‘War and Peace’ episode 4 review: Heart of betrayal

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For the past few weeks, we’ve felt as though the BBC has done a very good job when it comes to capturing the spirit of Leo Tolstoy’s classic “War and Peace.” On Sunday, for the first time we feel like the show did something different. It transcended the source material and became something fantastic in its own right.

What does it mean to fall in love? This is a question that Natasha asked herself near the end of this installment as she started to feel like she was falling deeply for Anatole, a man who she came to love to the extent of “ruining herself,” even though she had made a promise to Andrei previously. He had departed for a year, and in that time feelings changed. We understand the plight of Natasha, even if we do not perhaps understand the method and her impulsive decision to run away with him while ignoring the obvious warning signs over his head.

With this in mind, Natasha decided to make it clear to Andrei’s family that she had made a mistake, and that she was releasing herself from the engagement. Lily James’ performance was one of the reasons why all of this was so powerful, but what made it even more so was the excellent score, which played up the notes of intensity, hardship, and betrayal that was bleeding through the lips of some of these characters. This is not the modern day; engagements were more binding then, and seeing someone with the self-reliance to run away with another man is not something you saw often.

We certainly know that the story for Natasha and others is far from over (especially since we’ve got a good sense as to just what sort of man Anatole truly is, and also where he is going now after a stern threat and the revelation of his wife in Poland), and that matters will get even more intense / heartbreaking before this is over. While this episode may have minimized the role of Pierre and others at times, there is still no doubting in our mind just how fantastic this was from start to finish as entertainment. Grade: A-.

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