‘War and Peace’ Episode 4 review: This has become stressful television

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So, sweet Natasha and nice Andrei get themselves engaged after all – but there’s a catch!

At his grumpy dad’s insistence, he has to spend a year abroad first, backpacking through Europe, presumably. This will definitely end well for our lovebirds, won’t it?

Meanwhile, Nicolai’s mum and dad politely request that he marry a nice heiress to fix their diminishing finances, but Nicolai’s in love with Sonya (Aisling Loftus) – who is apparently his cousin. Well, I guess that was less icky back them. The look on Sonya’s face as Nicolai rides away to his military regiment is heartbreaking.

War and Peace 4 Helene Kuragin (TUPPENCE MIDDLETON)

Pierre continues to be a mess, while his wife goes to the opera, in one of the most frustrating scenes I’ve seen in just about anything: there is nothing more loathsome than people who talk in the theatre.

Then, depraved siblings Helene and Anatole (Callum Turner, all smouldering in the most sinister way possible) test Natasha’s resolve – does she keep her engagement to Andrei, or does she nip off to the cloakroom for a speedy threesome? (She does end up in a cloakroom with Anatole. It’s creepy.)

I’m close to shouting “he’s a scumbag!” at her as though this were a pantomime and not an epic historical drama from the BBC. This has become stressful television, but did I ever expect it to be otherwise?

War and Peace 4

Lily James has done wonders maturing Natasha’s character in the space of four episodes, but she retains something of a dreamy, silliness about her.

I can’t help but feel for her plight, however, at the helplessness that comes with a long distance relationship. And they didn’t even have Skype back then. No wonder she succumbs to Anatole’s lecherous gaze.

It doesn’t help that even in her apparently increased years, she has the emotional maturity of a middle-schooler. How sad it must have been to be well to do back in 1800 or so, with nothing else to do but dance and get engaged. At least Pierre steps up to set things right. He’s a good kid, really.


Aired at 9pm on Sunday 24 January 2016 on BBC One.

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> Read more by Sami Kelsh on her website.