Total Affair of the Heart – 302

This week The Affair is all about women trying to do right by their children while also doing right by themselves. But that’s about where the resemblance ends for Allison and Helen.

For Helen we get a jump in the past, a year back from the “current” timeline, and we see she’s struggling to move past her involvement in the accident. She goes to visit Noah and he seems to only swing between openly cold and openly rude, casually reminding her that it’s Helen he has to thank for landing him in prison to begin with. With his half-closed eye and cheek gash it’s a far cry from the spry, optimistic Noah we saw in the last flashback, and Helen senses that too. Allison still lingers in the air; Helen can’t bring herself to say her name, but she tries to acknowledge Noah’s actions as an apology. He shrugs it, and any relationship, off.

And his nastiness haunts her throughout her day: she can’t shake the weight, and tries to make the case for her own culpability that night at dinner with Vic, Whitney, and Furkat, Whitney’s new, much older, artist boyfriend. But—as I’m sure we’ll see her struggle with this season—without outrightly acknowledging it, there’s no way she can move past it and cope. On some level Helen already knows that. And so Whitney’s defense of her mother (which is a far-cry from their relationship in season 1) is of no help.

But as we see in her fight with Vic—which starts as a fight over a text, but evolves into a fight encompassing their whole relationship—this is the status quo for her. She’s held people at arm’s length so long she forgot what it’s like to have an elbow. And now the only person who can really see her is Noah, and he doesn’t want to see her at all.

Unfortunately for Allison, the only person she can’t see is the one she’s desperate to: Joanie. We learn (through heavy exposition with Oscar) that she had a bit of breakdown when Joanie turned four, something she relates to her daughter turning four, the same age Gabriel was when he died. It’s unclear, right now, exactly what happened. If it was Gabriel related, and not Scotty related; if she was forced to sign the papers when she shouldn’t have been; if Luisa actually hates her or just cares a lot about Joanie and Cole, who Allison has hurt immensely. Either way, she’s stuck without visitation rights and a small apartment in Montauk.

But she’s also got some thawing relationships: Cole eventually acquiesces and allows her to see Joanie (for an hour, and what looks like supervised visits), even if he’s still explicitly bitter. And though I made light of her relationship with Oscar, Ruth Wilson plays the scene exactly right, helping carry every bit of Oscar and Allison’s relationship into the conversation. When we’ve seen him in the past say he goes way back with Allison (and Cole) it seemed vindictive, but here it’s clear that they’ve been friends, or some more strained facsimile, for a long time. The way teases come almost as quickly as confessions.

She’s a much less self-assured Allison than we’re accustomed to, even in her own rendering. It’s not that Allison hasn’t always been cursed with more than a tinge of self-doubt, but in the past she was able to in some way confidently act. Her conversations with the post office lady and her wavering at the playground show play like she’s under immense self-control—for exactly what? I’m guessing that’s for another confessional with someone much closer than Oscar.

Stray Thoughts: 

  • I had forgotten about Vic. I still like him, and his ability to cut through Helen’s bullshit, even if he is sometimes also talking bullshit (like when he’s yelling at her on the street after they get back from dinner). That said the elevator ride is (even if totally on brand) interminable—and he keeps texting after the alarm, my God. He’s still an expert at dodging Helen’s knife eyes. But moving in over a fight is a terrible way to do it, and it doesn’t seem like from what we’ve seen of Helen that Vic is long for this world.
  • “They have been through a lot.” “Honestly you’d have to bring your own waterboard to fuck them up more than my Dad did.”
  • Trevor is a pain now, and Stacey looks a lot like her older sister.
  • “I have a terrible relationship with my father, and I turned out great—” “Shut up.” Oh Furkat. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of you, and your intimate portraits.
  • “Joanie likes yellow now” is one of the coldest shut downs I’ve ever seen.
  • One thing this episode doesn’t get into is why she felt she had to tell Cole at all. Luisa seems to earn some rightful suspicion here, since I’m guessing though she didn’t tell Cole at his own wedding, it sounds like she did it shortly after. We know that the wedding was a breaking point for her needing to tell Noah, who she continued to be happily in a relationship with and raising Joanie until he went to jail. So why did she fess up to Cole?
  • A lot of modern references here, with Oscar mentioning ISIS and Helen saying a friend’s dad voted for Trump.
  • Any guesses on who she was talking to on the phone? Mother? Institution/doctor? Oprah?
  • The cab ride home with the picture is one of the funniest shots The Affair has ever done. Thanks to Decider for blessing us with the (censored) gif: 

 

 

 

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Total Affair of the Heart (Episode 10)

For previous posts, check the tag here

Where to start with this finale.

