TV Rundown: Week of Jan 31 | The Penultimate 'War & Peace,' A Red Wedding on 'The Blacklist' - Plus, 'PLL'

War and Peace hurdled towards its conclusion with a penultimate installment that saw turmoil at the home front reach a fevered pitch. Natasha made the life-altering decision to break off her engagement with Andrei so she could hook up with Helene’s devious brother, Anatole.

Despite vowing to remain loyal to Andrei, following his father’s demand for a year-long engagement, she blew everything just a few months shy of being able to marry him. Falling under the smarmy influence of the dastardly Anatole meant Natasha wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to make her see sense.

Sonja futilely attempted to reason with her, arguing that she’d only known Anatole for 3 days and was destroying her reputation and by extension, her family’s in order to be with him. She also pointed out the difference between the deeply rooted love Natasha had grown with Andre over a substantial period of time, compared to her rapidly built rapport with Anatole and how they could not be on the same level of love.

Natasha’s response was to spitefully declare her hatred for Sonja and continue pining away for her loathsome paramour of two seconds. It wound up taking a bold move from Sonja to protect her cousin from her abysmal judgment. Though it was ultimately Pierre who made Natasha see the error of her ways by informing her that Anatole was already married, crushing her delusional perception of him. Had Pierre not have had that indisputable fact on his side, it's safe to say Natasha would’ve never come out of her trance.

Natasha’s behavior was downright scary as she marauded around her house like a starved animal, looking to tear apart anyone who stood in the way of her unsavory meal. These scenes bit with a blistering realism and Lily James’ fantastic performance as the histrionic Natasha was one of the main reasons why. The camera swirled around to give the sense of intoxicating chaos, while the juxtaposed sedate direction of Natasha’s ensuing nervous breakdown similarly worked to convey the vibe of those scenes.

Out of all of the families, the Rostova’s have the best parents and the worst children. Neither Natasha nor her brother Nikolai, think or care about anyone more than themselves and what they want. Can they find redemption before the end? We’ll have to wait and see.

[Image by NBC]
The Blacklist threw a red wedding and guest star Tony Shalhoub was among those included on the episode’s guest list. A Blacklister replete with a larger than life persona, Shalhoub’s character was a far cry from his days as the eponymous quirky detective on “Monk” - a prime opportunity for the veteran actor to show off his awesome acting chops.

It took the entire episode to learn Red’s motives behind targeting this particular villain and when the time came for all to be revealed, it came together in a succinct sequence that tied together the threads of the episode’s other mystery: Red’s flashbacks to a past relationship that ended in violent tragedy. What, if any, impact that relationship will prove to have on the long-term course of the series remains to be seen.

The other major focus of 'Alistar Pitt (No. 103)' was Liz’s baby dilemma. Let’s be honest, Liz’s handling of this entire situation has been abysmal. Her disregard for Tom’s feelings and his rights is incredibly disturbing. He has made his feelings about the situation very clear and she went ahead with pursuing an adoption, regardless.

Never mind that the adoption could not have legally gone through without his permission, something that was stated to her and never addressed again. So why was she getting a couple’s hopes up for a baby that wouldn’t even be available? 

At this point, the only legal right she has is deciding what she wants her relationship with the child to be, not Tom’s. If she doesn’t want to raise it, she should give it to him and stop making decisions she doesn’t have the legal liberty to be making.

It will be interesting to see how Red weighs in on this issue in future episodes. Even though he despises Tom, he can’t deny he has rights and if Red is indeed Liz’s biological father, he’s a father who couldn’t be a part of his child’s life so he should sympathize with how that feels. Just a thought…

Pretty Little Liars trudged through a pretty uneventful episode that seemed to highlight the “Gilligan’s Island” motif of the series. Just as the survivors could never get off the island, the Liars will never find peace from their cyber stalker until the series ends. Unfortunately, to continue this storyline, the mindset of the writers seems to be that the girls will never get a chance to grow from their past experiences.

If anyone needed any proof of how their crisis management skills have not improved in the slightest over the course of the last 5 years, this episode provided it. They are now 10 years older than they were when the series started and appear to be no better for it, maturation wise. 

In “New Guys, New Lies” it was Hanna who especially felt the heat of her repeated mistakes as the security footage drive she’d deleted to protect Aria came back to haunt her. As the hour played out with so many of the echoes that had plagued the last several seasons, the thought of continuing to watch a show where the underpinning status quo will never change, became daunting.

The only differences between "Pretty Little Liars'" past seasons and its current one is that the girls’ are no longer guilty of underage drinking, have new hair-dos, switched romantic partners and are now being harassed by a crazed texter who chiefly uses emojis to get their point across. There is no real light at the end of the tunnel.

The good news is that Toby is not moping around over Spencer. He has a sweet new girlfriend named Yvette and he’s very serious about her. That’s not to say Toby didn’t (unfortunately) give Spencer some longing looks and seem taken aback by the news of her recent coupling with his best bro, Caleb. Well, maybe there should be a ‘former’ placed prior to the ‘best bro’ title now.

The Spencer/Caleb hookup has been the bitterest aspect of the season so far. It is awkward and strange. The weirdest part is that Caleb seems to be way more over Hanna than she is him and one would’ve thought it’d have been the other way around, given their dynamic to this point. Apparently, 5 years can really change things…or not.

[Featured Image by BBC]

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