“War” sees a truly great character meet their end as Nicholas II goes away to war, and Alexandra steadily loses her grip on reality.
This The Last Czars Episode 4 Netflix recap for the episode titled “War” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Behold, folks, the rise and fall of Grigori Rasputin. The Last Czars Episode 4, “War”, sees him at his most powerful, but also his most desperate and pathetic. By its end, he’s dead, assassinated in a swanky courtyard by a group of conservative noblemen. But it takes a while to get there, and plenty is happening in the meantime that is worthy of attention.
Rasputin’s general dislike among Russia’s populace and its high society is no secret. Shortly after “War” opens, he’s stabbed by a woman calling him a rapist. (If we’re frank, she’s right.) And to make matters worse, the First World War is underway. Austria and Germany are on Russia’s doorstep, and Nicholas must make a decision about whether or not to commit. Rasputin advises against it, and thus so does Alexandra, who clearly values the monk’s opinion more than anyone’s. But Nicholas commits.
He wants to commit more than he’s able — cowardice holds him back. Instead of commanding the Russian forces himself, he appoints in his stead a well-liked family-favorite general, Nikolasha, who has a conflict of his own with Rasputin. As the entire Imperial family turns to the war effort, converting palaces into hospitals, mucking in with the wounded, and using lovey-dovey photographs of the Romanov children as inspiration for the soldiers on the front, Rasputin begins planting seeds that Nicholas should command the war effort himself — from the front.
Of more immediate concern are the ever-worsening rumors of Alexandra’s and Rasputin’s affair, which is much talked about in the press after Rasputin gets leathered at a restaurant, pulls out his p***s and begins bragging about how much influence he has over the Empress. And yet he isn’t wrong. When Nicholas explains that distancing themselves from Rasputin would be in their best interests, Alexandra berates him into leaving for the front lines in order to command the army; this, she thinks, will be a great display of control and strength. Nicholas, pretending he has been called to the position by God, goes to war.
As Nicholas busies himself in a war that is presently being won by the Germans, Alexandra, increasingly paranoid and dependent on Rasputin, is left in charge of Russia, much to the chagrin of virtually everyone. The government quickly becomes destabilized after ministers are swapped on a whim, and Nicholas’s mother visits him at the front to demand that he attempts to regain some control. He does — and it fails miserably, as ever. Alexandra, using the age-old technique of bargaining with sex, surprises him and charms him into letting her — and by extension Rasputin — do whatever she wants.
On the frontlines, we meet Yakov Yurovsky (Duncan Pow), who will become more important to the story later. Public support of the Russian war machine is rapidly eroding; everyone is convinced that Alexandra is a German spy, given her heritage, and that she’s simply the puppet of Rasputin, who has his own designs on absolute power. Thus, the decision is made, by a group of nobles led by Felix Yusopov (Gerard Miller), the promiscuous husband of Nicholas’s niece, to assassinate him.
The attempt, despite being poor, is ultimately successful. Rasputin is able to ingest seemingly copious amounts of cyanide without ill-effect, but he isn’t bulletproof. The Last Czars Episode 4 ends with him being shot in the courtyard of Moika Palace by right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich. “War” plays this as a cliffhanger, but anyone with knowledge of history knows that Rasputin doesn’t survive. Will the show continue to be as good without him? I have my doubts.