Total Affair of the Heart – 303

Well Juliette’s done in one episode what it took Cole and Helen an entire season to. Luckily this also allows for the season’s first, return to “same encounter different perspectives” it’s hung its hat on for so long. Unluckily, there’s not too much to say on this episode really. 

What have we really learned about Juliette, now that we’ve seen her side of the story? Sure now we know that Noah’s account (she came and found him, and practically jumped his bones without any prelude) of the dinner varies wildly from hers (he came and found her, they had a conversation about love and life, before turning to other things), and we know that she’s got a much older husband, who was also once her teacher, who has dementia and lives in France with a nurse. That may be part of the most important thing we’ve gleaned of Juliette’s life: She’s a caretaker, taking in broken men and growing students, and forming bonds around helping them. It could (for once) explain what a woman sees in Noah, or what she sees in her douchey student.

It could also be a gateway to a whole lot of nothing. The Affair falls in line with House of Cards here, wrapping itself in prestige, high-brow drama dressings with little or nothing to show for it. Its constant cynicism about love is tiring. What little juice it keeps in the perspective tank seems to have run out of having much new to say. Whatever promise there is for Juliette as a character seems on a dangerous precipice here: As Angelica Bastién writes of The Affair, the show has some interest in letting its women characters wrestle with their archetypes without letting them say much about it. Helen is a scorned wife with a life, Allison a wounded mother with a complicated emotional pattern, and now Juliette is a sophisiticated European romantic who throws off traditional roles.

We now know about her husband, her perspective, and that she jacks off to Noah’s book (or the thought of Noah?), and not a whole lot else. Is she saying what she thinks Noah wants to hear when she talks about women’s arousal or are her archaic sex views really how she feels? We see her wearily eye a hole-in-the-wall gunshop and a sign-twirling Statue of Liberty, but is it what she thinks of America? Nothing else in the episode seems to hint at her feelings for her adopted country.

On Noah’s end there’s little more resolution: He doesn’t remember who stabbed him, or even really what happened. We get more insight into what happened to him in prison—Brendan Frasier’s prison guard seems to be straight out of Misery—but it’s all set up to what happened to him in the end. All we know is it gets more violent.

These prison flashbacks still rub me the wrong way. Again, there’s a difference between what The Affair was attempting in its first season—telling a story from two sides, all while leading to (seemingly) one-sided future consequences—and what it’s doing here, which is mostly checking off the quirky dark prestige drama toolkit. We don’t know what happened with Noah and his sister 30 years ago (guesses?) that leaves her wracked with guilt, but the writers are content to leave it dangling over the story and the audience. Increasingly like the show’s depiction of Juliette, it feels much less novel and insightful than it does just a hollow copy cat.

Stray Observations

  • Well that’s one way to read, I guess.
  • I guess this is supposed to be the same part of the dinner/consent conversation Noah heard, but this is one of those situations where their takeaways were so wildly different that I have a hard time believing it.
  • Audrey is much more convincing this time around, and comes off a bit less like a shrill feminist archetype, but only barely. They’re still not doing much with her, and her “hate-fuck” thoughts about Noah don’t help.
  • In addition to being much more sheepish and cute as opposed to Noah’s image of her as sultry and seductive, she doesn’t notice a train sound when he runs out. Hers is all non-diagetic music.
Advertisements

Total Affair of the Heart: Season 2 Episode 3

And we’re back: Our first “traditional” episode of the season, bouncing between Noah and Allie’s views of the same events. Which draws a more direct line between the underlying tension of their relationship: It doesn’t matter how committed they both feel they are if they’re not sure where the other person really is. And to some extent they are in wildly different places.

Noah’s trying to shed his old life, and is excited to do so. He’s found a muse and it’s renewed his vigor for life. But in some ways the charm of his relationship with Allie is wearing off, and whether he’s right or wrong in perceiving it (as in the opening sex scene) or even whether it’s a bad thing (relationships cool over time, but remain fulfilling) he’s scared that it’s there at all. The ways in which they don’t know each other totally doesn’t have to be scary, but for Noah it preys on that uncertainty he has about the relationship—one he threw his life away for. The way she’s able to deftly lie to their host couple at dinner charms him, but it also taps into his concern about the front she puts on.

