This weekend, Netflix released season three of The Crown — a dimly lit show about the British royal family wrestling with the plebeian experience of human emotion. This season, to mark the unrelenting passage of time, the show has a new, more middle-aged cast: Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip. Each delivers a deft, magnetic performance, but one star stands out, dominating whatever scene they are in with their raw power, their quiet authority. I am referring, of course, to Tobias Menzies’s jawline.
Menzies’s jawline is sharper than an obsidian blade. It is more precise than the most advanced mathematical equation. It juts out and away from his neck with all of the majesty and grandeur as the cliffs at Etretat. To stand on the edge of it and look down would be to come face to face with our own mortality, with our own smallness in a world full of infinite possibility.
That Menzies and his jawline were chosen, once again, to portray a complicated historical figure in The Crown is not surprising. His is a jaw for the ages, one that belongs in an age of quills and ink, not in a time of cellphones, whose screens would surely crack against his mandible’s sharp, unforgiving edges. (I know Prince Philip technically exists in the era of cellphones, but also, can you picture him ever using one?) It is a jaw designed to play historical villains, one crafted to convey searing intellect, determination, and a hint of malice.
Here, for instance, are Menzies and his jawline in HBO’s Rome, portraying one of history’s most notorious traitors, Marcus Junius Brutus. A sharp jaw of deceit, I think you will agree.
And here are Menzies and his jaw playing Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall in Outlander, a cruel, sadistic knight in 18th-century England. Shall he cut his enemies down with a sword, or with a swift slice from his chin?
This is by no means an indictment of the rest of The Crown cast, whose performances are, as I mentioned earlier, exceptional. But even with icons like Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter onscreen, I found my thoughts drifting to Menzies’s jaw. Does his jaw nick razor blades while he shaves instead of the other way around, I wondered? Does he chew his food, or does food simply liquefy upon entering his mouth, intimidated by its severe surroundings? Perhaps we are not meant to know the answer to these questions. Like any good character actor, Menzies likely wants to retain an air of mystery. Still, I would someday like to draw my hand gently around the contours of his face. Would my hand return intact, or would it be severed clean off my arm? That, I suppose, is best left to the imagination.