I’ve touched on this point in the past, but let’s take a time out from Noah and Allison to talk about how great their spouses are. Specifically the actors. It’s not easy to play someone through someone else’s eyes and to make that character convincing. But Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson do just that.
There’s a certain subversive element to Tierney’s performance. Her character could easily have been a shrew stock-type, nagging Noah and ultimately driving him away. But Tierney’s performance elevates the character exponentially, giving Helen a real life feel that could’ve so easily been swept under the rug.
This week, as she confronts Noah about his affair, it’s so interesting to watch the way Tierney handles the dialogue–particularly interesting given that it’s all being filtered through Noah to us. We’re able to see the things that he perceives she values, and it’s sort of remarkable the way Tierney is able to balance his intake with her emphasis. When she calls Allison “just a waitress” you can see how that line stands out to him (this show often mingles with the idea of class, and we know that his and Helen’s relationship is at an awkward crux around it), but Tierney give it its own spin. She’s a wife trying to grasp how her husband could so monumentally fuck up for an appeal she can’t understand.
She’s been through this with her own father and mother, and it’s Tierney who really drives that point home in the scene. This is a woman who in some way steeled herself for this for years. She wants him to give her the standard reasons we can assume her father did–she was 22, she was a model–anything other than that he threw away his entire life, her life, her kids’ lives, for “just a waitress.”
Jackson’s portrayal of Cole in this episode is such a gentle example of what a constipation their communication has become. Their differences are stark: how they feel about the city, how they feel about the porch, how they feel about change in their lives; and Allison senses this. We know she does; we see it week after week when Cole makes an offhand comment to her and she grimaces.
Which is why his monologue is so heartbreaking. Until now we haven’t really spent enough time with just Cole (and Allison, I suppose), so it’s an abrupt shift when Allison sits alone with him and finally sees how much pain he’s in. She’s always seen his passion; even when it’s bad, she can see how much he cares for her and his family.
But, in some of the best acting and writing I think this show has to offer, Allison is never aware when Cole turns that love towards her. She’s shocked when the real reason he came to the city isn’t to hunt down the man who might’ve stolen their coke but to figure out why she did it.
It occurred to me that until now no one on the show has touched on how Cole handled Gabriel’s death. It’s possible in her blind grief Allison wasn’t even aware he woke up every night in tears. So it’s left to Jackson (who really knocks it out of the park here) to communicate all that pain and grief that he’s locked up inside of him, and the result is heart-wrenching.
In most circumstances it’d be easy to brush off some simple psychology like his anecdote about his father’s death, but here it slips in nicely with how Cole and Allison have been so out of sync. In his experience previously he found a way to return to normal. And while he can’t fathom why that can’t happen now, she knows that this change has to see itself through, and she knows she can’t do it in Montauk. But now that she’s remembered that the alpha male can step out of his shell, she might be starting to think that she can do it with Cole.
- I really find myself rooting for the married couples. Or at least Cole and Allison. In the end it didn’t seem to me like she was saying goodbye to Noah as she looked as the skyline, so much as she was finally getting the change she needed from her own relationship.
- I feel like they could blow their entire affair just based on how many times they pretend to be introduced to each other. I mean, good god.
- The Detective story here seemed almost slipped in for necessity but not in a bad way. I’m just so intrigued by it I’m always left wanting more.