Hmmm…this is an interesting one.
OK, first of all I have to say that this particular episode took a veeery long time to get going, 40 minutes to be exact, and it reminded me of the first episode; that too had a wooden start, but became excellent after 20 minutes. Maybe there is something of a pattern here; we go through the “feelings” half and then move onto the “drama” afterwards.
Anyway, episode four primarily focuses on Lily James’ character Natasha and her relationship with Andrei, and later on with Anatole. The opening scenes are dedicated to Andrei and Natasha and honestly, they are wishy washy and a bit wooden. I have to say that in previous episodes, I didn’t pay much attention to Natasha, since she seemed like a pretty ordinary kind of character. This episode definitely didn’t change my viewpoint, since for the most part, I found her rather uninteresting and saw that she spends most of the episode either crying or saying how happy she is with Andrei; “When will be be back? He makes me so happy!” After a while, when she broke out in tears, I genuinely felt exasperated and annoyed! Also, her crying at the very end was completely hammy and unconvincing.
However, this isn’t the case for the whole episode. Oh no. As I mentioned, at the 40 minute mark, we have that scene at the opera, which is the highlight of the episode by far (I mean, once the opera singer begins, you know something’s going to kick off don’t you?) Anyway, we have a scene involving Anatole and Natasha (and Helene) and I have to say that the sexual tension was unbearable, heightened by a clever use of suggestive close ups and the sound of a heartbeat on the soundtrack. On a similar note, the music used was perfect, reminiscent of “Under the Skin”. I can honestly say that this particular part of the episode got my heart going quite a bit!
And I guess that that leads me to mention the performances. Well, it’s no surprise…Tuppence Middleton steals the show again, reminding me of Sarah Michelle Gellar in “Cruel Intentions” in her scenes with Lily James. In addition, Jim Broadbent gets to be even more cantankerous as Andrei’s father and Aneurin Barnard clearly enjoys his turn as “villain of the week” as Boris, reminding me a bit of Rufus Sewell.
I would also like to again mention Jessie Buckley, playing the role of Marya so wonderfully. She may only have a brief amount of screen time here, compared to episode two, but there is definitely something about her. She seems to play the role almost effortlessly and her small scene with Paul Dano’s Pierre was genuine and believable. On that note, it is clear in this episode that the secondary relationships are far more interesting than the overhyped one of Andrei and Natasha.
So in conclusion, this is actually the weakest episode so far, though it is not bad by any means. The Andrei/Natasha storyline is flat and rocky and the episode probably takes too long to get interesting. But that scene at the opera makes it all worthwhile.
(As a side note, I am very glad that my WAP episode 3 review is my most viewed post by far. To all those who actually read it and didn’t just stumble on it accidentally and leave, I say thank you very much. Keep reading! 😉)