Meanwhile Alison remembers herself as much more independent in her version of events. Her memories also largely take place away from Noah; sometimes because she removes herself from the situation, but also because she’s restarting her life. She like Noah is looking to start anew, and she finds some inspiration with their host couple. Oddly the spiel she gets is something that Noah likely needs to hear more, but as someone who’s spent a large amount of the past few years (and most of the show) running away from the past, it was so touching to see Allie’s connection here.

bal-the-affair-season-2-episode-3-photos-20151-020Of course their relationship isn’t existing in a vacuum, something Whitney’s presence in this episode loudly reminds our couple. Though it may seem a bit easy, their different scopes of Whitney, it also revealed a lot more about how this young girl goes through the world. Our scope of her in the first season is through Noah, who sees her as a classic, demanding teen—same here—but Allie shows that there’s a lot more going on to her than meets the eye. She may be young and self-indulgent, but who isn’t on this show? And honestly, if her trist with Scott Lockhart is going to be such a major component of this show, I’m glad we’re giving her a bit of dimension.

 

Stray observations

  • “OH MAN THIS COULD BE AN AWKWARD LUNCH” is what my notes read when Max shows up
  • It’s interesting to me how amiable he makes the whole divorce sound to Max, who is undoubtedly at least getting something of a full picture with Helen’s side. “She’ll be single for like 30 seconds,” he says of Helen’s post-divorce life. Does he really believe that? Or is that just what you tell old college friends about your old college sweetheart? Does Max buy it?
  • Huh, Alison doesn’t remember drinking more. Another one of those discords that may seem laid a bit thick in “The Affair,” but that feels somewhat honest to pissy partners.
  • Also that the dinner is a roundtable. And that Whitney Ubered all the way to their writing cabin.
  • Also interesting that they remember the other person being the one to protect Alison? In Noah’s version Alison “leaves to take a walk” or whatever, and in Allie’s Noah is the one who escorts Whitney out of there.
  • MAN Whitney can throw down. For being such a teenager girlfriend knows a lot more than meets the eye.
  • And lastly: The meeting in the lawyer’s office. The plot thickens.

 

Black’n’Orange: Season 3 Episodes 2 and 3

Missed an episode? Check out the tag

Chapters 2 and 3; in which we see a lot of people getting what they need, if not what they want.

Though I wrote “awww Dennett/Baya so doomed” in my notes, it’s hard to not see this coming. From the beginning their plotline has been doomed majorly challenged, and the passage of time hasn’t helped much. In their own way they both have a pragmatism that had gotten them this far in life, but they were constantly blinded by each other, the baby, and the idyllic life that could live in their futures.

I’m not sure Bennett’s flashbacks really did much to illuminate the story here, beyond establishing that his behavior at the end (with a touch of dramatic flair) was part of a pattern rather than finally seeing the writing on the wall about him and Daya. Similarly, in the next episode Nicky’s days on the outside didn’t illuminate too much anything that the episode’s arc didn’t accomplish. We saw how destructive drugs made her in her choices and relationships to others, Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.38.18 PMand her aloof relationship with her nature finally coming tragically down to Earth was clear thanks to Natasha Lyonne’s acting chops.

What I will say is that the flashbacks did a great job highlighting something OITNB excels at: making characters three-dimensional without making excuses for their behaviors. Nicky’s relationship with her mom—though slightly redundant, as I said before—were actually some of the most interesting scenes, and a great way to grow on the seed planted in the season opener.Likewise, Alex and Piper’s relationship benefits a great deal from the flashbacks. Getting to see them play out across time gives some context for the rush of emotions—good and bad—they get when they’re around each other. Piper is used to feeling like the smaller of the two in their relationship, and though she’s able to see how she was wrong, she’s still immature about letting Alex deal with her feelings. These weeks their plot lines have seemed like the least important of the bunch, but what time they do have they sell the hell out of.

Caputo and Healey are probably two characters the show has the shortest patience with, but even they are given the time to balance out their bad behavior. Caputo is really trying his darndest to make this prison work, and Healey is still terrible at working out his feelings (and is no better at dealing with women). They’re not great, but they’re not entirely wrong either.

 

Orange-is-the-New-Black-John-Bennett-Daya-Diaz-Season-3There’s a metaphor for the prison system as a whole buried somewhere in here. Trying your hardest but still being part of the problem. It’s something Alex mirrors when the new guard tries to get her to engage. “Everyone thinks they’re one of the good guys,” she says, but that doesn’t make the system any less forgiving.

