Total Affair of the Heart (S2 E1)

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I feel like I’ve said this before, but “The Affair” has never been the most nuanced show with its visual imagery. And clearly, season 2 is ready to double down on that.

If the mess of emotions we left our characters in at the end of last season didn’t tip us off, the premiere of season 2 did: A storm is coming. And our web of people and lies is smack dab in the middle of it.

Only know we get to see them grow: This season has already seen the introduction of Helen’s point of view, and next episode will be Allison and Cole. And though the show seems to be committing to more dramatically different memories of events (if you’ll recall, last season’s finale really took divergent memories to the extreme) it seems to be committing to them a bit more honestly here.

Of minor note: Helen wears white in Noah's memory, and a more solemn black in her own.
Of minor note: Helen wears white in Noah’s memory, and a more solemn black in her own.

The narrative device—at its best—serves to show us not just how the primary characters are seeing the world, but also what those around them are playing off of. It’s not that memories IRL are necessarily so different, so much as the emotions that cloud what we remember about a scene or event effect what hurt and feelings end up sticking with us.

The wildly different memories of the mediator scene actually felt more natural to me; it makes sense that both halves of the former couple would feel talked down to, bruised, and miffed at the other’s curt reactions. It explains the gulf between them, if it doesn’t necessarily excuse it.

Helen’s POV is new, so let’s start there: Here we see that Noah is a jerk (no surprise, for either us who have already found him to be a jerk in basically every POV, or for an ex-wife to feel that way about her philandering ex-husband), and Helen is sad. It should be an interesting exercise now that we get to see Helen in her own right, not through her husband as he falls of love or his mistress as she falls deeper into an affair.


So far it’s been a lot of how we manage our grief and, sadly, how others do. Throughout her half Helen is indulged, somewhat, but often it’s limited by others; the most heartbreaking scene comes as she arrives home after a rough afternoon and finds Whitney screaming about her essay, her mother micromanaging her house, and her youngest son weeping because he’s learned that his whole world is permanently upended.

On the flip side, Noah’s world has him really (and somewhat finally) grappling with how decisions can affect and ricochet through the lives of others. It’s present in the more obvious interactions with his family—very heated arguments with his ex-mother-in-law, his kids removing themselves from his presence—but it’s also in the small conversations with his friend, who plans to have his wife call Helen and set up a dinner. It may all feel worth it when Noah comes home to Allison, but the conversation that these two will have for the rest of their lives, or at least for the forseeable future, isn’t going away. For him the storm seems to be just brewing over his shoulder, just out of reach. And for Helen the storm is in full swing.

Stray thoughts:

  • It’s one of the more “classic” books my somewhat unorthodox education covered back in the day, but I loved the dance around/spoiler alert for “Of Mice and Men.” Thanks for lookin’ out guys.
  • In neither reality is that a mediation guy I’d want to have. You’d think it was his first mediation, I mean damn.
  • The characters of color number is going up!
  • Future Watch: We know he’s happy with Allie, but there seem to be some smoother waters with Helen, he’s finally able to accept money for a lawyer. Or he’s just that desperate.
  • Peen sighting—ok cable tv, I see you.
  • Should be interesting to see how this show starts to develop now that they’re playing with four irons in the fire. It almost feels like the story itself is going to be less sprawling. With four POV we may cover less ground and stick to a core couple of months, given that for the most part they’d save 4-memories of one day/event/episode for bigger happenings. I’m also wondering if the show will continue to split evenly, or if they’ll find themselves playing around with last minute reveals by quickly changing character POVs. Long story short, excited to see what they do with the expanded landscape.
  • Welcome back everybody!

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