Best New Stuff – July 2018



GLOW Season 2

I always liked GLOW; I found it winning, and complicated in ways that most shows don’t let their women characters be. But its first season had some issues that I wouldn’t begrudge people for disliking — it had a diverse ensemble, but didn’t care to use much of it, for starters.

But season 2 — man, season 2 blew me away. What an exquisite way to expand on the concept of the first season, present two separate and totally fair conceptions of a coming out story, building and broadening the friendship at the core of it, expertly placing clues and pacing itself for the end of the season. This is a show to watch, more subversive in its portrayal of female life than something like The Handmaid’s Tale. Plus it’s got a truly kickin’ soundtrack.


I am not the sort of person who ascribes to the philosophy that a horror movie has to be scary, but if I was Hereditary would still hit the mark. The first 3/4 play out like an atmospheric stretching rack, until the final act really drives it home. It’s the sort of movie that’s impossible to market without audiences being familiar with it, even though it isn’t all that unfamiliar from horror movie touchstones. It’s just that the ambience is so enveloping, the execution so wholly authentic, it’s impossible to get the message across until the movie’s been seen.

But after you’ve seen it? Well, the dark of your bedroom will never be the same again.

God’s Favorite Customer – Father John Misty 

While last month (and a little of this month) is still dominated by Everything Is Love, I somehow missed the release of the latest FJM. Where before I had been kind of hot and cold on the folk star, I’m now enrapt by his crooning, which seems to covers everything from love songs to comedy pieces.



but the Youtube song of the month?  That’s Isakov all the way, baby. 

On the eve of UnReal‘s finale, we’ve all got questions on our minds: What will Quinn and Rachel’s renewed alliance yield? Who will Darius pick? How the hell did this show go so off the rails?

There aren’t a lot of definitive answers to be found (yet). There’s a lot of awkward growing pains and remaining faults that lined the path for a disappointing sophomore year from last year’s critical darling. But most agree that the seventh episode of the season, “Ambush” is a lowpoint for the show.

After Darius, Romeo, and two of the contestants steal a car, Rachel and her showrunner boyfriend Coleman sic the cops on them, knowing it will make for great TV. When Rachel starts to have doubts after seeing just how far the cops will go when they pull over a black man in a fancy car that’s not his without a license, she darts out to call them off—only to alarm the cops, who accidentally shoot Romeo. unreal-ambush

After the shot the camera follows Rachel as she trips in the field she’s running through, the camera holding and tumbling with her, as she lies on the ground in shock. It’s a highly manufactured shot, one showrunner Sarah Gertrude Shapiro wanted especially to show how the event rocked Rachel and “turned her world upside down.”

Except, it’s not really her role that got turned upside down. It’s Romeo’s. Rachel was not subject to sadly prescient police brutality, Romeo was. Darius was. Rachel, a white woman, would never be. And while the effects of that shooting should affect her—as the cause, bystander, and protagonist of the series—it’s absurd that her narrative would be the one focused on here.

Two episodes later, one left in the season, and we still haven’t gotten an update on Romeo’s medical condition. For a show that’s allegedly supposed to be showing how those outside the black community can’t understand pressures on that community, and then to tell their story specifically through someone else’s viewpoint is a wildly misguided and privileged thing to do. Black lives matter, and white showrunners shouldn’t only engage with that when there’s white lives involved.

Perhaps with a few cuts and snips UnReal could’ve saved its white savior narrative. But the fact that we still aren’t sure whether they’ve saved Romeo means there’s a whole season’s worth of cuts and snips that had already gone untouched.

‘Serial’ Season 2 Checkpoint: Is it working?

When Sarah Koenig released the first episode of Serial season 2, Beyoncé-style, many were thrown for a loop. Not because Koenig announced that she would be focusing on Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. private who got kidnapped and held by the Taliban for five years after going DUSTWUN from his base—she was spotted leaving a military hearing for Bergdahl months before the season was released. It threw people because, what was the crime?