As finales go, I would say this one isn’t going down in the hall of fame, but still managed to be a fairly entertaining (and jam packed!) hour of television. The show has definitely evolved in its ten episodes; taking a turn away from the subtlety of, say, “Mad Men” for the full-on soapy-nature “Nashville” somewhere in there. Which all culminates, sort of, in this finale. Guns are brandished about, passionate love-making sessions fly by (save some montage for the rest of us, Noah), and no one is happy about most things in their life.

When I was taking notes for this post, I found a lot more of my notes were abrupt things that would normally be jotted down in the “additional thoughts” bullet points following an article that discussed a bigger aspect of the episode. Which is probably where this finale fails to feel like a finale: it’s got way too much plot and very little answers to back it up. Sometimes that makes the questions fun—now that Noah is arrested and we’ve seen that look between him and Allison before she answers the door for the police, I’m a lot more interested in learning what’s happening in the time between these plot lines. But in other ways that variation in tone can make for a scatterbrained episode of TV, and when that episode happens to be your finale it can create some problems.

This episode feels like the capper to a whole different breed of season, which until now has seemed to only casually dabbled into the frenetic pacing of primetime soaps. An earlier episode might’ve taken the time to explore or at least observe Allison in her new sense of serenity that she’s found at her mother’s hippie camp. It would splash around in the fact that she’s now on great terms with Athena, but by the time she’s back to Cole she brushes off her mother as “the same.”

Easily one of the way the show has changed most in how it handles its perspective-shifting tool, which in the scenes at the ranch is the most jarring it’s ever been in this episode. The explanations I’ve read from the creator haven’t fully satisfied my craving for justification. I’m all for exploring how a tense and stressful situation could lead to unreliable memories, but here I’m prone to think there’s a bigger, longer con being played on us as an audience, because there’s no way you straight up disagree of the cause, location, players, etc. that much. But at this point in time I have no idea what they would be covering up with a trick like that. affair-finale-gun-scene

It’s a shame too, because Joshua Jackson was really acting his ass off in his monologue. Cole’s been an interesting slow-boil this season; easily the member of a couple we know and see the least about. He also seems to be one of the only people in the entire universe of “The Affair” who still believe in loving, happy marriages. From Noah’s agent to Noah to Helen to Helen’s parents, there’s so much pessimism of people who seemed to make calculated choices with their marriage, but Jackson really sells that Cole and Allison were very happily in love and married for that reason.

And where will he be next season? Where will anyone be next season, really? I guess we’ll now be dealing with flash forwards where Noah is undergoing some sort of legal processing (court? prolonged stint in jail?), and as interested as I am in that plot line I do wonder whether the show will try to return to its roots—here being the way Allison and Noah’s relationship has created a ripple effect across the lives of so many people—now that its ironed out the first season. That plot line would fit into Allison’s explanation to Detective Jefferies that whatever wedding they were at was because it’s a tight community, despite whatever animosity they may have.

I guess we’ll find out if “The Affair” is more “Parks and Rec,” figuring out their footing and running from there; or “30 Rock,” moving from a smart, tightly crafted show to a more goofy (though mostly just as smart) and looser show model.
  • I don’t know why it makes me so excited now that we know Allison is on whatever Noah is hiding but it does. She’s been so good this whole season, I’m intrigued to see how they justify this.
  • Please don’t let it be a “we’re so hopelessly in love I’d do anything for you baby” reason.
  • Are all the men in this world scumbags, or just the one Noah attracts? I feel like one way “The Affair” writers can grow in season 2 is by making the conversation between men not so heavy-handed about their marital strife.
  • Maura Tierney, bringing it as per uzghe this week. Here she’s in a confusingly believable scene where Noah is shocked Helen is even considering divorce proceedings (four months after he moved out because he told her he was in love with someone else) and yet still lets her beg him to return to their house.
  • I’d be interested to see more from Noah and Helen’s oldest son, who clearly has a solid grasp on the emotions running rampant through his household, even if his parents don’t.
  • Whitney is consistently the perfect 17-year-old who honestly can’t see that a 30-year-old sleeping with her is a red flag, and then takes it out on those around her.
  • In Noah’s version of events both Helen and Allison are in white, with Allison wearing a high neckline and Whitney wearing a lower cut. But in Allison’s her and Helen are in more muddy colors, and Whitney is practically dressed like a catholic school girl.
  • Well guys, we did it! I hope these have been as much fun for you as they have for me. I’ll be back with more when season 2 hits, and hopefully a show or two in between now and then.