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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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.