Any time there’s a scary or upsetting part of a TV show or movie that my son is watching, he’ll tell us in a very anxious voice, “I don’t like this,” and we know to turn it off or fast forward. The entire time that I watched the third episode of The Crown Season 6 (“Dis-Moi Oui”) I kept repeating in my head, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this.” Before this season of The Crown began, I was not one of the show’s detractors who criticized its coverage of the royal family‘s more modern era, but after having watched this episode that chronicles the final hours of the lives of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and Dodi Al-Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), I can say that while it makes for riveting television, I wish the show ended with Season 4 so we could remember it fondly as a snapshot of a bygone era, and not as a fantasy that takes creative liberties with the end of three people’s lives. The stress of these 56 minutes was almost unbearable.
Throughout the episode, Diana is positioned as a woman ready to reclaim her life. She’s sick of the paparazzi, the attention; she wants to focus on her boys, William and Harry, and her charity work above all else. She is keenly aware that her relationship with Dodi, the son of a billionaire, is a spectacle, and unsustainable, and she tries throughout the episode to tell Dodi this. In the first moments of the episode, Diana’s therapist tells her “We’ve been working on weaning you from your addiction to drama,” adding, “The risk is, one normalizes the abnormal and becomes accustomed to living in the madness.” Diana completely agrees, and she knows she needs to break up with Dodi to find that inner peace.
Meanwhile, Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) is aggressively pushing Dodi to propose, even bribing him with the promise of half the Al-Fayed empire, and the promise that he’ll finally respect his son. The show is not kind to Mou-Mou this season, hinting many of his actions, from setting up the famous paparazzi kiss on the yacht, and later, his insistence that Dodi buy a ring for Diana, created a chain reaction that led to their deaths: it’s an odd perspective to take, putting so much blame on him, but perhaps the show was trying to be original in its hot takes about a situation we’re already overly familiar with. Dodi, who is certainly smitten with Diana, thinks it’s too much too soon, but all these carrots his father, is dangling the money, the respect, are an intoxicating promise of a “perfect” life.
Before Diana can tell Dodi she wants to leave, he insists on a night out in Monte Carlo. She protests, but he promises they’ll be discreet and won’t be bothered by photographers. Eventually they’re mobbed by the crowds, but before that happens, Dodi tells Diana how much he hates all the negative and outright racist press he’s been receiving, a reminder of the British press’s openly hostile treatment of anyone who isn’t white. She commiserates and says how terrible she’s been managing all the attention too, but Dodi doesn’t take that to mean she wants to end things, rather, he thinks maybe she’s hinting that she would move to California where he lives. The conversation is cut short when the crowds close in on them and they rush off, along with Dodi’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, to find save haven inside a jewelry store. While hiding out, Dodi asked a panicked Diana to pick out something nice. She’s not in a headspace to think clearly, but she points to a ring with a star design called the Dis-Moi Oui (translation: “Say Yes To Me”) not realizing that Dodi might interpret this as an engagement ring.
By the time they get back to the yacht, pursued by fans and paps, Diana has had it. She tells Dodi she’s leaving for London in the morning. He insist they take the Harrod’s jet, and make a pit stop in Paris first so he can secretly buy the Dis-Moi Out ring for her. (When he tells his father about this plan, Mou-Mou tells his son, “This is the greatest day of my life!”) Diana initially protests – she realllly wants to just go home – but Dodi insists. There are dozens of these tiny moments throughout the episode, these Sliding Doors decisions that suggest that if only one slightly different choice was made, these two might still be alive. If Dodi didn’t push this pit stop in Paris, if Mohamed has just stopped pressuring his son, if Diana had just asserted herself and flown commercial back to London, the world would be a much different place. It’s maddening to watch it play out, but for all the things that this show gets wrong, it does get right the fact that there were many factors that caused these deaths, and it was not one single thing that ended their lives that night.
If there’s one thing that really kicked my “I don’t like this” mantra into gear, it was William (Rufus Kampa) and Harry (Fflyn Edwards). We all know Diana loved her boys and they loved her back, but the show uses them in a way that almost feels emotionally manipulative to us, the audience, as we watch Diana struggle to reach them for an arranged phone call they’ve set up while she’s in Paris. We all know this will the be the last communication she’ll ever have with her children, and we need her to be able to make it happen. It doesn’t help that Mohamed has forced them to stop at his home, Villa Windsor, for an unexpected diversion, and when he speaks to Diana on the phone there, he tells her that one day, this might be her home, too. There are so many red flags in her mind that she needs to escape the Al-Fayeds, and yet it’s almost as if they’re holding her captive in Paris.
