a wonder if hiding under your desk ever works... it wouldn't work during a nuclear disaster, and doesn't seem like it worked here.  At most, it might offer some protection in the event of an earthquake.

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Or against a school shooter, provided that he overlooks you…..but then, it is also a little bit of luck. Nansi Williams shielding five children killed her, but the children survived. The Deputy headmaster trying to shield himself and five children with the blackboard didn't work and he as well as his whole class died.

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1 hour ago, Brn2bwild said:

It's a wonder if hiding under your desk ever works... it wouldn't work during a nuclear disaster, and doesn't seem like it worked here.  At most, it might offer some protection in the event of an earthquake.

I think the idea was to hopefully create an "air pocket."  Or it was just the only thing the frightened teacher could think of.  We do know that survivors have been found in air pockets after being buried alive.

Still, lesson learned?  Avalanche?  Run as fast as you can...sideways, not away.  Those after photos in the articles are heartbreaking.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-49666454

_91967980_mediaitem91967979.jpg

Edited by Umbelina · Reason: added photo
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Remember before this season aired they talked about their decision to forgo the blue contact lenses?  I think the crying scene on the plane was probably their main reason.  Which?  She nailed, and it probably would have been harder or dislodged the contacts.

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Somehow I knew about Aberfan.  I can't think why (I'm American and was only 5 years old when it happened) but I speculate that there must have been news stories about it online on the 50th anniversary in 2016.  So I knew what was coming a soon as the episode started.  But seeing it dramatized . . . and especially seeing the fruitless efforts to save the children in the school . . . well, that's a whole other level of horror vs. just reading about it.

I did think it was interesting to see how badly the Queen mis-read the situation.  She was right that her showing up while the digging was still going on was a bad idea in that it might have complicated rescue efforts (due to the fuss around protecting her) but they could certainly have made that clearer to the public. And I may be projecting because she never said *that* was the reason she stayed away -- she said it was because showing up at disasters is not what the royal family did.  So the show suggests she's at least partially to blame for the negative consequences of not showing up (at first.)  Then again, the episode suggests that the PM deliberately cast her staying away in the worst possible light on purpose -- to shift the blame to anyone but the Labour Party.  I don't know if that is true but it sure seems plausible.

Bottom line -- what a gripping episode.

Edited by WatchrTina
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Yeah, I mean, I remember a lot of cases where people were genuinely helpful in cases of emergency, either by acting before the emergency workers could arrive or in one case, by helping the emergency workers to navigate in a rural area AFTER TALKING TO THEM!!! As a thumb rule, if you want to help, fine, there is certainly no harm in asking if help is needed, but if it isn't needed, go home and stay out of the way, damnit!

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I wasn't ready to cry this much watching the Crown.

This show has always been a guilty pleasure but this season so far is anything but. The tragedy was all the more devastating because they put faces to it. Young, innocent babes. I pray the children of Aberfan rest in peace 

Edited by Deputy Deputy CoS
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3 hours ago, WatchrTina said:

She was right that her showing up while the digging was still going on was a bad idea in that it might have complicated rescue efforts (due to the fuss around protecting her) but they could certainly have made that clearer to the public. And I may be projecting because she never said *that* was the reason she stayed away -- she said it was because showing up at disasters is not what the royal family did.

Which I didn't understand. Didn't her parents visit bombed out sections of London during WWII? I thought they did but perhaps I imagined it

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2 hours ago, Constantinople said:

Which I didn't understand. Didn't her parents visit bombed out sections of London during WWII? I thought they did but perhaps I imagined it

They did. Which confused me too. I do understand waiting until the rescue efforts ended I've heard it said here many times after a big disaster yes they should come but after the rescue efforts.  But when she kept saying the royal family didn't go to disasters when they had done that in the past. Did she consider it different because it was a war effort?

I've heard about Aberfan before a few times and tried to steel myself for it. But damn its hard not to see that and not cry. The teacher yelling at his students to get under their deaths, the struggling to dig out the children, seeing the reactions from Tony and Philip for going there. I liked Tony asking Margaret to go hug their kids for him, and of course the hymn. That was a hard episode.

I liked learning at the end that the Queen visited their more often. That was really nice.

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3 hours ago, swanpride said:

Honestly, I can't imagine how it must be for a community to lose nearly all children of a specific age group in one big catastrophe.

Sorry if this is OT, but look up the Dunblane incident  in Scotland. 

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Even the Sandy Hook massacre "only" killed 20 children. Aberfan killed over 100. There was certainly not one single member in the community which didn't lose at least one child from their close family.

It's not my intention to play any of those shootings down, they were all terrible, and one person dying (never mind a child) is one too much. But the scale of what happened in Aberfan is quite unique. There have been catastrophes in which over 100 people died, but I can't think of a case in which specifically over 100 children died. It's like the village lost a whole generation in one single day.

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9 hours ago, Sarah Heart said:

It was long purported, that Elisabeth did cry, but only in private. So  as soon as the hymn started, I knew , we'd see her tears. 

I thought she was overcome with emotion and tears when she went to view her father after he had died in Season 1. 

