The second episode of War and Peace is rather bleak it has to be said. There is little peace in this episode and mostly war. There is an extended battle sequence between Napoleon and then Russian forces which ended in a bloodbath with casualties from both sides just because the Tsar didn’t like the idea of one of his generals not wanting to take on the French.
I am with the general on this, he knew that this was likely to happen but was powerless when the Tsar wanted them to advance no matter what the consequences would be. This didn’t do much good for poor old Andrei Bolkonsky who was wounded in this battle and left for dead on the battlefield.
Nikolai Rostov also featured in this battle but managed to get out of the battle unscathed, at least in terms of his body, if not his mind and soul. He became a man a grew a moustache and starting consorting with prostitutes in this episode despite the fact that he had promised himself to Sonya, who was waiting patiently at home for him.
Pierre soon found out that his new wife, Helene, wasn’t at all interested in him and constantly spurned his advances and wanted to spend as much time apart as she could get away with and continue on with her life as though nothing had changed.
Of course all she wanted was the lifestyle, the money and the prestige that came with being the Countess Bezukov and not actually wanting anything to do with the count himself.
To be honest we already knew that the moment that she was introduced in the first episode and that in this era most marriages were more for convenience and the alliances of families irrespective of whether or not they actually liked each other.
Helene even told Pierre that she didn’t mind if he had mistresses but Pierre isn’t like that and just wants his wife and when you have a wife as beautiful as her then you really can’t blame him but she just has no interest in him at all and you can sense his frustration not just in his relationship with his wife but also with his new role as the Count. He really has been thrust into a role which he is totally unsuited to but he is there and has to deal with it the best way that he can.
With one child married into an influential family Prince Vasilly was at it again trying to match his son Anatole with Marya Bolkonskaya the timid sister of Andrei Bolkonsky but due to Anatole’s wondering eyes and hands and the fact that Marya saw him doing something to her French mad that was not going to happen as Marya said that she didn’t want to marry him.
I think this pissed of Vasilly more than it did Antaloe who really didn’t give a shit as he didn’t fancy her at all and would have preferred to bang her maid, which he would have done even if they had of been married.
You have to give it to Marya for standing up for herself and refusing to marry Antaloe because she knew that he didn’t have any interest in her as a person, and was going to be unfaithful to her throughout their marriage even if you do wonder what would ultimately become of her if she didn’t get married, as in those days that seemed to be the only way for women to make something of themselves. Her father doesn’t seem bothered either way.
After the battle Pierre offers his hospitality to his old friend Dolokhov. Well, I say friend, but he isn’t really a friend of his and he shows this by shagging his friend’s wife on the kitchen table whilst he is out despite the fact that earlier she was calling him a despicable pig. I mean who does he think he is? Ryan Giggs?
When Dolokhov taunts him at dinner party about the fact that he is fucking his wife, Pierre flips and challenges Dolokhov to a duel and, much to Pierre’s shock, Dolokhov accepts the challenge.
Andrei finally makes his way back home without explaining what happened to him and gets there just in time for his wife Lise to give birth to their child but she dies in childbirth leaving him with a son and heir, and a dead wife that he didn’t seem particularly bothered about before.
Like I said this episode was rather bleak. but the costumes and the locations were all beautiful, and there were some excellent performances particularly from Jim Broadbent as Prince Bolkonsky and Paul Dano as Pierre who is definitely the standout talent in this show.
Tuppence Middleton makes a rather attractive femme fatale as Helene in this and the previous episode and you can see why both Dolokhov and Pierre both desire her and you have to feel sorry for Pierre as he is married to her and she lets another man fuck her, what the hell is that all about?
I know there is loads of stuff cut out of this version but it is very impressive nonetheless.