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.
She takes to her bed and is leeched by a doctor. Her mother worries about how the spirit seems to have gone out of her. She goes on to blame Andrei for all this, for leaving for so long. Lady, blame yourself and your husband for being shitty, disengaged parents, ok? You two are at least partly to blame for this.
Natasha goes to church and lights candles and prays.
Napoleon’s gotten bored and decided to march on Russia again. It’s now 1812, which was a big year for wars.
The tsar is not pleased by this breach of the treaty. He sends Boris as envoy to Napoleon, tasking him with delivering the tsar’s message. Only a full retreat from Russia will be accepted. Boris tries not to look too pleased as he leaves.
He is taken to Napoleon, who says the Russian generals have no stomach for a fight, and the tsar made him do this. He tells Boris the French have three times the number of soldiers Russia has, and he won’t be retreating anytime soon. He then tugs Boris’s ear and leaves. Boris doesn’t seem to quite know what just happened there.
Ilya reports to his family that they’re at war again. The ladies cross themselves and Natalya worries about Nikolai. The younger son begs to be allowed to enlist, threatening to run away if he’s not allowed. Ilya suggest he find the kid a post where he can play at soldier without actually being in danger.
Andrei returns to Bald Hills and is greeted merrily by Bourienne, whom he shuts down almost immediately. Inside, Andrei is greeted by his son and sister, who frets about him going to war again. He shrugs that it can’t be helped.
Over dinner, Bolkonsky insults his daughter unnecessarily and Bourienne flirts with him, unnecessarily. Andrei looks grossed out. Bolkonsky immediately goes back to bashing his daughter.
After dinner, he admits that he should probably treat Marya more kindly, but she just annoys him. Andrei tells his father he’s a complete dick to his daughter and Bourienne stirs things up between father and daughter. And Bolkonsky knows he’s right. Bolkonsky angrily tells him to get lost and Andrei’s face basically says, ‘with pleasure!’
That night, he tells his son a bedtime story. Bluebeard. Charming, Andrei. That shouldn’t give the kid nightmares forever. He stops in the middle and leaves, so Marya steps in.
Marya tries to persuade her father to come out and say goodbye to Andrei before he goes to war, but Bolkonsky just screams and blames her for making the two of them quarrel. The poor woman quakes and probably wonders just what the hell he’s even talking about.
She embraces Andrei tightly and worries that their father won’t live to see him return. She urges him to forgive their father, but Andrei refuses, because, again, he’s not the forgiving kind. He also tells her that if he ever sees Anatole again, he’ll duel and kill him.
Natasha must be coming back to herself a little, because she’s playing around with the piano while Pierre watches and smiles. He urges her to stop blaming herself for having made a single mistake in an otherwise blameless life. He then turns it around on himself, saying he’s made loads of mistakes and basically isn’t worthy of anything. She says he’s a good man and has been her rock. He clearly wants to tell her how very in love with her he is, but of course he can’t, so he just says he shouldn’t visit her so much. He kisses her hand and departs.
Marya is trying to persuade her father to leave, because the French are fast approaching, but he refuses. She asks a servant who’s being sent to Smolensk to find out where things stand and how long they’ll be safe.
Along the way, the servant sees people packing up their things to flee. Bad sign. Passing soldiers tell him the town has been surrendered and he needs to leave. He dashes down the street, meeting yet more fleeing peasants and soldiers and sees that the whole town is on fire, in the distance.
Andrei, passing with some of the retreating soldiers, spots him and tells him to order Bolkonsky to run, because the French will reach Bald Hills within days. The man doesn’t need to be told twice.
Bolkonsky still won’t leave. He starts getting suited up in his old military uniform, despite the fact that Marya tells him he’ll be fighting the French single-handedly, what with the militia gone. He ignores her (of course) and climbs onto his horse. He doesn’t even get down the drive before he passes out and falls off. Marya rushes to his side. It seems like he’s had a stroke or something. Marya tells the servants to pack up.
Andrei peels off from his unit to wander around an orchard for a bit. He sees two peasant girls there, picking fruit and laughing. When they see him, they hurry away.
He continues on to Bald Hills and finds the place closed up and empty. He’s happy to see the family’s gone.
He returns to his men, who are having a bathe and a swim in a large lake. Andrei comments on how much healthy flesh is on display, and how it’ll all be cannon fodder soon. That’s the spirit!
While on the road, an officer urges Marya not to go to their other estate, which is still too close to the French, but to Moscow, where she’ll be safer. But her father can’t travel far, so the estate it is. It’s the same one where Andrei was living. Bolkonsky is laid on a sofa and Marya kneels beside him. He croaks that his heart aches and asks for her forgiveness. She takes his hand and readily forgives him. He says he wants to see Andrei and she tearfully says that Andrei can’t come. Bolkonsky moans that Russia lost. He asks for someone (it’s unclear if he’s still actually speaking to Marya) to put on her white dress, then quietly dies. She cries and says that she wished for her father’s death for so long, and all the time he actually loved her. The manservant cries along with her.
She goes outside and absorbs everything that just happened, then changes into mourning and tells everyone they’re all leaving for Moscow as soon as they’ve buried her father. Bourienne suggests they stay, deciding they’ll be well treated by the French officers. Bourienne is an idiot. Marya’s not hearing it. The manservant, Tikhon, says the peasants are making some trouble about the horses. She goes outside to address these people and asks what’s going on. The head man insists there are no horses. Uh, then how did she and the others get there? What happened to those horses? She calls him on that BS and says she’ll protect them all at their estate near Moscow, but if they stay, they’ll be slaughtered. One of the men insists the French will give them land and set them free. Who told him that? Marya accuses them of taking advantage of the situation and orders them to get the horses ready.
