Total Affair of the Heart – 305

We pick up right where we left it: Noah passes by Alison on her bike, and suddenly the world slows. They circle around each other: He’s interested in getting back together, she’s not. He wants affection, she wants the divorce papers signed and submitted. But no matter how they posture themselves, one thing is clear: their chemistry is undeniable.

For the second week in a row we have perspectives of Alison really aligning. Though Noah shifts from erratic naiveté to weighty romance in Alison’s and his perspective, respectfully, Alison remains even keel throughout. And though Noah’s teasing of her can often come across as almost bullying—teasing her that she “used to be more fun” when she won’t skinny dip in a hot tub with him, pulling her into a day trip to Block Island with the promise of signed divorce papers—it’s clear that they have some sort of understanding of each other. It’s one she shrugs off at first, and that he complicates with his bullheadedness, but there’s a lived-in familiarity about them. Though awkwardness should hang in the air their conversation flows. Even in its strain it never feels stilted.

TheAffair_305_3016.R.jpgAnd so by the end of their day trip, accidentally trapped on the island overnight after missing the last ferry, they find themselves sharing wounds, going deeper than they (apparently) ever have. She tells him that the woman she was before Gabriel’s death died along with her son, and Noah tells her that he helped his mother kill herself when her MS was getting the best of her.

The Affair has so often found itself tangled in bullshit grief that it can be easy to forget that the show has some kind of profound things to say when it touches on the real thing. Complications like we end with tonight when Noah crashes Juliette’s car after getting run off the road by his prison guard tormenter only to find himself on an empty road feel like conflict just for the sake of conflict; lamp-shading that Noah is popping Vicodin with a warning from Alison that they’re addictive is just adding wet logs to the fire. Listening to Alison and Noah really talk, for arguably the first time in their relationship, that’s a whole different ball game.

Of course Noah is still a bit of a cad: He only brings up Joanie when he’s trying to lure Alison back to him, telling her that he’s ready to be with her and “raise someone else’s kid.” Though he may correctly intuit that Alison seeks out punishment, his suggestion that she can “flagellate herself for the rest of her life” in front of Cole and Luisa as what she is looking to do, sells that he doesn’t necessarily see her connection with Joanie as important as she does. Whatever clear eyes Noah found in prison are still a bit cloudy, Vicodin addiction or not. He stampedes past her boundaries and asks more of her than he’s prepared to return. Though at first she lets him, she holds firm on the divorce and whatever catalyst for change is within him finally gets him to sign the divorce papers.

Dominic West and Ruth Wilson both mold whole, flawed, and tangled studies of their characters here, only to find themselves a bit shortchanged by the writing, which seems more interested in the intrigue than it is in the intricate humanity at play. But when all is said and done “305” ends with Alison putting her foot down, getting space and a divorce from Noah, and a sleepover trip with Joanie for her birthday. It’s a new frontier for The Affair.

 

Stray thinks: 

  • “You got out of prison and you bought a red car?”
  • Of course Cole comes by while Noah’s there, and confronts Alison (as Noah hides, and presumably hears, although we don’t see it from his perspective) about their one night stand. He’s not interested in leaving Luisa, but tells Alison he wants to see her with full custody—even if, as she rightly points out, he won’t help her there. “So I’m healthy enough to fuck, but not to be the mother of our child,” she venomously argues back. Will the divorce make a difference?
  • Or maybe the storefront she notices going on the market at Block Island will become something?
  • “What’s she like now?” Noah asks about Joanie. “Good, intense.” “Wonder where she gets that from.”
  • The references to Camelot were a bit cringeworthy, Noah.
  • “Cole will only ever see you as a disaster, Alison. Whatever you do, no matter how competent you become you’ll always be damaged goods to him. If you really think he’s going to ever really trust you with Joanie you’re being naive. I’m just telling the truth.” Do we think this is an accurate read of Cole?
  • That same erratic comedic burst that gave Brendan Frasier a name for himself is what makes his guard persona so terrifying. When he whips out his baton it was truly startling.

 

 

 

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Total Affair of the Heart: 205

For previous posts, check the tag here

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.

cdn.indiewireRuth 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.

1031103_2_3416821_01_444x250Joshua 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.

Stray thoughts:

  • 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.

 

 

Black’N’Orange: Episode Five

Interactions with others are often colored by the image we project of ourselves. That doesn’t go away just because you’re in prison. Episode five, “Fake It Till You Fake It Some More,” is all about pulling off those rose colored glasses.

Flaca from Orange is the New Black episode 5“People will believe what you tell them, until you don’t,” says one character in a heated exchange. And it’s true—which leaves a couple characters in a bit of a jarring whiplash. After consistently projecting a fake image of the prison (or at least attempting one) Caputo finds out exactly where he is when the dust settles. Daya is still reeling from Bennett’s disertion, and has hit an all time low in her pregnancy mood. Red’s softening to Healy only to be revealed as just another scheme to get herself back in the kitchen is true to character, but still jolts Healy awake from whatever fantasy land he had of yet another Russian woman falling in love with him for his character.

Norma, who’s been masquerading behind Gloria’s back about her healing properties, flies a bit too close to the sun and learns that sometimes the image you’re enjoying projecting doesn’t always belong to you. Appropriation is real kids, as Gloria is quick to remind Norma. “This ain’t your history; this ain’t your culture,” she warns, taking away what was never a super interesting plotline to begin with. The best things to have come out of Norma’s egg-healing was the revealing of others issues, and by the episode’s end Norma’s got her old groove back, and a way to keep that exposition going—good for us, and her.