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I had to take a break after this one - oof. They really do a good job on these episodes where they focus on one moment in time that isn't really about the royals, and how they handle it. I then called my dad - "are you watching the Crown?" "yes, but I had to stop tonight after episode 3, it was too much" "me too!"

I will say, it feels like Phillip and Tony have done a bit of an about-face in terms of dickishness. They both seems so much more reasonable and human this season. It feels a bit abrupt - not the re-casting, but the way they've changed, when no time has actually passed since the end of Season 2. Don't get me wrong, I much prefer this Philip in particular, but it is a bit jarring how different he is. I think he's been quite right in a lot of things so far this season, like the whole "did I weep" scene. The new actor is doing very well, I'm just not sure I buy the transformation.

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8 minutes ago, Aethera said:

I think he's been quite right in a lot of things so far this season, like the whole "did I weep" scene. The new actor is doing very well, I'm just not sure I buy the transformation.

He thought Liz was going to criticize him for weeping...and when he talked about being broken into a thousand pieces, that was about as much real feeling and empathy as we've ever seen from Philip. And the Margaret/Tony scene, told in flashbacks gave the both of them a chance to show that they were capable of being moved. 

I also had to take a break after this one.

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The modern equivalent to Aberfan would be the MV Sewol ferry disaster, in which hundreds of students from one Korean high school were drowned.

I'd read a little about Aberfan before, so was filled with dread in all of those beginning scenes.  The Queen was right not to go right away, but wrong to wait so long.  She should have visited sooner than she did.  And yet politicians (and queens!) are damned if they do and damned if they don't.  An example would be the criticism of the U.S. president during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.  He didn't want to interfere with the (rescue/response/general craziness) but came across as uncaring when he delayed coming. 

The singing at the funeral was quite beautiful and powerful. 

I'm glad that Tony didn't have his camera out, taking photos of the devastation.  Nowadays, everyone would be taking selfies.

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In December of 1958, there was a terrific fire in Our Lady of Angels, a Catholic elementary  school in Chicago.  92 children and 3 teaching sisters were killed.  

As I watched the horrific tale of Aberfan, it reminded me of what I've read about the fire.  Just as in Wales, the neighborhood surrounding the school changed drastically after the disaster.  A new school was built on the spot where the old school was.  It is now a community center that serves the needs of the people in the neighborhood.

There is a website devoted to the fire.  Many survivors of the fire and relatives of those who died post messages of informaton and encouragement.  Just as in Aberfan, almost no counseling or therapy was given to these children, and they were told not to talk about what happened.

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15 hours ago, WatchrTina said:

she said it was because showing up at disasters is not what the royal family did.

11 hours ago, Constantinople said:

Which I didn't understand. Didn't her parents visit bombed out sections of London during WWII? I thought they did but perhaps I imagined it

My guess is that Elizabeth observed a distinction between war zones and natural disasters. The monarch is the titular leader of the military; during the battle of Britain, bombings on native soil were acts of aggression by a belligerent foreign power. The Windsors could appear among the people -- "a little touch of Harry in the night" -- in the Crown's traditional role: to boost morale among the home front and the troops. 

But natural disasters are also known as acts of God, or Providence. There was probably no precedent for rallying the people against acts of God, and no traditional role to be followed. Which would explain why Elizabeth asked Wilson, twice, "To do what, exactly?"

Spoiler

That, and because this question obviously fascinates Peter Morgan: does the Crown -- does this Queen, in particular -- have a duty to serve as Her Empathy?  Is that what the people want from her? 

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I didn't know about Aberfan so I watched this all unfold without knowing where it was going. Wow, the visuals were outstanding, from the shot out the school window of the avalanche to the actual cave-in of the school. The shot of the coffins in the mass grave was gut wrenching too.

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I had never heard of Aberfan, so watching it play out was so brutally heartbreaking and awful. Just watching all of the children going about their day while the mine above them was trembling, building this terrifying atmosphere full of dread, until everything exploded. The kids coming into the school, the workers watching with horror as the mine tumbles towards the town, the stern teacher frantically telling the kids to hide, it was like watching a train derail knowing that you cant do anything to stop it. I didnt know quite what would happen, but I knew right from the first moment that it was going to be bad. 

The singing, alongside of the enormous rows of coffins, really hit smashed you over and over with the scope of what happened, as well as the meeting where the devastated parents yelled at the company to take some responsibility for what happened. There were so many points where you could really feel peoples pain, even from just the background extras and the non speaking roles, like the families in the house that Elizabeth met. It was also nice to see the more human sides of Tony and Margaret, who arent always the most likable people. Even they were clearly shocked and devastated by this horrible tragedy, and were trying to help as best they could. 

I can see why Elizabeth struggled with how to handle the situation, and why it looked bad to a lot of people, especially in a changing England that expects different things from a monarch. I mean, its still a trick situation when politicians and heads of state have to figure out how to best handle these kinds of disasters. You dont want a bunch of famous people and press and staff and such traipsing around taking pictures and giving speeches while emergency services are still trying to find people and deal with the problem or bodies are still being identified right there by families, but you dont want to wait too long or you risk looking uncaring, especially if the victims are from marginalized and underprivileged groups or backgrounds like the working class Welsh miners and their children here. You want to be stoic, but also compassionate and empathetic, and dont look like your just there to use victims and mourning families as a cheap photo op or publicity stunt. Especially with Elizabeth, who has repressed her true self and her emotions so much, that she struggles with showing them externally sometimes, especially something like grief. 

