Spoilers below if you haven’t seen the episode yet…
Episode two of what we already know is going to be one of the years best dramas aired on BBC One last night and thankfully it fulfilled all of the promise of the opening episode.
This new version of War and Peace looks truly spectacular, from the stunning cinematography, through to the costumes and the almost universally good looking cast.
As is always going to be the case with any treatment of Tolstoy’s doorstop of a novel, especially one that condenses the action down to six episodes, there is always going to be lots going on. Key plot points saw Pierre Bezukov (Paul Dano) marrying Helene Kuragina (Tuppence Middleton) but it’s not going to be a match made in heaven is it, in fact she’s already getting friendly with Fedya Dolokhov (The Musketeer’s Tom Burke) who is married to a friend. Pierre finally takes action though and challenges Fedya to a duel.
Meanwhile for Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton) life on the battlefield is not going according to plan when the Russian armed forces are completely out manoeuvred by Napoleon, not only that things took a tragic turn when his wife Lise (Kate Phillips) dies in childbirth. Whether the soldier is cut out for being a single parent we will have to wait and see.
The beauty of War and Peace, and one of the key reasons why it is so immediately accessible still, is that like all of Tolstoy’s best work, it is a sprawling drama of relationships, love, family and honour. And we TV viewers love a bit of that!
Yes the massive scope of the story and the huge cast does mean that there is still the occasional bit of who’s that again but on the whole the story is so good that it quite simply drags you in.
War and Peace is on BBC One on Sundays at 9.00pm