In some ways the inmates are forced into more clarity on this than the guards. In their own way they are dealing with a lot and as Regina Spektor is quick to remind me, they’ve got tiiiiiiime to really focus in on it. And though the guards may all sympathize or even feel the heel of the system on their back, it’s the prisoners that are feeling the effects of it.

Stray thoughts

-Alex has a salt tattoo on her shoulder, which I find interesting and maybe no one else does.

-“Nice is for cowards and democrats”

-I will, apparently, forever associate Mary Steenburgen (Pornstache’s mom) with playing awkward mother characters. See this, and “30 Rock.” Really that’s it, but I suppose we can throw “Back to the Future III” in there for good measure.

-God help me I root for those two guards in love.

-“I will potato her at a later time” says Suzanne towards Penn. Please do.

-Given the kind of hopeless nature of the plot line, it was nice to have Daya’s mom being so anti-Bennett talking in their meet-up. A little silver lining on a very dark cloud. “Really shit, tbh” as my notes say.

-Aww, Red does know about her store. And she’s not afraid to call Piper, Healey, or anyone else on their shit.

 

-I always read Piper’s sabotage of Alex as a sort of protection, and it felt like the show was leading me to think that as well. Maybe they’re just really cooling on her, but now the whole thing seems kind of selfish—which, really, is just classic Piper. Right down to the line of “helpfully” calling Alex a cockroach.

-I’m not sure why we needed that extended “Hollaback Girl” but also we needed that extended “Hollaback Girl.”

 

-Taystee bringing the analogies this season

 

 

 

 

 

Total Affair of the Heart (Episode 3)

For previous posts, check the tag here

Even though I wouldn’t describe this as a particularly Noah heavy episode, there was something about episode three that just kept bringing it back to Noah’s character for me.

When we’re on Noah’s side of the perspective, it seems to be all about him: about his goals, his family, his lies. It’s fitting, in a way, he’s very focused on himself, even when he’s focusing on other people. When he’s fucking his wife he whispers a “don’t wake up,” which I suppose could be its own brand of sexy if it wasn’t in a series titled after his wrongdoings.

His side of it seems to just scream midlife crisis: Noah focusing on how he said all the right things, and it’s not easy for him to step outside his marriage. Allison’s side brings depth to her character, a sense that she is somehow just floating through the world and Noah is a wrinkle, ill-advised or no, to the perfect life her husband is trying to iron out. But Noah is the guy who wouldn’t even have gone to the town meeting and fooled around with another woman if it weren’t for the in-laws that are smothering him and the kids who are ungrateful and every little other part of his life that grates on him in that moment.

Though I complain about Noah, that moment when he finds his book in the library is heartbreaking to me, in a way. It was the perfect reflection on how he’s at a place where he’s not feeling appreciated, and Helen can’t make everything good, and the book is a relic of what was, what could’ve been and what is. And then Allison shows up, flirty as she always is to him, and suddenly he’s feeling checked out again.

Well someone wants to pull me off the shelf and crack me open
Well someone wants to pull me off the shelf and crack me open

And his lies grow. In a way they don’t really have to, but then again he’s not very quick on his feet. The only person who seems to know (or be snarky enough to call him on it) is Allison’s boss. I kind of love how Dominic West doesn’t feel the need to play Noah with any sort of likability, so much as an understanding of how he might be feeling trapped and under water. Which brings me to my sidebars:

Sidebars:

  • Sometimes the visual puns on the show just kill me. Noah’s drowning in stress and we open on him swimming. There’s definitely something fishy about those docks, huh? They just keep going.
  • On Allison’s boss: I’m really hoping his a (literal) red herring because if he is the killer or the victim it would just feel like a cop out. He’s got a great thing going, being the foil creeping in the background; the only one who engages enough with both Noah and Allison to really notice what’s happening, and he’s clearly got an ax to grind. But I’d be more interested if his distinct way of blending in and sticking out when he needs to is a foil for the relationship, not the crime we’re still waiting on details for.
  • This book agent seems like he sucks at his job. Despite calling Noah on his lack of originality, he does not seems too boring to say “no but seriously dude what else are you bringing to the table?”
  • Whitney is the perfect mix of annoying teenage trope and believable teenage girl I want to root for.
  • And as much as I hate Grandma throwing the money in Noah’s face, I feel like if she wrote a book I would read it. As we saw in Allison’s perspective last week at the party, there’s certainly more snark and heart to be had from Grandma.