Serial rose to fevered prominence during its first season, as the community of listeners on the Internet took to the case of “wrongly-convicted” Adnan Syed like a dog with a bone. Koenig and her team overturned established timelines, found new evidence, and expanded the scope of the case far beyond what it seemed to have been 18 years prior. All that hype was infectious, and fans quickly took to their own podcasts and forums to investigate themselves, and further support Syed’s appeal.

set_bowe_bergdahl_serial_640But Bergdahl had no such mystery. Episode one explains exactly what happened, and why it’s arguably his own damn fault. So what’s the point?

But six episodes later, one thing is clearer and clearer to me: Picking the Bergdahl case is the smartest move Koenig and her team could’ve taken.

The problem with Serial‘s notoriety was that it was a double-edged sword; people were hailing anything in the true-crime family as the successor to Serial, the next place to get your fix. But Serial isn’t trying to be a true-crime podcast. It’s trying to be Koenig’s own personal echo of This American Life, only this time it would be “one story, told week by week” instead of an intense microcosm. Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 2.27.31 PMBy immediately and so clearly switching gears, Koenig has avoided (hopefully) that Serial will ever be just “that true-crime podcast everyone’s talking about.”

And in the meantime, she’s made something to be proud of: Whether you agree with Bergdahl or not, turning his story over and over, examining it from all its social, political, and economic facets is powerful. I don’t find much of his rationale that appealing, but the context for the decision he made and the consequences that came out of it have proven to be well worth diving into. Bergdahl’s thought-process may be maddening. But the narrative around it is rich. With Bergdahl’s trial currently underway (and largely behind military court doors) Koenig is making sure that when the verdict comes down, people have some way to contextualize what that means.

Though its second season suffers from Koenig’s limited access to Bergdahl compared to her largely (at least as far as the listener is concerned) unfettered access Syed, Koenig’s decisive move to not a mystery but a story has been a rewarding journey. I’m looking forward to see what happens next.

Total Affair of the Heart 212

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Well here we (belatedly—yay vacation!) are; the truth is out and the circumstances of Scottie’s death are revealed. To us anyway. We now know that Alison and Noah had a fight, that separated them for the evening—though the exact circumstances of that fight are divergent. Noah ended up drunkenly reconnecting and reappreciating ex-wife Helen, while despondent Alison went for a walk and happened upon (very) drunk Scottie. After he attacks her, she pushes him away…directly into the car being driven by a tipsy and distracted Helen.

We see Noah stumble from the car twice, once from his perspective, and once from Allie’s. It seems that he is the only one who really understands the full scope of the situation, how these two women he loves are both implicated in this deception, and he can’t bear to throw either to the wolves. (Though to be fair, it’s unclear how much of his night with Helen he’s shared with Alison in the days since the accident). It’s a fairly good twist, honestly; Noah has spent almost all of the show being one of the few characters who seems irredeemable. Knowing that so much of the present day fuckery stems from his guilt over his actions helps humanize him somewhat, even if it can’t quite bridge the gap between the simple fact that either of these women are too good for him and his ego.

Ruth WIlson as Alison and Maura Tierney as Helen in The Affair (season 2, episode 12). - Photo: Mark Schafer/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: TheAffair_212_2073

Though the accident itself isn’t much of a revelation, the show does manage to use it as a way to dwarf all the other problems these characters were dealing with; seeing both Alison and Noah have their moment of redemption with their exes on the beach was quietly beautiful in their own ways, but blood of the murdered is thicker than water.

From here, it seems pretty clear why and how Alison and Noah are able to reconcile their differences and come together in the future. Their “alibi dance” seemed a bit weak to me, but I can see how once the shock wears off they’ve gotten to where they are in the future. Though only a few hours have passed since Alison told Noah that Joanie isn’t his (that much their accounts agree on) it may as well be years of therapy later. Noah seems to have come to terms with what it means to accept responsibility for things, whether or not that zen stays with him.

As we look forward to season 3, it’ll be interesting to see how The Affair plays around with time now that we’re largely caught up. affair-season-finaleI want to think that they’ll come up with inventive ways to keep it a part of the story telling, but honestly this show has underwhelmed me with what they’re willing to do with such a unique premise. The gimmick itself has changed the way I think about a great many pop culture artifacts, and where they posit the perspective. But the show itself seems reluctant to push the boundaries beyond wildly varying accounts of events and clothes.

