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From the get-go, The Affair has always been about perspective. How can you you tell the same story from two perspectives? How does that change events? What is the truth? What do we learn about each character from such a device? What can they learn? For Alison and Cole, the show has been a bit more focused on one question that unites them: What are you after you’ve had to bury your child?
Since episode one, part of the allure of the affair for Alison was to figure out who she was after this unspeakable tragedy. She didn’t know what her role was, post-Gabriel, and as she tells Robert in “205,” Noah awakened something in her. Since then, much of who she is—her joys, her pains, her futures—have been tied up in him. So now that he’s gone (and also court-mandated to keep her removed from his kids) who is she? This week she embarks on figuring that out…and it doesn’t look great.
Ruth Wilson does some great work here, even if it’s not the most compelling thread of Alison’s life we’ve seen her explore. Her volleying between Yvonne’s (possibly) book-informed coldness towards her, Robert’s seemingly deep understanding of her past and character (if a bit pervy), and Noah’s sex-crazed literary version of her upheaves everything Alison was grasping onto over the past few months. And she needs someone to see her, or at least affirm her.
Someone once told me that they had kept a secret from me while discussing it with others because my “opinion mattered more,” and they didn’t want to get hurt. There’s a very real chance that’s why Noah kept his book out of Alison’s hands. But once she’s lost her job, her friends (makeshift or no), and can’t get ahold of her
boyfriend fiancee, she’s left being the last person to read the book—and that can’t feel good.
So she heads back to Montauk, where Cole is also struggling with identity. After living another life as a devoted father, husband, and son, whose roots extended deep into his town, he’s now slipping into a good lay and a drunk—or, put simply, his brother Scotty. He spends a lot of the episode telling himself (and others) that he’s not his brother, and when Alison shows up to their marital house it seems like a way to reaffirm that for himself.
So many moments in “205” stung in a much quieter way than Helen and Noah’s troubles from last week: The fact that Alison and Cole’s comfort sex probably met a lot more to him than her, the way Alison blunders through every moment in Yvonne’s office (under her watchful and disdainful glare, no less), the ferocious venom and truth in Helen’s warnings to Alison.
Joshua Jackson has always been good one the show, but the way he jumps from pain to pain with only his face cuts right to the core. He’s been so far past figuring out who he is that now that he sees a possible future/lifeline in the form of Louisa it could read as a bit overwhelming. But as he enjoys a beer on his porch, post-coital, contemplating his ex-wife in his bed and another woman’s number on his hand, it feels honest; grounding what could be cheap writing to feel more like cosmic coincidence.
We know that in the future he’s married, comfortable enough to invite Noah and Alison to his wedding, and—now—that he stole Scotty’s nightclub idea and went into business without him. Plus apparently the Lockharts own the Lobster Roll now. It’s not a whole lot of perspective, but it’s something.
- Alison is blonder now, right?
- I loved Wilson’s face as she said “she doesn’t want me there.” Also her wtf face when Robert tells her “you were never meant to be someone’s assistant, kid.” It felt to me like he was trying to convey that she was meant for grander things, but having been turned down from jobs with the “you seem like a self-starter; something’s going to come along” line, I know all too well how well-intentioned advice like that can leave the other person feeling dropped.
- Man Helen and Cole are both finding post-divorce sex life is filled with annoying talkers.
- I cannot emphasize how awkward it was every time Alison was in Yvonne/Robert’s house. The closest I felt to being comfortable was the physical therapy scene, where they really generated a lot of warmth and camaraderie. It was also the first time we’ve really seen Alison express feeling loved. And look how that ended.
- FYI: “Guess you just have that effect on men” is not an appropriate way to handle that situation.
- So Noah writes romance novels? Obviously we’re supposed to take that as Alison’s main takeaway from his novel, but those scenes felt pretty explicit (and seemingly common) for that book to be about much else.
- That’s halfway through the season! Where are we with the murder mystery? Not necessarily as far as I thought we would be, but we know more about most of the players involved and how they come together in the future, which I suppose is a bit more than we knew this time last year.