Andrei and Natasha are very much in love (and who wouldn't be after that beautiful ball at the Imperial Palace?). But Andrei's eccentric father (another brilliant turn by Jim Broadbent) gives him a test. Stay away for a year and take a cure. If his love is still strong at the end of that time, then fine. The marriage will be OK. Now Andrei is 31. Mature, stoic and disciplined. Used to having to wait and obedient to his father. Natasha is still a teenager - raging hormones and all. And she has a terminal problem with her attention span, in spite of being a really good, kind-hearted soul. So waiting for a year was always going to cause trouble. The distractions of the visit to "Uncle" were well done, but the point of Natasha's dance (a beautiful turn by Lily James) was rather lost in the surrounding "atmosphere", for all it looked gorgeous. I notice that the bloody and brutal end to the hunt, put in in the 1973 version was tastefully left out this time. And I think that's OK. We get far too much de-sensitising violence on TV these days. Violence is OK too. But where it is needed, not gratuitously. Having said that, there was a point to the hunt in the Tolstoy novel - Natasha here gets close to the facts of Nature and the Land, represented by "Uncle" in a way that Tolstoy felt was essentially part of the core of Russian-ness. Again with the rushing of the plot, this point was largely missed. And it is a point Tolstoy repeats to a degree in Anna Karenina, in the character of Levin.
Eventually the waiting gets too much for poor Natasha. The impressionable and distressed teen is fodder for the twin horrors that are Helene and Anatole. This nasty pair of soul-mates love playing with their "toys", about whom they care not a fig. And Natasha is their latest target. The drama handled this part exceptionally well - showing in some psychological depth how the Helene/Anatole double-team worked to crack Natasha's crumbling reserve. The acting here by all concerned was brilliant, especially Tuppence Middleton's horrifying and psychopathically reptilian portrayal of Countess Bezukhov.
Lily James did Natasha's subsequent psychological disintegration perfectly and Paul Dano was wonderfully sympathetic as Pierre, conflicted in his love for Natasha and Andrei. Natasha's journey towards love through suffering is now well under way. And because of Napoleon, all of Russia is about to be sucked into the Black Hole of War with her.
Part 5 is coming. And it's going to hurt. Everyone.
(thanks to the BBC for the picture above once again)