Last thoughts

  • I’m still a bit in disbelief that Alison told him. Let alone at her ex-husband’s wedding. I mean, I understand getting to the point of understanding that you need to get it off your chest, but wait for the car ride home at least.
  • I was really enjoying the weird modern family of Helen, her mom, and Noah all catching up over his new baby.
  •  Complaining aside, I did appreciate the way the show used the perspective gimmick to emphasize what each character took away from Cole and Luisa’s wedding ceremony, and why it impacted them so. It’s a bit heavy handed (as the show is wont to be), maybe, but it felt true to me.
  • Congrats Cole and Luisa! Here’s hoping yours is a happy union, unlike basically everyone on this show.
  • And that’s a wrap on season 2 y’all! See you in fall for the next season, and around here until then.




Total Affair of the Heart 211

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This week we pull back the curtains and let some light in on our relationships—and it’s not always pretty.

“211” draws a lot of comparisons between the states of Noah and Alison’s relationship with the state of Cole and Luisa. When Cole pitches the Lobster Roll-buyout idea to Luisa they’re overlooking the ocean, on one bench, bathed in sunlight, and constantly affirming their love and support for each other. Once Noah finally gets a hold of Alison and they sit down, they’re on opposite sides of the table, while a storm whistles outside. They are literally surrounded by the decaying bones of where their relationship started. Again, The Affair is not a visually subtle show. But it is affective.

Whether or not Luisa and Cole’s warmth could survive Scotty’s revelation that if he told Cole would “blow up his whole life,” is less clear. On the bench Cole swears to Luisa that there’s no chance he’d ever go back to Alison, who multiple people this week call a liar (Oscar even goes as far to say she’s “pathological”). The way they work their shit hasn’t always been healthy, but they do seem to come back to each other stronger, and more open, each time. Cole really is in a much better spot, and Luisa seems pretty sensitive to that. God help me, I love these crazy kids.

Meanwhile Noah’s relationships continue to crumble left and right. He finds out Alison has been lying about med school, and then he finds out that she’s absconded to Montauk, purchased a restaurant, with her ex-husband, and plans on potentially splitting her time there. In his defense, he had a long day. So he goes to visit Max, where truths are spoken, harsh words exchanged, and so much light is let in that it makes sense that we see Max testifying at Noah’s trial in the end.

To Max, Noah is the guy that has it all, no matter how much he tries to blow it all up. The guy who left the girl Max has always loved, only to have her continue to love Noah. To Noah, Max is the guy who’s always tried to buy the love of those around him. The guy who paid his girlfriend’s estranged husband $50,000 to set out on his own. Both of these viewpoints are said to the other. A glass is whipped at a wall.

And yet, Noah gets a lot of tough, wise love this week. Oscar seems to have some sort of read on him, Max understands that “sometimes people are going through something and you can’t be a part of it,” and even Alison is clear and unflinching about her wants and needs in this relationship. Alison and Noah talk

Maybe she gets that from Cole; it’s clear this week that there’s still a lot of warmth, love, and support there (Cole, actually, seems to have that with everyone, even Scotty). Hopefully she knows that Noah’s demands and pleads (“Do you love me?…Then don’t do this” is some manipulative bullshit) can’t be part of her anymore. She may not have seen Luisa and Cole’s heartfelt parallel conversation, but hopefully that’s what she’s working towards anyway.

Stray Thoughts

  • I know it’s courtroom grandstanding, but did Noah really destroy the reputation of the Lockharts? Like anyone who knew of “their curse” (which, none of the boys did, so that feels like either a small pool or a major coverup) or their dealings already knew, and anyone who didn’t thought it was just local color for the novel, right?
  • Also in the courtroom we hear a bit more of the events from last season’s finale’s divisive use of perspective. Does that mean the happy medium is the events from Alison’s memory but the location of Noah’s? And are we to read this as the writers admitting that they overstepped their bounds a bit?
  • Man that was a really awkward way to meet Cherry. Hoooooo-boy.
  • And to add awkward to awkward, Margaret is very close to Luisa. Honestly surprised she didn’t garner some favor by noting how much she too hates Noah.
  • Also I really appreciate that whole chunk of that being in Spanish; takes some realism like Jane the Virgin.
  • Luisa is smart—don’t get into debt in the U.S.
  • And rightfully wary of Alison’s involvement, perhaps the only one who really should be. It explains why she would let Alison be at the wedding, but letting her bring Noah still seems like a mistake.
  • Lol at Noah’s bathroom office. Not-lol at his complaints about it. (Rent work space? clear out a corner of the bedroom? You’re a rich guy?)
  • Oscar has one thing right about Noah: He’s a tourist. He wants something so badly but also doesn’t want it. This week and last we’ve seen him wrestling with that. But Oscar also sounds like a major fuckboy straight from the friendzone when he talks about Alison, so there you go.
  • Max to Noah: “You man, you, everybody just lets you go. No matter how hard you try to blow it up. I don’t get it. What do you have that I don’t?” NOBODY KNOWS, MAX

