A&E, Lifetime, and the History Channel are currently airing the BBC’s 2016 adaptation of War and Peace. There’s some good … but there’s also some bad and some very, very ugly. We’ll be recapping each of the four parts (six episodes if you’re in the UK), focusing on the costumes, praising what needs to be praised and snarking where it’s required.
As we discovered in the last post, this show is being edited down for US viewers. Boo! I’m going to keep recapping the British version, because there might be plot points or costumes that are interesting. So, this is going to be LONG, because it’s essentially episodes 3 and half of 4, UK-style.
We pick up with the duel between Pierre and Dolokhov, which Pierre somehow manages to win, although he only wounds Dolokhov.
When Pierre gets home, he interrupts a giggly moment between BitchWife and Douchebag. Douchebag slimes his way out, while BitchWife — wearing her implausible devoré velvet robe, whines about how the duel negatively affects her.
Pierre heads for the country. En route he meets a guy who inspires him to consider getting religion, joining the Freemasons, and finding hope in giving his life to others.
Andrei and family have a baptism for his son, but Andrei is bleak.
He and dad agree that he should get his own place near the family ranch.
At the Rostovs, Nikolai needs some money, and his super cool dad is all, “Daw, boys. Here you go sonny! Try to make it last!”
Dolokhov is staying with the Rostovs, and he seems inappropriately into Sonja … who joins Natasha in wearing simple blue gowns, Sonja’s with short sleeves, Natasha with long. But, hallelujah, Natasha found some hairpins!
Later, Natasha and Sonja have an in-bed chat about true wuv and boys and stuff. Natasha starts out in a robe, then ends up in what is probably a bodiced petticoat, but seems to have lost her shift/chemise (which should be under the bodiced petticoat).
The next day, the boys have fun practicing fighting out in the barn, after which Dolokhov shares some creepy thoughts about how young and innocent Sonja and Natasha are. Nikolai is oblivious.
Back inside, Natasha is mazurka crazy. Denisov, another friend of Nikolai’s who has also been staying with them, turns out to be a mad mazurka-ing genius. I spend the scene distracted by Natasha’s badly-thought-out lace neckline trim, which flops over unattractively.
Natasha is thrilled, but less so when after a dance, he proposes. She turns him down.
Meanwhile, Pierre has decided to join the Freemasons in his quest to redeem his life. He goes through a secret ceremony:
While unsupervised, BitchWife heads to a soirée wearing a dress made from your Floridian grandmother’s curtains.
There, she sees Frodo, finds him totally hot, and finagles an introduction.
Back at the Rostovs, Dolokhov has proposed to Sonja — didn’t see that one coming! She turned him down. Natasha runs out to tell Nikolai, wearing a dress made from your grandmother’s 1970s curtains.
Sonja and Nikolai have a moment, where she’s all “I LURVE YOU and I ask nothing of you” and he’s all “I can’t promise you anything.” She’s wearing a green printed spencer with a very modern decorator fabric print and stupid balls on the princess seams.
Thankfully, a lot of money seems to have been spent on the men’s uniforms, so I’m able to spend scenes like this admiring all that gold braid. (Military peeps, let us know how accurate these are!)
Pierre is inspired by his new Freemasonry. He visits his estates, determined to improve the lives of his serfs. (Well, you could free them, but that’s crazytalk). He’s all natural in his straw hat and his what-looks-to-my-uneducated-eye-as-a-more-traditional-Russian robe.
While Pierre tries to do something good with his life, BitchWife has Frodo over and the two start an affair. He looks pretty good in that giant fur collar. I actually kind of like her robe with the embroidered bands, but the bias-draped nightie underneath ruins things.
Meanwhile, king of good decisions Nikolai — after being given some money from pops and being warned that the family’s finances are tight — attends an all-night gambling party where he loses over, and over, and over to Dolokhov. Who is clearly cheating, because no one can lose that much.