Diana is furious about the pit stop, because it has caused her to miss her call with the boys. So she fills her time wrapping a birthday gift for Harry until she can speak to them at dinnertime. The idea of watching a mother and her children’s final interaction is difficult to stomach, the weight of these moments where Diana is desperate to speak to the two people in her life who unconditionally love and need her is triggering in a way that hurts on a primal level. When they do get on the phone, the boys ask her if what the papers are saying is true, is she really going to marry Dodi? She assures them the answer is no (even though Dodi is planning to propose later that night), and the boys help her to realize that’s the right decision, referring to him as a “poser.” William can sense that something is up with his mother, and he asks if she’s okay. She says that things are “a bit mad here,” and adds, “Mummy just needs to make some changes to her life,” the show once again telegraphing all the ways that Diana’s life could have gone, if only it wasn’t about to end.
The show’s final, claustrophobic 20 minutes shows Dodi and Diana trying to go out for dinner in Paris, but their every move is obstructed by the paparazzi. It’s pure chaos. Dinner at Chez Benoit, their restaurant of choice, isn’t possible, so they head back to the Ritz, owned by Dodi’s family and a safe haven of sorts, but they’re not even able to enjoy a calm meal in the dining room there, the prying eyes of every patron on them. Diana is overwhelmed and stifles tears. They head to a suite instead, where Dodi puts on some Julio Iglesias and tried to propose with the Dis-Moi Oui ring. She immediately tells him “No no no no no no!” and forces him to abort the proposal. “Please get up,” she says, and she shuts the music off. As she explains the myriad reasons why they shouldn’t get engaged, she tells Dodi, “There’s only one person in the world this marriage would make happy,” and that’s Mohamed. “I can’t make your father love you more by becoming your wife,” she tells him, to which he responds, “Actually, I think you can.” Diana tells Dodi he needs to break free from his father, a man whose opinion has messed with Dodi’s sense of self-worth. It’s a lovely scene that depicts the couple’s romantic relationship coming to an end, with each of them championing the others’ future happiness.
A little while later, Mohamed calls Dodi and asks if Diana accepted the proposal. Dodi hangs up on his father, and then pretends to tell him off. As he speaks into a phone with no one on the other end, he says, “There will be no engagement nor wedding. If you want to cut me off for letting you down or being a failure or whatever you call it, go ahead, cut me off, it will be a blessing.” It’s a moving speech, but a fake one, as Diana is the only audience that hears it.
Dodi asks Diana if shes prefer to stay at the Ritz or at his apartment that night, and for some reason she tells him she wants to head back to his apartment, in spite of the excessive, dangerous mobs outside. Dodi devises a plan: their car out front will be a decoy, and they’ll leave in a different car, using a different driver, through the back door of the hotel. Dodi’s bodyguard Trevor, who will be riding shotgun, doesn’t love that they’re planning to head back out into the chaos again, but he follows the boss’s orders.
Now, if you’re me, and you’ve watched The Diana Investigations, you’d know that driver Henri Paul was not supposed to be driving Dodi and Diana that night, which is why he spent his afternoon drinking. By the time Dodi devised his plan to use a decoy car driven by his regular driver, Paul’s blood alcohol was three times the legal limit when he was told he was going to drive the couple. As Paul is pulled into duty, the show depicts this subtly, yet another one of the many terrible decisions that were made that night.
As Dodi and Diana wait for the decoy cars to leave, he admits to her that his phone call with his father was fake. “I know,” she tells him, and cements the fact that they’re both still works in progress and game recognizes game, in a broken, vulnerable sorta way. Things seem calm, if only for a moment. And then the show flashes back to the scene that opened the season. A man steps out of his apartment building to walk his dog, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s about to witness history. Dodi’s decoy plan doesn’t work and their car is flanked once again by photographers on scooters.
As the car speeds up, Dodi and Diana hold hands and their car heads into the Pont l’Alma tunnel. In Scotland while William and Harry brush their teeth and go to bed, with the idea that tomorrow, they’re going to see their mother. I don’t like this.
Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer living in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she won on the game show Chain Reaction.