I did get a sort of dark chuckled when they were telling Elizabeth that this isnt England, its Wales, so your allowed to show some emotion here. 

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Question:  Does anyone know if QEII REALLY wore colour when she visited Aberfan?  Or was it creative licence to make her stand out?

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15 hours ago, swanpride said:

Yeah, I mean, I remember a lot of cases where people were genuinely helpful in cases of emergency, either by acting before the emergency workers could arrive or in one case, by helping the emergency workers to navigate in a rural area AFTER TALKING TO THEM!!! As a thumb rule, if you want to help, fine, there is certainly no harm in asking if help is needed, but if it isn't needed, go home and stay out of the way, damnit!

It depends on many things, especially IF there are enough emergency people around, and if they are on the scene.

During the "San Francisco World Series" earthquake (really the Loma Prieta earthquake nearer the coast, Santa Cruz area) I was about a mile from epicenter.  I watched my employees dig people out of collapsed buildings with their bare hands.  We did have emergency personnel, but certainly not enough, and their mobility was severely compromised by downed bridges, roads, and being needed elsewhere.  No one to "ask" so people just did what they could.

We see it all the time in earthquakes around the world as well, the ones on scene in those first critical moments do whatever they can.  There are so many examples of these kinds of actions where quick action HAS saved lived.  I'm sure that in Aberfan parents and others were trying to dig children out of the rubble immediately, and I sincerely doubt ANYONE stopped to ask whatever officials were around "Is this OK?"

They found no one alive after the first two hours.  She waited EIGHT DAYS.  I'm glad they added the note about how much she's visited since, but I'm not too thrilled that they didn't note the complete lack of action taken to correct the issues, or the causes.  I also think there should have probably been an after note about everyone in the government dodging responsibility for this tragedy, and how very long it too for them to bother to make changes that would prevent a similar disaster.

In short, it was an excellent episode in many ways, moving, touching, thought provoking, effective.  Unless you google the disaster though?  You are left in the dark about how and why this happened, and certainly about the pre and post actions of "her majesty's government" which were also pretty horrifying.  

So A+ on the personal story, and a bare C- on the political side of things.  This episode tries in very well, especially in attitudes of Her Majesty's government toward Wales, with  S03.E06: Tywysog Cymru.   

Edited by Umbelina · Reason: typo
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@Umbelina I read up on Aberfan and in fact, the rescue effort was pretty early on coordinated by the miners, who were VERY aware that senseless digging could lead to survivors getting buried and hence used their expertise to coordinate the effort. And the parents (a lot of them being miners themselves) listened.

As I mentioned, if the first responders haven't arrived yet, naturally you should act if you can see that you can do something. I was very specific about it being better to go home when there are enough helpers there (or there is nothing you can do anyway). Most of the time the best thing people can do is to stay out of the way.

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Again, it depends on the circumstances.  Certainly there are cases where people do get in the way as well.  

As far as the Queen not going so she wasn't distracting vital resources needed?  Honestly, it's bullshit.  EIGHT DAYS.  At least show up the day after the funerals.

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Uhm...she showed up two days after the mass funeral, one day after the last body had been found, on the same day the rescue effort ended.

Honestly, I actually think that it was pretty good timing. An argument could be made that she should have turned up to the funeral, but in a way, that would have taken away the attention from the victims.

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3 hours ago, Pallas said:

My guess is that Elizabeth observed a distinction between war zones and natural disasters. The monarch is the titular leader of the military; during the battle of Britain, bombings on native soil were acts of aggression by a belligerent foreign power. The Windsors could appear among the people -- "a little touch of Harry in the night" -- in the Crown's traditional role: to boost morale among the home front and the troops. 

But natural disasters are also known as acts of God, or Providence. There was probably no precedent for rallying the people against acts of God, and no traditional role to be followed. Which would explain why Elizabeth asked Wilson, twice, "To do what, exactly?"

  Reveal spoiler

That, and because this question obviously fascinates Peter Morgan: does the Crown -- does this Queen, in particular -- have a duty to serve as Her Empathy?  Is that what the people want from her? 

A good interpretation.

Plus, Elizabeth was taught by Tommy Lascelles in S1 to follow the traditions, to act as the sovereign has always acted. In many occassions that is a good advice - if the sovereign visits many villages, factories, societies etc., one simply can't every time begin to plan anew how to do it. But the world changes and new things happen. Martin Charteris and PM Wilson tried to advice the Queen but she didn't listen to them until ther own position was in danger. Churchill reacted in the same way with the fog that killed people in S1. 

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saoirse

A reminder that discussion/mention of future events is not allowed in episode topics. This includes mentioning individuals who have not yet appeared, or events that occur in future decades. Posts will be removed; repeated violations may incur further sanctions.

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