The next morning, Nikolai heads home, owing THOUSANDS of rubles to Dolokhov. This production clearly took a page from Pride & Prejudice in thinking “more pigs = more authentic.”
He finds Natasha singing — in Russian, which, if we’re speaking English, shouldn’t we be singing in English? — and joins her for a duet. He’s all teary-eyed and clearly regretting his folly. He goes to dad and confesses, and dad is SUPER COOL ABOUT IT. Nikolai claims he feels HORRIBLE. We’ll see.
Nikolai and Denisov head back to the war, at which point a ChickenHat informs them that Tsar Alexander the Hot has signed a treaty with Napoleon. Russia and France are now allies! Nikolai needs Denisov to ‘splain this to him, because apparently he’s slow. Nikolai is PISSED.
Back at the Bolkonskys, Andrei has set up house in a rustic home on his family’s estate.
We can tell that he’s 1) sensitive and 2) bleak because he communes with what seems to be a dead tree on his land.
Pierre turns up, all countrified.
He tries to inspire Andrei to reengage with life, but Andrei is Team Remorse.
During a walk in some lovely scenery (film crew: “YES! GET THE CAMERAS NOW!”), Andrei starts to let a bit of Pierre’s hope in.
They go to visit Andrei’s family. Andrei continues to be down-with-the-peeps in a rustic striped shirt and waistcoat — nothing like the fancy uniforms he used to wear. Mademoiselle Bourienne remains committed to wearing my 1980s nylon-fiber floral-print canopy bed cover as a dress.
Pierre and Marya catch up. She’s in a very traditional-looking, but still fashionably high-waisted, dress.
Dad Bolkonsky is a jerk. He asks Andrei to go visit the Rostovs, because Dad Rostov hasn’t sent enough men to the militia.
Andrei heads off to the Rostovs’ country house (they’ve had to close up the Moscow house because Nikolai was an ass and gambled away all their money). On his way, he sees Natasha, scampering about in the flowers with the peasant girls, as all good Historical Manic Pixie Dream Girls do.
Andrei has made an attempt, wearing a lovely high-collared camel-colored wool waistcoat — yum — topped with a heavy navy wool coat. Yummy yum!
Dad Rostov remains committed to his caps, this one with nice folk-y embroidery.
Natasha meets Andrei, but more importantly, SHE HAS FINALLY RETHOUGHT HER HAIR. THANK YOU BABY JESUS. Clearly the bangs were there to make her look
Andrei spends the night. In a beautifully lit evening scene, he overhears Natasha and Sonja singing and then talking about how Natasha LIKE likes him.
The next day, Andrei goes home to … dum dum DUM! His seemingly dead tree has budded!
Meanwhile, Pierre is on a quest to truly transform his life. His Freemason buddy encourages him to forgive those who have wronged him, which, sure, but Mr. Freemason hasn’t met BitchWife. Pierre writes to her and suggests that they resume married life. She packs her bags and shows up at his house wearing THE MOST GODAWFUL PRINT I HAVE EVER SEEN. I literally laughed out loud when I saw this.
Later, BitchWife is continuing her affair with Frodo, but she’s very “time to move along, sonny” and encourages him to get married. To someone else.
It’s time for the Tsar’s ball, and Natasha and Sonja will be coming out! Natasha is nervous, but mom soothes her.
Tsar’s ball time! YES I would like this palace, please.
Although Natasha’s dress is more 1910s than 1800s, I don’t hate it. It helps that it’s in white, and symmetrical, and they had some vague idea of where her boobs were. Sonja looks fine.
Bridesmaid-in-Waiting is there. They put her in a 1980s bridesmaid dress, adding a pleated crepe standing bit to try to distract us … and a KICKASS crown.
Pierre and BitchWife are there. BitchWife is wearing an unoffensive gown, more 1912 than 1809ish but whatever, that’s clearly made from a sari.
Tsar Alexander the Hot sees BitchWife and takes her off to dance.
