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.

1200

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.
Advertisements

The Affair – 309

And so Noah’s complete fabrications are made clear. But The Affair still doesn’t know what to do with that.

This episode parcels out truth bomb after truth bomb for Noah (and by extension, the audience): He actually conspired to convince his mother to end her own life, before he helped her; in his overwhelming guilt he completely manufactured Gunther’s torture of him in prison; and once he was out he stabbed himself in the neck. It’s the sort of reveal that fits in neatly with other people’s image of Noah, as purely self-interested and desperately beyond help. But in others, it’s yet another problem The Affair can’t nail down. After all, why the hell are we just learning about this now?

theaffair309.jpg

After a new thread in a prison flashback reveals Noah’s past, and his internal conflict, we’re led to think that this has been a part of his character since the beginning. But the truth is this is just the latest in a series of “truths” the show has dropped in order for us to buy the torment of its characters, and justify why they blew up their lives with an affair. The problem is, the show can only handle one of these threads at a time; the class conflict is never baked into the characters enough to feel totally intertwined, Noah’s (apparent) flagellation and search for redemption have only been introduced in season three, and Cole and Alison’s love for each other is so hot and cold it’s hard to thread any line through.

And Helen, perhaps the biggest casualty of this messy season, gets lost in the fray. For the first time in a couple episodes we see her seem like she’s really taking charge, but God at what cost? Her search to be truly seen, as the one driving the car, as the killer everyone has so long maligned Noah for being, causes her to blurt it all out over dinner, in front of her children and her parents. Though her parents may be a bit out there, are they wrong? What good would Helen coming clean now be? Who would she help now, aside from herself? And — perhaps most importantly — is she even thinking of the kids?

Though she never ends up going to see Cherry, she does go see Vic. “Not expecting forgiveness, just wanting him to know” is an excuse as old as time, but it serves as good a reason as any for coming clean to her ex. He’s cold, moody, and doesn’t seem to fully buy when she says she brought Noah in strictly out of remorse for actions and not love. I’m not sure we do either. But he says he’ll see her after work, so here’s to her looking up.

As for Noah…what is there to say when he represents all the sort of worst impulses of this show? As the main driver of the show he’s not consistently well-written enough to turn this into Mad Men, but he lacks the fun, near-self-awareness to turn The Affair into Nashville, leaving the show stuck somewhere in-between; seemingly forever inconsistently and morosely baiting its audience with the latest “bombshell,” and never focusing on where its strengths could be.

Stray thoughts

  • I didn’t even get to Helen’s conversation with Alison, which makes both more and less sense after this episode. I understand better why Helen was there, and Alison’s dialogue here seems fairly consistent with what we know Alison is going through (even Helen’s vision of her as much more self-assured than anyone has seen her this season). But once again The Affair overplays its hand by drastically changing the information exchanged between characters and crediting it all to “memory.” Why would Alison not remember spelling out to Helen that she was there the night Scotty died, or that Helen wanted to go confess everything to Cherry?
  • The bartender telling Helen “weird night” was a nice touch.
  • At least Helen bought three of Cherry’s pies.
  • Noah’s segment was actually directed by someone different than Helen’s, which I don’t know if they’ve done before on this show.
  • The segments with Gunther illustrate a problem that a lot of shows have: It’s ok if your audience calls your reveal way way ahead of time (it can make watching more fun!) but the longer you drag it out, the more the reveal has to be solid and rewarding. Simply extending the episode runtime isn’t enough. Noah wearing gloves all episode was a good way to keep people guessing. Spelling out what happened to Noah and then artily doling out the full reveal for the rest of the episode was not.

 

The Affair – 307

Partway through Helen’s perspective this week, Vic seems to be reaching his breaking point. It’s understandable, after all she’s shown over this season that she’s still got feelings for Noah that tip her into delirious love, and she’s been showing little to no regard for how that makes the rest of her family feel.

“Wake up Helen. This man’s problem is much bigger than you and I can handle,” Vic insists. He no idea how much truth there is to those words, but the truth is neither does Helen.

This week is a continuation of last week, where we saw Noah struggle with his sanity and place in the world while Helen struggled with how much she “knows” Noah and the glowing love she still feels for him in her heart, recklessly unthinking about how it affects those around her. When Whitney tries to get her to understand what taking Noah back would mean Helen laughs in her face, scoffing “how it’s affected you?” She’s clearly ignoring the impact Noah, as a force, an adulterer, a convict, has had on her family, let alone her life. And while Vic is acting the way someone would if your girlfriend moved her ex-husband who she’s mooning over into your house without consulting you and then lied about it, Helen can’t see that. And so it becomes pretty clear early on that this is going to be it for Vic/Helen.Episode 307

I still like Vic. He was always smarter and more observant than Helen gave him credit for; on a different show he’d be the guy. On 30 Rock he’d be the sort of sardonic, quirky doctor who Liz Lemon would fall for against the odds. On The Affair he’s a casualty of Helen’s pathetic obsession with her Noah.