Which is something that Daya could surely use. The mom-to-be is reeling, with the loss of not just a support system but a life plan and a romance, all with an illegal baby on the way who has nowhere to go. I had always assumed that in some way her father’s boyfriend would be the legal guardian, even if it meant Bennett would be the one who actually cared for him—which still raises a whole lot of questions about child services, but I could overlook that given just how far gone this plotline already was—but when she finds out that he can’t manage that it’s just another expectation letting her down. Her exchange with Pornstache’s mom is bittersweet; I’m glad that she has someone who’s willing to be there for her, let her know her rights, and take care of the baby, but their relationship is so tenuous—something the “Grandma” is all too aware of. Maybe this seed will pay off down the road (an ol’ “get what you need” payoff to all the Pornstache lies/Bennett leaving web of the past) but I’m guessing more likely Grandma is right. More on that to come.

Of course the spotlight of episode five falls to Flaca, who’s always dreamt of being somewhere better than where she is—whether that’s the prison’s kitchen or her mother’s sewing shop. To her it’s not a choice that means she’s abandoning her family, instead it’s just her becoming the image she’s had in her mind all along. I’m a bit tired of OITNB using “family break-ups” in such a huge sort of flare-up, given that outbursts like these often lead to season-long repercussions. But I appreciate the expanding of Flaca’s character, and she’s clearly learned a thing or two about how to stake out your own territory.  I hope they take the time to let her fake it until she makes it sometime.

Stray shots: 

  • As a big fan of “Arms and the Man,” I am way into Poussey’s retelling
  • I was doing the math on what saving a $1/hour could mean for an inmate and got as far as thinking about what that could’ve meant for Taystee’s first release and got too sad to continue. Though the third season isn’t exactly putting it front and center, it is allowing for a much more frank dialogue of life in prison.
  • “I’m really wearing it ironically” says Flaca of her fashion choices, showing that it turns out no one—even the wearer—is sure where the irony line is.
  • “I’m pregnant in prison, lady. Did you really expect me to be all happy and glowy?”
  • One of the downsides to Piper being a secondary character this season is that her neuroses don’t really carry across episodes very well, or at least the writers aren’t used to it yet. Her teasing of Alex here struck me as really tonedeaf, given what a real threat hangs over Alex’s life right now. She may have been paranoid, but she at least has some cause to be. Piper is really all over the map for me lately.
  • One of the best parts of season 3, conversely, is that without a “big bad” (or Larry—praise!) is there’s more time to focus on the relationships and strains of prison life. And damn that is a good (if slow) thing.

 

Total Affair of the Heart (Episode 5)

For previous posts, check the tag here

It’s nothing revolutionary to talk about how “The Affair” is a show that dabbles in forced perspective; it’s essentially the hook of the entire thing. But this episode stands out, to me, as one of the few that really draws your attention to it.

It’s goes beyond the sight gags of Allison’s clothes, or the narratives each of them have to remember why that was important, and into how they see the players around them. And it’s a credit to the acting of the supporting players that they can so believably play a character through someone else’s eyes.

Noah’s in-laws, for instance, often come off as the picture of snobby class. But in this episode, or at least Allison’s version of this episode, we find out that he came from a relatively low-income household, so he would see the sort of decadence they live in as devoid of compassion. Until now I had always filed their performances as somewhat one-note, but their portrayal not only make more sense now, but they serve as a sort of clever reminder that there’s always more than meets the eye in this series. Similarly, Cherry seems to be an almost incongruous mash of a person; one moment chipper and friendly and the next making sneaking, passive-plays for claim over Allison in front of Athena.

And Athena is her own little breath of fresh air for Allison’s perspective: it’s not that what she’s saying is right, per se, but she has her own narrative that’s in some ways just as valid as Allison’s. Allison never really tried to get off the island and doesn’t believe (or, as Athena somewhat condescendingly puts it “forgets”) that she could’ve left with her mother if she had really wanted to.

This episode is rife with material for exploring the people who orbit Allison and Noah’s affair, in a way the episodes haven’t quite done before. Oddly, or perhaps appropriately, Oscar remains every bit as full of douchebaggery in both visions, which could mean that he’s just that much of a tool. Or it could be that as Allison and Noah recite their stories they are on the same page about Oscar for a reason other than his personality. An easy mark, perhaps?

xj4uqusWhich brings me to my final point. I’ve said it before, that for a show that doesn’t seem to cheaton the drama and intrigue they’re got a passionate interest in a coy, showing-of-cards, and apparently the cinematographer is in on the joke. Off the top of my head, I remember most of interrogation scenes being a fairly straightforward over-shoulder, shot-reverse-shot.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 4.02.22 PMBut in both of the scenes with Allison and Noah talking to the detective, the camera noticeably angles itself so that Jefferies is shunted off to the side. A bit of literal forced perspective, for you. Of course both of them are getting up to leave after their conversation, but the way the camera moves–particularly in Allison’s (where she is referred to as “Ms. Bailey” hmmm) swivels, as if it’s sort of clearing its throat to get us to notice, or remember, that they’re being observed. But by whom?

Unsure for now. But is anyone else thinking that Detective Jefferies is one of the most interesting characters on the show? Where’s his point-of-view series?