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I’m not sure what it means that the writers of The Affair decided that Jonathan Franzen would be the one holding Noah up from Thanksgiving, but I’m not sure it’s good. Mostly because nothing he’s doing seems to be great.
Here we see how “Descent” (or whatever his book is called) has ripped and rippled its way through the lives of our cast. It creeps underneath whatever base Alison and Noah have, while also infecting Cole’s returning sense of self.
To really bring that to the characters—who, if we’ve seen anything yet, seem to be so entrenched in drama and bullshit I’d be surprised if they’re able to pull themselves out of it unless something huge happened—we need outsiders. For Noah and Alison that comes in the form of an agent and a mother-in-law, and for Cole it comes in the form of Whitney.
Like last week, it’s not really that these people are a wake-up call, so much as they are shining a light on things that had been knowingly ignored. Alison has read Noah’s book, cover to cover, and has been preparing that financial independence because she feels uneasy. But Athena acts as a comfort and a thorn that Alison finally responds to. Cole snaps at Lucia when she shows him love because he’s been down that road before, and it still hurts. But his drive to the city with Whitney following a disastrous night at the Lockharts’ gives him a reminder of the compassion within him.
A lot of Noah/Alison’s troubles felt straight out of “The Last Five Years;” right down to Noah thinking Alison doesn’t understand why this book party is important, instead of understanding that his pregnant fiancee is standing up her mother. That’s why it felt good that Athena was there. Seeing their relationship mend (even if the actual mending largely happens off-screen) has actually been beautiful to watch over the arc of this show, so all their scenes together feel honest, even when Alison is still wary of Athena’s constant help. Athena is smarter now than she seems to have been during Alison’s childhood (or maybe than she let her know—that thing with Grandma’s will did happen a while ago, presumably). Her insight is able to straddle both that of a friend and a mother, while never feeling wholly like either one.
Cole, meanwhile, is in rougher waters with his family. He has apparently all but checked out on the Lockhart gang, including missing his sister-in-law’s miscarriage. Him and Scotty are still in talks to open a club (with Scotty proposing logos that he has already inked into himself—lord) but it seems Cole is starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. And he takes that out on Lucia.
There’s not a whole lot to say on Cole’s plot line here, which unlike the other characters exists almost entirely on its own. So here we spend a lot of time playing catch up and dealing with stuff that is more tangentially related. Really Cole and Alison’s plot lines here mirror in two ways: 1) There’s a lot of someone else’s shit being dropped at your front door for you to deal with. And 2) The whole Lockhart curse thing where apparently Cherry believes they can’t have any more kids—except…Alison’s?? According to Oscar that’s exactly what Scotty figured out the night he was killed. Dun DUn DUNNN.
- “For this place, for this…crazy coffeemaker!” Athena manages to touch on exactly the right things in her observations.
- Whitney has still never stayed at Noah’s. But now she has!
- I feel like Athena played that apartment entry just right: She’s impressed by the lush, high-rollin’ life her daughter leaves, but still aware that all this sleek chrome isn’t Allie’s speed, per se.
- It also touches on something the agent says at dinner: “Thanks to Alison, you finally have a personality.” Something Noah has always been afraid of—that he’s not the be all, end all genius on his own. And Alison has yet to bring a lot of personality to this place.
- Lowkey C plotline: Max being really bitter about Helen. Alright, guy.
- Really PR lady? That many shares in 15 minutes? Pssssssh.
- Alison says Noah watched her have sex with Cole. Noah: Which you did for my benefit. JESUS.
- I’m glad that she sold the house to Cole. And also that Cole has some happiness.