Golden Armchair Awards 2016: The People


The holidays are approaching, 2016 is (finally!) drawing to a close, and that means it’s time to look back and smile or shake our heads at all that happened this year in the world of costume dramas. First: let’s vote on the characters we loved, hated, and will miss.

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War and Peace: Peace at Last

4284Previously on War and Peace: Natasha trashed her relationship with Andrei, who decided he could never forgive her or anyone else, and then learned to forgive after all following the devastating Battle of Borodino. Pierre was at Borodino too, kind of as a tourist, but he got to feel a little useful. His wife, who it seems will sleep with anyone other than her own husband, found herself expecting a little surprise.

Sorry this is so absurdly late, everyone. We had family visiting, and that tends to mean free time = 0 (especially when you throw a toddler into a mix). Not that I would have changed a bit of it.

Napoleon reaches the outskirts of Moscow, hardly able to believe that he’s been able to just wander up to Russia’s sacred city. He decides not to destroy the place and will, instead, be merciful and bring freedom etc. to the city. He declares this the dawn of a new age in Russia.

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War and Peace: Borodino

Previously on War and Peace: Natasha lost her head over Anatole and broke off her engagement to Andrei, who’s been away for a year. Pierre’s been searching for meaning but not really finding it.

Natasha sits around looking really, really sad.

Pierre goes to see Andrei and tells him how sorry he is about all of this. Andrei is pretty much shut back down, and though Pierre tries to talk him back into the relationship with Natasha, Andrei won’t hear of it. He’s not the forgiving type, it seems. He asks Pierre to return her letters and portrait. Pierre reluctantly agrees.

At the Rostovs’, Natasha’s dialled the drama waaaay up and is dressed in actual mourning. Teenagers. Pierre notes that she doesn’t look all that great and she groans that she wishes she were dead. Teenagers. He hands over the letters and, when prompted, says that Andrei wants her to know he bears her no ill will. She weeps and asks Pierre to ask Andrei to forgive her. Pierre promises to do so, then asks how all of this came about. She claims not to know, because she’s just sooo unhappy. Pierre comforts her and urges her to talk to him whenever she needs someone to pour her soul out to. ‘Don’t talk to me like that, I don’t deserve it,’ she drama queens. He protests that he’d totally marry her, if he were free, because she’s just that great. She kisses his cheek in gratitude.

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War and Peace: You Screwed Up, Honey

4254Previously on War and Peace: Pierre joined the Freemasons and tried to improve his life and Andrei fell in love with Natasha.

Natasha whines to her mother about Andrei not having visited for three weeks. She’s just sooooo in loooooove. Her mother tries to reassure her, then tells her that if it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.

Andrei brings up the potential marriage with his father, who has all sorts of reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea. But, since Andrei’s in love with her, Bolkonsky only asks that his son go abroad for a year and experience a little more of life, then come back and marry her, if that’s what he really wants.

Natasha pouts and sulks, but then Andrei comes for a visit and she brightens right up. He requests a word in private with Natasha and of course Natasha’s mother readily agrees.

Once they’re alone, he tells Natasha that he loves her, and he hopes she loves him too (she reassures him she does). He then tells her about having to travel for the next year, which naturally disappoints her. He says he’ll consider himself bound, but she shouldn’t do the same, in case she changes her mind, and their engagement will remain a secret. She promises to wait.

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War and Peace: The Old Spark

4186Previously on War and Peace: Andrei realised he’d been treating his wife really horribly and felt badly about that, but before he could really make amends she died in childbirth. Pierre got married, and his wife started having an affair pretty much as soon as she could, enraging her husband to the point of challenging her lover to a duel.

The duel is going forward, and it’s clear that Pierre is really regretting this. His second, Denisov, gets him into position, and Pierre basically asks him how duels and guns work. Denisov realises he’s gotten involved in even more of a horrorshow than he knew and tries to talk Pierre out of it, but Pierre says they may as well go ahead, since they’re all gathered. That’s a good reason to get shot, Pierre. Denisov gives him some pointers and the thing begins. The two men advance on each other and Pierre freaks out and fires a bit early, somehow managing to hit and wound Dolokhov. Dolokhov tries to keep going to take his shot, but he’s too badly hurt and is bundled off to the waiting carriage by Andrei. He and Andrei are friends? Since when?

Pierre staggers home, where he finds his wife cavorting with her brother. Anatole makes himself scarce and Helene starts bitching at Pierre for making a spectacle. She claims to be innocent and starts insulting her husband, calling him a drunken oaf. Pierre suggests a separation and says he’s going to St Petersburg. She agrees, because she basically has no choice, but she yells after him, as he goes to leave, that he’ll only be exposing himself to more ridicule and he’ll have to give her a fortune if he busts up the marriage.

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War and Peace: A Bloody Business

Previously on War and Peace: Pierre inherited a huge fortune and was trapped into proposing to Helene. Andrei joined the army on a suicide mission, leaving his frightened, pregnant wife Lise with his eccentric father and religious sister, Marya. Nikolai joined the cavalry after promising to marry Sonya…someday.

Big! Church! Wedding! As Pierre and Helene make it official, we get to check out the lavish decorations in this very fancy Orthodox church. All very appropriate for an episode that starts to bring the religious themes to the fore.

Then it’s off to Brunn, Austria, where Andrei has been sent to report to the Austrian Minister of War (who’s kind of a dick) to report on the action at Schöngrabern. It’s being counted a success, since it comes after a defeat, but it’s a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, now the French have taken Vienna. The Minister is unimpressed and Andrei seems disappointed not to be given a round of applause or something.

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War and Peace: Inheritance

2E03FAC000000578-3299332-image-a-21_1446406327262Time for our first costume drama of 2016, and the BBC has gone with a work that practically defines epic: War and Peace. This is the second time the BBC has shown Tolstoy’s masterpiece some adaptation love (the first time was in the early 70’s, with Anthony Hopkins playing Pierre). The first outing ran 17 hours and was a pretty slavish adaptation, from what I understand. This is a much leaner version that will undoubtedly trim quite a few minor characters and subplots. Let’s just see how it goes.

It’s 1805 and Napoleon has invaded Austria. Russia’s thrown in with Austria, which means war for Russia as well.

We open on a massive army encampment overlooked by, presumably, Napoleon himself before moving to St Petersburg, which looks really lovely.

Time for a ball! Drink! An awkward young man, Pierre, arrives and grabs a drink while the hostess, Anna Pavlovna (played by Gillian Anderson, whom the BBC just adores) chats about this impending war with another guest, Prince Vassily Kuragin, who reassures her their glorious emperor has things well in hand. Anna notices Pierre and we learn that Pierre’s the illegitimate son of a wealthy count who is also a kinsman of Kuragin’s. Pierre is staying in Kuragin’s home. We get a brief glimpse of Vassily’s two children, Helene and Anatol, who are clearly too cool for school here. Also, Helene’s costuming is so anachronistic it’s kind of distracting. She looks like she was dressed by a fashion designer from the 30’s who was taking some cues from the early 19th century but essentially hewing to art deco ideals.

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