Which Noah seems to take utterly for granted. In his version of events Helen is much more down to business, confident, and bruising than her own skittish self-image. Vic is comes off more imposing; standing and looking down his nose as he dispenses sarcastic medical advice.

But no matter the reality Noah’s addiction to vicodin seems to ring true. At this point any other explanation for his erratic behavior and “attacks” from Gunther would just seem untrue. His prison flashbacks insinuate that Gunther was a majorly threatening presence when he was inside, but outside jail? What could the explanation possibly be?

He remembers himself as far more alert and self-reliant in his version of the day, but Helen imagines him as almost a child, whom she helps to dry off after the shower, feeds, medicates, and generally throws her life under the bus for. And what does Noah give in return—refusal to admit a drug problem? Ending her relationship? Withholding his circumstances when she’s trying to help? Lording his pending sainthood for taking the fall for her with the car accident?

Helen deserves more than that. The show knows it too, that’s why this week feels so painful to watch. With any luck she’ll wisen up soon, but knowing this show we’ve got miles to go before we sleep on that front.

Stray thoughts: 

  • Helen just thinking out loud to Nina’s answering machine about Noah’s condition and place in her life.
  • “Vic he’s their father, what was I supposed to do?” Vic: *shrugs*
  • “What kind of doctor refuses medication to someone who’s suffering?” Noah asks after Vic. The kind trained to look for Vicodin addiction.
  • Ahhh Furkat. And he camps, to go watch his 24-year-old daughter’s band play at festivals. What a treat.
  • Interesting touch the widely disparate looks Whitney rocks between Noah’s and Helen’s visions. It’s that kind of nice work that The Affair can do to more subtly clue the audience in to characters relation to each other.

 

 

 

Total Affair of the Heart – 306

Just as you start to wonder this week whether we’re going to see another one of Helen’s dad’s terrible girlfriends, and what Helen’s mom is up to, and if she knows how much we miss her—in she dances. Turns out, Helen’s Dad and Mom have rekindled their romance, and are halting the divorce and staying married. 

“At the end of the day, your mother just knows me,” says her father, blissfully. “Better than anyone else ever will.”

It’s the subject at the front of everyone’s mind this week; when do you really know someone? Noah wrestles with what his father knew about him, and what he wants Martin to know about him in return. Helen wrestles with if she truly knows anyone at all—and whether she’ll ever find someone to know her in return.

This week Helen bounces between rocks and hard places—Nina, Max, Martin, Vick; all seemingly trying to steer her away from Noah. She is, after all, one of the only people left who believes—nay, knows his innocence. It’s why she wants to believe he’s fundamentally good; fundamentally whole.

It’s why no one’s reasoning works with her. When her father jokes about Noah’s killer streak she hears the worst night of her life roar up against her ears. As Martin shuns his father for taking a life Helen sees the ghost of a path narrowly avoided. And when Nina throws in her face that Noah was broken when they met, that he used her to escape his life, until she dragged him down and he had to escape again.

When Helen’s at the disastrous double date with Vick and her parents it seems like she’s at an entirely different evening than the rest of them. That out of step feeling follows her throughout the episode, terrible decision after terrible action. She’s haunted by what she did, and haunted by the man who protected her who she may not even have known.

Her half lands harder than Noah’s, who struggles to put his life in motion after the last time we saw him—divorcing Helen, admitting his part in the end of his mother’s life, and figuring out where he goes from here. His admission in the last episode seems to have alleviated some of the guilt from his shoulders; he goes to his father’s house, and starts to broach the life he left behind there.

He brings Martin into some of the folds of his life and imparts some wisdom. We know Martin ended up going home, so when we see him chase a hooded figure into the lake it’s legitimately surprising (even if, from Helen’s perspective, we know no one else is there). But when the figure turns around it’s young Noah, it’s both a shock and a let down.

Anyone who’s not Helen could apparently see that Noah had trauma. And The Affair has telegraphed its thought process pretty clearly in the past. But this? This is a bit too low-hanging-fruit. What’s clear is that Helen wasn’t the only person “purposefully ignoring” the fuck-ups and downs in their life.

On the one hand you don’t want to end up like Helen: Finding out that Noah ran into her; realizing that she never cared to dig for the truth of why so long as the arrangement worked for her; grasping at straws and men for answers and connection. On the other, you don’t want to end up like Noah: Pushing people away in favor of exile, repentance, and confusion. Demanding too much and too little for yourself all at once.