Nikolai and some of his men are riding through the countryside. They’re stopped by Tikhon and Marya’s maid, who ask him to come to the house to speak to Marya, because she’s in a pickle. They agree to help and are shown to Marya. Nikolai tells her he’ll be pleased and honoured to escort her to Moscow and no one will dare bother her again. She thanks him and the romantic music lets us know that this is an important moment. He sees her to Moscow, darting glances at her the whole way.
In St Petersburg, Anna Pav is fulfilling her duties as exposition fairy and reminding us that the French are coming. This role seems like a real waste of Gillian Anderson. It’s a very unnecessary character, in my view. Vassily reassures her that everything will be all right. A family friend asks Vassily where Helene is, then whispers to Anna that Helene’s knocked up.
Helene’s in bed with…someone, suggesting they get married. He’s confused, because she’s still married. She says the marriage was never consummated and Pierre would totally have it annulled if she asked. He doesn’t seem all that excited by this plan.
Oh, Catiche is back, also fulfilling an exposition fairy role by asking Pierre if he’s given up his plan to go to war. He claims he has not. She sneers at him and leaves.
Nikolai writes to his family and tells them he’s safe, but they should really get out of Moscow. He also tells them he was able to help out Marya recently and she was very grateful. Sonya looks devastated when she hears that. Natalya hopes something might come of this.
Nikolai and a fellow officer join a party at the local governor’s place. One woman there tells him he made a great impression on Marya, and oh, by the way, did he know she was staying with her aunt nearby? He seems quite interested to hear that. The woman straight up offers to arrange the match for him, but he says it’s not quite that easy.
He goes to visit her the next day, and she’s pleased to see him. He comments that it seems like fate, the two of them being there at the same time.
Andrei joins Kutuzov, who greets him joyfully and tells him how sorry he is about Bolkonsky. Andrei asks to fight alongside his regiment in the battle and Kutuzov warns him that it’s going to be super bloody, but it has to happen. They’re at Borodino. We already know how this is going to go. For Napoleon, at least.
Pierre, too, has reached the camp. He watches some holy persons march through the camp, singing as people doff their caps and watch. Kutuzov kneels as they pass. Once they’re gone, Pierre is spotted and greeted by Dolokhov, who says he’s sorry for wronging Pierre and hopes they can make it up before almost certain death.
Pierre moves through the camp and finally finds Andrei, who is not at all pleased to see him.
Andrei: Everything I have on my plate, and now I have to babysit you too? Come on!
He urges Pierre to get his ass home, but Pierre’s come all this way and he’s not leaving without seeing a battle! Andrei sort of rolls his eyes and agrees to let him stay.
Later, they talk about the possibility of winning. Andrei thinks the chances are slim. Pierre once again broaches the topic of Natasha, but still Andrei won’t speak of her. But then he softens and talks about how much he loved her soul and her innocence. But then Anatole came along and ruined all that. And with that, he decides to turn in for the night. Sweet dreams, Andrei.
Napoleon dictates a pre-battle speech that’s read out to his men.
Pierre is wakened by the sound of gunfire and goes to see what there is to see. What there is to see is two massive armies already covering the battlefield in artillery smoke and columns and columns of soldiers, marching forward. Kutuzov spots him and Pierre offers to help, or to fight, even. Kutuzov tells him to do whatever he likes.
Pierre joins the artillery and just sits there, out of the way, laughing and not scared. I can’t believe he’s actually treating a horrifically bloody battle as some sort of spectator event. This is so gross, Pierre!
Meanwhile, Andrei and the real soldiers are getting shot and blown up left and right. The French artillery is merciless.
Pierre finally manages to make himself slightly useful. He goes to help get some reserve artillery and just barely manages to avoid being blown to bits when a shell hits the artillery wagon. The other soldier who was with him is obliterated. Pierre drops to his knees beside the man’s body.
He returns to the battle and reports the ammunition boxes were blown up. But it doesn’t matter, because the French have broke through the line. Pierre kills one of the French soldiers.
Napoleon is told that reinforcements need to be sent in, and their left flank is in danger of collapse. He calls for the army to fall back and regroup while they keep up the artillery shelling.
As Andrei and his men march forward, an artillery shell drops right next to them. The others duck, since they actually care about being alive, but Andrei just stands there, watching the fuse burn down.
He’s taken to the field hospital and the doctor checks him out, tells him this is a bad wound, but they’ll do what they can. He glances over at the man writhing in pain beside him. The man’s having his leg removed (thanks, show!) and then Andrei realises it’s Anatole. Small world. Also, I guess you’ve kind of had your revenge, right, Andrei? Anatole begs for Andrei to have pity and Andrei…forgives. He reaches across the space between them and takes Anatole’s hand.
Pierre’s made it through without a scratch, though it looks like that impractical white waistcoat he wore is a loss. He looks out over the devastation, blinking in amazement. Napoleon, too, can’t seem to believe how this went.
Kutuzov reports that the spirit of Napoleon’s army has been broken, and Napoleon himself has suffered a terrible wound. He does not, however, agree to pursue and destroy the French as the others urge him to do. Looks like Moscow’s not out of the firing line yet.