War and Peace: Napoleon, the hotstepper

war and peace(Episodes 5 & 6) In the words of the great Mr Swayze; Nobody puts Napoleon in the corner. Contrary to my last report, he’s very far from calm and wants all of Russia for his plaything. The score for this drama has been wonderfully majestic and stirring, but I couldn’t help thinking of Ini Kamoze whenever Napoleon oiled his way onto the screen.
‘Here comes the French leader, Napoleon
He’s the ear-rubbing gangster, murderer
Splice all de men in de area, Napoleon
Or blow dem up like dat, murderer!’
He swaggers into the chandelier-laden glamping-style tent, flourishes his magnificent tassels and dulcetly informs hapless messenger Boris, ‘I am going to take your country.’ [Mr Bond] ‘But don’t worry, it’s not your fault.’ He will apparently be merciful to the Russians, he announces magnanimously, as if he’s doing them a favour. 

Elsewhere, Moody Andrei is on such a moral high ground he must be knocking his head on the pearly gates. EVERYbody thinks he was asking for trouble, leaving ‘sweet flesh’ Natasha unattended for a whole year, but no, he is a different sort of man to Pierre, shackled to the permanently-recumbent-with-another-fella Helene. He cannot and will not forgive. At one point he looks wistfully at two girls scrumping for plums in an orchard. They have not yet gone sour, you can see him thinking.

The writing was on the wall for strumpet Helene however. She was lounging about with what looked to be Boris (of course he was getting his ear rubbed elsewhere), but was in fact merely ‘Helene’s lover’. A lover who’d put a bun in her oven.
‘You do want to marry me,’ she informed the hapless youth. The pause before he answered spoke volumes.

Natasha is in the depths of misery, shrouded in black, eyes permanently welling, submitting to leeches as is right and proper for the harlot she believes herself to be (one kiss, I tell you, ONE KISS). ‘I wish I were dead. I’m so unhappy.’ Boom – she’s transmogrified into proper Russian heroine. The only good thing to come out of Andrei’s Mood is he finally tells Jim Broadbent off for his appalling treatment of Marya and constant indulgence of the flibbertigibbet companion. He gets kicked out for his pains which is all Marya’s fault according to Dad; he’s so narked by all this treachery he falls off his horse.

There follows an absolutely beautiful Lear-like scene between the dying father and daughter, where he asks for forgiveness. He wants her to put on her white dress, which (let’s hope he wasn’t confusing her with his late wife on her wedding day) is an excellent plan. I don’t know why Marya has to be palmed off with blackout blinds while everyone else is wearing beautiful floral numbers.
She has a rough deal with the peasants too, who Judean People’s Front her, demanding to know, ‘What have you ever done for us?’
In the nick of time, Nikolai comes riding past and is smitten. He’s gone right up in my estimation. The twinkling between them fair thrilled me, not least knowing how irate Andrei-the-Moodster would be at the thought of the feckless Natasha’s brother snaffling his pure sister away.

Back at the battlefield, Pierre arrives to ‘see what’s going on’. The soldier he announces this to looks completely bemused. You can see why, it’s not exactly Ibiza. Those people lying around aren’t sunbathing, they’re pushing up the daisies.
‘I won’t get in your way,’ he says, then proceeds to do EXACTLY that, lumbering about knocking things over, looking round as if he’s entered a virtual war computer game and needs his console and some popcorn. At least he knows how to take cover. ‘Get down!’ they all shout at Andrei-Moodster, who is staring down the swivelling bomb as if it were ‘Spin the Bottle’ hoping he’ll get a better wife next time. It gets him a place on a hospital bed, which at least affords him a glimpse of Anatole having his leg amputated on the next bed. There’s karma for you.

Things go from bad to worse in the last episode, with corpses building up at an alarming rate. I think the general, the magnificent Brian Cox, is a bit too laissez-faire with his ‘We do nothing. Time and patience’ routine. He should tell his troops not to shout their arrival when they’re carrying out an ambush. With burning Moscow ‘wide open’ for Napoleon the peculiarly accented stud, the Rostovs flee. If Ade had had his way though, they’d have still been sitting around waiting. ‘We’ve got plenty of time,’ he announced airily waving a glass about. They take some injured soldiers with them, one of them being Andrei-Moodisch, who mortally wounded, now realises how he should have behaved. He is reconciled with Natasha before he dies, not that that helps her much.
Helene, finding the titters and turned backs not too appealing on the receiving end, took way too much of the nasty potion designed to bring on a miscarriage. The last we saw of her was sprawled on a bed (appropriately) having bled to death. That wasn’t all. Rostov the youngest, all excited to be riding into war with the grown-ups got shot leaving poor Rostov the eldest literally heart-broken.

As for Pierre, he had become a one-man avenging angel, rescuing children from burning buildings and duffing up soldiers. He almost stabbed one of those Frenchies who had commandeered his house, but his real plan was to take out Napoleon. He manages to get himself imprisoned with a peasant who teaches him the art of appreciating the humble potato. Peasant gets bumped on their monumental hike for being ‘too slow’ leaving his poor little dog whining pitifully – THAT won’t have gone down well with the animal-loving Brits. It must have been several months for Pierre and his fellow prisoners – their beards attested to that, although their captors bizarrely remained completely clean shaven. Pierre is finally rescued by his former nemesis Dolokhov and returned home, as Napoleon gets his butt kicked out of Russia.

I think we were all feeling somewhat gloomy by this point, so it was a relief that Nikolai had some strong women around him to set him straight. Even though Sonya (who is astonishingly nice) had nobly released him from their engagement, he was still mansplaining everywhere about how he would be seen as a fortune-hunter. Luckily the French flibbertigibbet displayed some hitherto unseen tact and sloped off leaving Marya, modern woman that she is (and wearing better clothes by the minute –yay!), to tell him she loves him. Luckily too, he heard the several thousand female viewers shouting at him to say yes and they were betrothed. As were Pierre and Natasha. Aww. So, it worked out fairly well for you in the end Mrs Rostov, notwithstanding your crone-like nature. Despite not having two roubles to rub together, your kids married up big style. ‘As long as there is life, there is happiness,’ came Pierre’s voiceover as they all sat around in the sunshine, their kids milling about. We salute you Pierre and if Dano doesn’t win an award for this, we’ll set Napoleon on them.

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