The problem with knowing people, better than anyone else in the world, is that it can be a double-edged sword. And if The Affair is about anything more than affairs, it’s about the discovery of that truth.

Stray thoughts and thinks: 

  • God help me I love Vick. Poor bastard could be a great partner to someone in a different show. That being said, that Helen notices (or imagines) him laughing at her Dad’s joke about killing him to save a lot of heartache? Not a great look.
  • “Was Noah fucked up when I met him?” Helen asks Max, who is bewildered as one would be when you’ve just cheated on your fiancee with your ex-girlfriend after she initiated it and then brings up her ex-husband who was your best friend for 20 years.
  • Noah was calm when he heard a train whistle—if he heard it at all.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Total Affair of the Heart – 301

Of course we start back with Noah Solloway. Partially because he is the one who has blown his life up at the end of each season and we need to see how he’s putting it together this time. Partially because he’s an instigator of the titular affair. Partially because the last thing we heard spoken was him confessing to a crime we know he didn’t commit in order to protect the women he loves. And partially because of course we start with Noahthe-affair

We’re clued in almost immediately that time has passed thanks to his beard, and we soon learn his father has died, he’s living with his sister, and it’s been three years since he went to prison. His kids are older, they’re not sure how to be around him, and Noah is more mopey than ever.

The Affair‘s hat trick with its perspective adjustments and replays never fully delivered on the premise, but in episodes like these—where the focus lies with just one person, never showing anyone else’s point of view—it’s more about how things are being said and what is left unspoken.

Noah and Helen, for instance, are definitely not on the same wavelength. At the funeral she is confused and he has his blockades up. She’s distant, asking questions but seemingly never answering his honestly. It’s frustrating, but it’s more likely a reflection of how Noah himself is coming off to others than it is about how Helen is communicating. As we see in a flashback to the beginning of his sentence, he was once light on his feet about his time, feeling invigorated, and telling Helen to “just wait” for him. Now he pushes her into pulling back.

His students are young to him. Their worldview is simple, black and white, something he brushes over without really engaging with it. We see it when he eviscerates Audrey’s piece in his class (for really no other purpose than that he needs an outlet), and we see it at the “salon” at his new French Love Interest’s house. Audrey is skittish and then righteous; the boys at the table simplistic to his distinguished, nuanced take on sexual consent. He’s not wrong, and his answer may be more jargon-filled and enlightened than the other men at the table (“I’m afraid to touch a woman at a party” blow me), but it’s not anymore respectful of women. Their political rhetoric is tedious, sure, but it’s all being filtered through Noah—who, as we know, has trouble with consent and power in conversations and sexual relationships.

His new lady love is relatively uncomplicated; her lecture is (as is The Affair‘s style) on the nose as hell with all its bluster about “a shadow of a shadow, desperate to be destroyed by its creator,” and being “tainted by his infernal paternity.” By the time they’re walking outside the church she’s the literary equivalent of a silver platter, a character who “calls things like it is,” and draws connections between adultery and Lancelot (who is one of the most famous adulterers of all time—doesn’t make it more or less romantic to those who oppose adultery, like the women at the salon dinner).

And all that is tied up with a couple new avenues for the show to open up this season: What did he forgive his sister for, once upon a time? What’s up with all this rape rhetoric on campus; is anyone else getting Veronica Mars season 3 flashbacks? What the hell happened in that prison that we’re flashbacking to, and is it driving him mad or is he really in danger?

For now all we have is Noah’s perspective. Next week, the world will broaden a bit.

Stray Stuff: 

  • “Thank you Mr. Solloway, for those…words,” is the funeral director hitting it on the head the best, until Noah’s son observes Grandpa would’ve liked his disjointed eulogy because it was “short, sweet—no bullshit.”
  • Any guesses as to what’s up with his deal with trains?
  • I’m not sure how much I like the “flashbacks” here. Granted it’s playing around with time similarly to how it’s always done as a show, but there was something a bit more respectably pulpy back when it was an end we were working towards. Now that it’s building to where we are it feels a bit like we’re betraying the show’s actual low-brow masquerading as high-brow game.
  • Jennifer Esposito, continually underutilized by The Affair and the universe, may have a bigger role this season.
  • I know it’s supposed to read as that way, but what the fuck was his tirade in class about? He’s clearly frustrated with his place and lot in life, but still came off as wildly inappropriate and smug—even in his own reality.
  • “Asking isn’t sexy.” These college boys are completely horrendous.
  • “I started noticing the change after 9/11” was the moment when I knew that this show was going to be harder to take seriously this season. 
  • Welcome back, y’all!

 

 

 

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.

 

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.