War and Peace is a 2016 period drama, which aired on several networks, including Lifetime, A&E and the History Channel. Of course, it is undeniably a British masterpiece at its core. The 6-episode series brings together some of the most reputable and well known British actors and actress, including Paul Dano, James Norton, Lily James, Jim Broadbent, and Chloe Pirrie. Those that enjoy British television will already be familiar with the majority of these stars.
The series takes place in Russia, during the time of Napoleon’s invasion. At the beginning of the series, the wealthy, aristocratic Russian families are carefree and scoff at the idea of Napoleon and his armies. It is all about partying and climbing the social ladder through marriage and scheming. Of course, this is all about to change and each of the families will encounter major changes and hardships, due to the war. Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton) is one of the first to volunteer and does so mainly to escape his wife, whom he no longer loves.
Meanwhile, his good friend, Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano), remains behind and attempts to find his footing, after the death of his adoptive father. While Andrei faces a fierce enemy, Pierre will need to overcome the advances of a devious mistress, Helene (Tuppence Middleton). With Andrei away at war, his father, Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky (Jim Broadbent) holds nothing back and unleashes his frustration on his daughter, Marya Bolkonskaya (Jessie Buckley). Meanwhile, Andrei teams up with the war veteran, General Mikhail Kutuzov (Brian Cox), and attempts to learn everything he can from the wise General.
During this time, Natasha Rostova (Lily James) and her family continue their lavish lives, until her brother, Nikolai Rostov (Jack Lowden), heads to war. Natasha is young and maintains her lovely fantasies alongside Sonya (Aisling Loftus). Soon, each character’s life will be changed dramatically not only by the war, but also due to the changing society and scheming of those around them. Without going any further and to prevent spoilers, we’ll stop the War & Peace recap there. So, how is the series?
There is truly a lot to like about War & Peace. The scenery, costumes and even the furniture are all immensely beautiful and mesmerizing. The setting feels authentic and truly reeks of realism. This is further expanded upon, thanks to powerful performances from each and every actor and actress. Each character is fascinating in their own right and this includes the minor characters, which matter very little. They’re there and they make an impact on the show and viewer in one way or another, whether for the good or bad.
Despite being a period drama, the problems presented in War & Peace are still rampant in today’s society, which makes the series very relatable. At the same time, the show offers a bit of everything and does so in a magnificent fashion. There is comedy, bleakness and a very complex love triangle. There isn’t a single glaring flaw evident here. Some of the actions are a bit predictable, but it really doesn’t matter in the least. War & Peace is truly the BBC and British television at its finest.
American networks could learn an abundance, by following in suit. To date, War & Peace is undoubtedly one of, if not the very, best television shows of 2016. This early into the year, it is going to be very difficult to top. Everyone should do themselves a favor and check out the show immediately. A strong 9.5 out of 10 is deserved.