‘War and Peace’ episode 2 review: Problems upon problems for Paul Dano’s Pierre

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We always knew that Paul Dano was a great actor, but it is rather nice to see such a different dimension to him in the upcoming BBC adaptation of “War and Peace.” Pierre is a complicated man, and he’s also someone who had quite a few transgressions on Sunday’s second episode.

For one, he has to deal with the realization that his wife is not perhaps as faithful and loving to him as first assumed, but there’s also a looming duel on the horizon. He’s been put into a great position, and yet finds himself currently trying to catch him breath while waves are crashing all around him.

One of the other strong moments of the night revolving around¬†Bolkonsky realizing the hardships of the world, and the struggles that come with losing family. One of the smart ways that Andrew Davies has been able to condense the material is through some of these strong, emotional character scenes. We’ve had many with Natasha through two episodes, but some of the biggest ones are still to come. The same probably goes for the “war” element of the story. We got a taste of that in the premiere, but the show is going to need to present at least some more of that with Napoleon or someone else prominent for the conceit to work by the end.

Do we find there to be some distractions in the series? Certainly, beginning of course with the idea of the dichotomy between some of the Russian locales and some British actors populating them, with not all of them using the proper accents. However, at the same time the caliber of the performances make up for that, and this may be among the most visually-stunning period pieces that the BBC has ever done; we’re not sure how we were going to see many come close to topping the sweeping hills of “Poldark” until now.

All in all, “War and Peace” remains compelling, at least to those of you who enjoy book adaptations and the way that the show is condensing most of the details that matter.¬†Grade: A-.

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