The Affair – 310

If “310” had existed in another season, or after another run of episodes, this might be a different review. The episode — chronicling Juliette and Noah’s days in Paris, and commitment to their family members as well as each other —has plenty of sweet, emotional moments. It’s just that they only barely connected with what we just saw.

Take Noah’s arc this season. We’ve seen him come to terms with a burden he was carrying around with him for the entire show (except it had never been mentioned), spiral out of control multiple times, cope with his time in prison, dissolve his marriage to Alison, burn his bridge with Helen, and finally realize that he stabbed himself in a disassociative episode and…none of that, is here.

Whatever build up there was between Juliette and Noah this season, whatever complications she adds to his life, is largely absent here, save for an errant mention of when he was out of control a few months ago and she helped him right the boat. What was his recovery process like? Who knows. It’s not relevant here. Never mind the fact that the entire season built out a mystery and a few mental health episodes to keep its wheels turning. The Affair has always struggle to balance the different strands of the show, but here it feels like it bucks the hook its so steadfastly held onto in favor of a romance drama.

What’s left has some nice moments: Juliette’s quietly sad disbelief at Etienne’s lucidity, only to still be crushed when her fears are confirmed moments later; Noah’s talk with Whitney, though perhaps a bit on the nose (The Affair specialty), feels like a solid connection between these two.

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But it doesn’t feel at all like a resolution to their arcs. For Juliette, it feels like her introduction has gone from hot, sexually-open, stereotypical Frenchwoman to grieving wife seeking escape to ignored lover to…girlfriend? I guess? Again, we haven’t really seen anything from this relationship, pre-recovery or no. Juliette’s arc mostly makes sense when we look at what (apparently) the writers are trying to do with Noah, which is completely rehab his image.

It’s a bizarre step, seeing as how he didn’t need to be rehabbed until they decided to spin him out of control to spin out a season mystery. Noah has always been a bit of a scumbag as a real person, but as a character who opted to go to prison at the end of last season to protect the women he loves, he was not exactly in need of saving. “310” returns him to that place he always seems to get to in Affair finales: loved by a woman, against all odds, and stepping in to be her night in shining armor.

I’ve written before that season 3 of The Affair felt a bit like a show they had ventured off the roadmap with, and “310” only confirms that for me, unfortunately. But they’re renewed for season 4, so next fall The Affair will be back on the map, one way or another.

Stray thoughts

  • I can’t get over Juliette getting a finale half, which seems a bit weird to me. Although we left basically everyone else at a nice stopping point (Alison getting shared custody of Joanie and a potential job, Cole choosing Luisa, Helen coming clean and mending things with Vic) Juliette has been so close to a non-entity. Her plot line here, while narratively rewarding in some ways, seems to only exist to prop up Noah’s half.
  • Noah would pretend he’s Hemingway.
  • I really liked the way they played the two versions of Juliette’s colleagues. Too often the memory questions this show asks seems to be overly-convenient (the restaurant scene, or the season 1 finale) but this one was a simple illustration of how weird social situations are, with or without a language barrier. The no subtitles in Noah’s was a nice touch too.
  • I’m not saying Juliette’s boss was wrong or right, but damn that scene was brutal to just be a random, lingering thread.
  • As was the black humor of getting Etienne’s body into the elevator. Oof.
  • From the notes: It’s only a matter of time before Noah shows up inappropriately [after Etienne’s death].
  • Oh Furkat. What a douche.
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They are a-changin’: Thoughts on the “Mad Men” finale

In many ways Matthew Weiner’s swan song for “Mad Men” on Sunday was a paradox. In what was both a characteristic and a complete departure from the tone it had set up to this point. To each character Weiner gave a mixed goodie bag: They got what they’d been seeking, in one respect or another, but they lost something as well.

Some of those changes, like Joan’s total 180 from her pilot advice to Peggy that she aim to marry rich so she doesn’t have to work another day in her life to her giving up just that to build a business of her own. In some readings of Don’s last days on the small screen, his changes and restlessness felt earned as well; the theme of achieving your dreams and then what permeating from many of the final (half) season’s arcs.

Others, like Betty and Pete’s sudden clarity felt more abrupt, no matter how many changes had been simmering in the background. Similarly though the love between Stan and Peggy had been evident for a while, their sudden reunion was both in and out of character; feeling abrupt and rom-com-y from a show that has never indulged in such fanfare.

Which is probably indicative of how I felt about the finale as a whole: mixed. Articles could (and probably will be) written for years about the meaning of Don’s final smile, or the three women who he calls in his life, but I’m not too concerned with it. Half the fun of “Mad Men” to me has always stayed in between the lines: the solemn but telling looks the characters exchange, the symbolism woven into the fabric of the show, that shot (that shot) when the SCDP partners step into their new floor for the first time.

“Mad Men” has never been too concerned with the expectations of the audience, and that paid off to one of the best dramas with some of the most systematic pacing around. Its introduction set the stage and the tone for a “new golden age of television,” established a network’s flavor and opened the door for many more muted and engaging dramas. Its introduction set the stage and the tone for a “new golden age of television,” established a network’s flavor and opened the door for many more muted and engaging dramas.

Finality never suited “Mad Men” the same way the sleek look of the 60s did. Don’s drive to keep moving forward—and the meditations on whether he and the rest of the cast could—often drove the show, and it’s the distinct neat packaging that made the finale feel so foreign. For all everyone’s talk of how Joan’s business could fail, and Pete will screw up his family life again, and whether Don’s vision of the infamous Coke ad is a sign of cynicism or optimism, the finale hour—hell, the final back half of season seven seemed dedicated to wrapping up loose ends (Rachel’s return, the answer to whether Glenn and Betty still have the same wooden chemistry now that he’s all grown up) and it all felt entirely too tidy; a borderline-sloppy look for such a composed show.

This is not to say that these past seven weeks were bad; I’m far too close to it right now to make such a grandiose statement as that. But the distinct air of “end game” that hung over each character’s actions made for a sometimes uneven dance as “Mad Men” fell into its final days.

In my experience “Mad Men” was best when it was gazing out to something I couldn’t see, and I’ll miss that on my TV screen most of all.

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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.