Natasha is super stressed that no one is asking her to dance — she looks good, but I guess everyone knows she’s po’. Luckily Andrei is there. We find out from Pierre that he’s reenaged in his life, rejoining the military and cleaning shit up. He spots Natasha and swaggers over, soulfully, to ask her mom if he can dance with Natasha.
Andrei and Natasha dance, and it’s clearly MAGIC.
Meanwhile Pierre looks angsty (note: I do approve that there’s some foreshadowing of what’s going to happen to his character, as opposed to the 2007 version in which his final fate seems to come out of nowhere).
Soon thereafter, Andrei and Natasha go for a giggly, fur-hatted walk in the snow, with poor Sonja straggling behind as chaperone.
Andrei makes a move!
Andrei goes to Pierre and is all “I’M IN LOVE. Should I marry her?” To which Pierre is all, “DUH, yes, I certainly would!”
Natasha and Mom have a heart-to-heart. She hasn’t seen Andrei in weeks, and she’s in LURVE.
Where’s Andrei? He’s at home, trying to get his dad’s permission. Dad actually doesn’t freak out, but asks Andrei to wait a year before marrying (penniless) Natasha.
Finally, Andrei shows up and proposes! Hooray! Except, he tells Natasha about the whole waiting a year thing. Boo. He tells her that she should consider herself free, while he considers himself committed. She agrees, at least to the waiting a year thing.
Andrei has to go to Switzerland, randomly. Natasha stoically sees him off.
Some time passes. Natasha is out wolf hunting (I guess there’s not much fox hunting in Russia?) with Nikolai and many others. She’s wearing a stupid, not-very-Empire hat with a stupid veil.
We see evidence that Natasha is deep, because she has a moment of communing with the wolf — who we later learn does indeed get killed. Thanks.
Nikolai is pissy about Natasha being engaged but having to wait. Which is kind of outstanding, given the whole Sonja situation.
Speaking of which, Mom Rostov has come up with a fabulous plan to save the family’s dire finances. Nikolai should marry heiress Julie Karagina! Nikolai is very “GOD MOM, I can’t marry someone I don’t love.” While Mom is basically all, “Uh, you’re the reason our family is destitute. YOU OWE US.” Which, she has a point.
The Rostovs head out to the country to visit very-rustic Uncle Mikhail. Everyone is Team Rustic, breaking out the thick woolens in traditional patterns.
Uncle Mikhail lives with a peasant woman who is very boobalicious in a renfaire sort of way, and NOT HIS WIFE (clutches pearls). At one point in the evening, she starts singing, and the many other serfs there start playing instruments. It’s traditional Russian folk music time.
Then, one of the most PAINFUL THINGS EVER HAPPENS. Natasha does that “can’t help moving to the beat” thing.
She slowly rises up, shoulders going up and down, and improvises a dance.
Voice over 1: “How does she know how to do that?”
Voice over 2: “It’s in the blood.”
EVEN BETTER: she ends the dance by running to her uncle’s side, biting her nails and giggling, in that whole “WAS THAT ME? DID I JUST DO THAT? batbat*” way.
Afterwards, Uncle Mikhail’s girlfriend tells a story about how you can learn your fortune if you go out to the barn. Sonja is brave and heads out there. Nikolai follows her, gets all passionate and kisses her.
Back at the Rostovs, Nikolai decides to just randomly stand up and declare his love for Sonja and intention of marrying her.
This is all nice and good, but as Mom rightly points out, NIKOLAI IS THE ONE WHO FUCKED THEIR FINANCES, AND SHOULD BE THE ONE TO FIX IT. Mom basically freaks out, accusing Sonja of being a schemer. Natasha tries to smooth things over.
And — sorry Brits, that’s where the US version stops, right in the middle of episode 4. We’ll pick back up next Friday!
Did Natasha’s dance number make you puke, too? Is Helene really from the 1910s?