Total Affair of the Heart 210

And here we are again, at the end of another season of The Affair. Once again we’re left with a lot more questions than we have answers to. What did the DNA analysis return? What is Alison so worried about? Will Noah ever gain some self-awareness? And how did Helen and Vic’s safari go?

We’re thrown back into the usual switching between someone’s perspective, and honestly if they’re only going to use pulling us out of any viewpoint once (or in special occasions) then I appreciate that episode a lot more. In many ways it seems like though the night was loud and fraught for most of our characters, it was almost a quiet crescendo of everything that’s happened to them over the past nine weeks. And more importantly, it crystallized things going forward for basically everyone.

Helen is off with Vic, and though we don’t see her we have no reason to believe she’s unhappy. Cole has some how mended things with Luisa and they’re now not just engaged but blissfully caught up each other (she got Cole to move to the city!). And Alison and Noah actually made a real attempt to mend the gap that widened between them over the first chunk of the season.

Alison has revisited her dream of becoming a doctor, enrolling in school and somehow balancing work, a baby, and couple’s therapy with Noah. Alison sitting with ColeShe’s strained, and a bit conflicted about whether she can handle this. It’s similar to what we saw from her last week, and it’s clear that she got a major dose of clarity (or boost of anti-bullshit) that pushed her to pursue her own goals. So it’s kind of a bummer we don’t really get a resolution to why she’s suddenly feeling so weak at school.

What we do see is her feeling anxious. Very anxious. It starts as soon as we see her, but it doesn’t really bubble over until Scotty sees baby Joanie. “I think she looks a lot like her dad,” says the nanny. “Yeah….I think so too…” Scotty trails off as he rolls out. It all circles back to the last minute, when we jump ahead and the DNA results are read but not aloud. We don’t know what was in the envelope, but given that Scotty’s visit made Alison call Cole to meet, seem conflicted when he brings up his impending nuptials, and stare longingly from outside the bar when Luisa shows up, all signs seem to be pointing to Joanie being Cole’s, not Noah’s.

When she walked into the bar Alison seemed a bit overly awkward, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, she would confess to Cole in an attempt to rekindle something. But once she understands Luisa’s place in his life she seems disjointed, and depressed that she blew her whole life up with this man to end up right there.

It probably wouldn’t help to hear what Noah says in couple’s therapy, where he engages in an intense solo session for the first half of the episode. One thing I’ll say is that in a pop culture landscape that struggles to make use of therapy’s natural expository nature in a believable way, this scene was spot on. Cynthia Nixon was perfectly disarming as the therapist; it often felt like you were sitting in on a real therapist needling her patient to some self-awareness.

Noah in courtWhich Noah, ever the fuckboy that he is, stubbornly refuses. As Nixon-therapist initially notices his pattern of describing the three women in his life (Helen, Alison, and Whitney—who he apparently has not seen in the year since the party) as looking at him in judgement he ducks the connection. While he rambles on about how he wonders if he could be a “great man” and a “good man,” she asks him why he thinks it has to be a dichotomy, only to have him continue to steamroll his point right along. The only time he seems ready to face himself is when he finally says out loud that he almost cheated at the party last year, and she isn’t surprised.

