Proof that not all happy endings are deserved.
7.2 million people tuned in to watch the finale of War and Peace last night, where lovely Pierre (Paul Dano) finally got the girl he deserved and Natasha (Lily James) was ‘forgiven’ for the terrible, life-ruining crime of briefly flirting with another man.
‘Do you think you could love me?’ Pierre asked Natasha with the sort of quiet, vulnerable intensity that only a very fine actor like Dano can really pull off. ‘Yes, I could’ Natasha replied, ‘I do.’
‘Hooray!’ we all cried from our sofas as the pair sealed it with a kiss.
But as the credits rolled over a futuristic scene of Natasha, Pierre and extended family enjoying an idyllic summer picnic, this writer couldn’t help but feel a little pang of annoyance at the other ‘happy ending’ of the series. That of Natasha’s brother Nikolai and Princess Marya.
Because really, wasn’t Nikolai a bit of a bastard?
Fickle, brattish, spoiled, Nikolai Rostov (played by Jack Lowden) spent most of the series using his poor cousin Sonya’s heart like a stress ball. He’d make soppy moon eyes across the drawing room at her, draw her into corridors and tell her they’d be married soon as he got back from war, only to trot off to battle and decide he’s not really a one-woman sort of guy after all. Also, what sort of person says ‘I love you now, but I can’t guarantee I’ll feel that way in the future’?
Nikolai’s moment of absolute Peak Douchery came in episode six, when the Rostov family decamped to see relatives in the Russian countryside. After already leading Sonya on and dropping her like a hot potato, she looked like she was just about getting over it. That was the moment Nikolai decided, obviously, that he did quite like her after all.
To add insult to injury the family were by this point broke – and really hoping he’d fall on his sword and marry someone with a bit of wedge rather than the penniless relative he’d already rejected – but he decided to bring it up with them anyway and let his mother throw nice Sonya under the bus in the process.
Oh, and why were the family penniless? Well partly because Nikolai had gone and gambled a small fortune away in a single drunken night – we’re talking the Russian nineteeth century equivalent of a few hundred thousand pounds – only to show up hungover and announce the loss bluntly to his poor father, who was nice enough to say it ‘couldn’t be helped.’ It could be helped Nikolai, you selfish little bastard.
But he wasn’t finished. After declaring undying love to Sonya (once again) off he trotted to war with her hopeful heart firmly back in his pocket.
Until, of course, he laid eyes on nice, rich Princess Marya and decided he rather fancied her instead. Never mind Sonya. Bye bye again. You’ll get over it – again.
Yet despite behaving badly, hurting Sonya (twice), and causing overall family stress which contributed to his father’s early death, Nikolai ended up marrying the girl with all the money, while heartbroken Sonya was left to a lifetime of spinsterhood. Still, at least she was invited to live with them all so she could watch the love of her life she could never have and his new wife up close.
See what we mean? What a bastard.