Initially it seems like a nice way to bookend with the opener, when Noah and Alison make their way to court, plagued by a media circus: In this session he is facing the worst of himself, cleaning the scuzz from his soul, so what we saw in the beginning isn’t him facing his darkest days. That was the night his daughter was born. But as the therapy session continues it becomes clear just how little self-awareness Noah has. To him manhood is about more than providing, but he’s not quite willing to admit to himself that maybe that’s just his own view; possibly he wants to justify philandering (or an open relationship? Not sure if polyamory is something Noah has ever thought about, but it could be perfect for him assuming he can pull his head out of his ass and communicate), but doesn’t want to admit that not everyone has the same desire to transgress as he does.

If it was some sort of plain-faced attempt to humanize and explain Noah then I suppose it worked, but it also felt like watching someone dig their own grave. The way he talks about women as if he’s helpless around them, having them bandy into his life, read more as desperate than sympathetic. It’s no surprise that baby Joanie has never said “Dada.”

Still, it was a great scene, and the whole episode managed to draw parallels. The whole schtick of The Affair works best when it’s used to highlight things that the audience gets to know but our players don’t, like Noah’s desire to have the baby say his name, his opting to drop therapy after a day of confessions, Alison’s “accidental” hooky from the therapy session, etc. To see the show using it so smartly in this episode (in multitude, no less) compared to the first season finale is great.


Other thoughts

  • Good call hedging their bet on a Captain America movie being out. Or maybe they’re putting us squarely around “Civil War.” Either way, A+ for picking a reference that will likely stand the test of time.
  • Noah on Vic: “A bit strange, but that’s ok.”
  • I cannot stress enough how great Cynthia Nixon was here. Every quiet head tilt, deliberate choice of words, spoke volumes. She’s so not into his bullshit.
  • Joanie the baby has so much hair. Like wowza.
  • Joshua Jackson somehow manages to always physically capture the exact right amount of improvement (or dishevlement) that Cole requires as they jump around time. Better than anyone on the show, honestly.


Total Affair of the Heart: 209

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As the present day/flash forwards this season have grown more and more disconnected from any one character’s perspective, I wondered if The Affair would ever give up its M.O. completely and opt for a future not couched in anyone’s viewpoint. Well, it’s finally here.

“209” departs completely from the standard two-act approach the show has taken so far, seasoning us with just a little from every corner of the narrative. Alison goes into labor early, missing the time she was supposed to move her shit out of the Montauk house for Cole. Noah neglects and then attempts to mend his relationship with Alison, while Helen meets and sleeps with the doctor who operated on her son. The whole thing really sounds a lot more soapy like this, and when it’s devoid of its schtick it definitely feels a bit more so.

Helen and Dr. New Guy talking with her sonSomething the show has rebelled against is that the truth always has to be one thing; Did Noah watch Alison have sex as a creepy observer or did she want him to see? Is Dr. New Guy a nice guy who acts like a jerk or a jerk who acts like a nice guy? Does it matter?

It seemed unsurprisingly like it matters to Helen, who we haven’t really seen as the sort of person who sees those around her as more than one thing. The truth is no one is black and white, and when Dr. New Guy pushes her on it it stings a bit, but isn’t a dealbreaker. I’m not sure exactly where they plan on going with this, but I kind of like the groove he brings to the show. So far he’s one of the only people we’ve seen who seems to consistently be straightforward, and that’s something the world of The Affair could sorely use.

Noah and Eden in a car‘Course wake up calls can come in all different packages. Take Noah, for instance, who gets so shitfaced he forgets to hook up with Eden (who is game now that the book tour is over) and instead stumbles into the most awkward hot tub of all time, to find Whitney making out with a woman. That jolts him out of his stupor enough to get to his car and check his phone and realize that in addition to scarring his oldest daughter for life he is now missing the birth of his child.

Despite not being very related, Cole and Alison’s plot lines are used in this episode to echo each other, with the climax of the episode cutting between Cole’s misguided (and somewhat cartoonish) visions of his dead son leading him to action, while Alison’s still uncertain about the strength she can provide a child. It’s a nice (if, as The Affair is wont to be, heavy-handed) way of showing how though these two are separated by time and space they’re both still tied by Gabriel’s death in a way that can often set them apart from their new paramours.

“You’re not alone,” the only OB-GYN on duty assures Alison as her contractions start to really amp up. She was an important character expressing important thoughts, who will likely be little more than a blip on the radar of this show. We know in the future Alison and Noah have made some sort of life, even if their story this season has trended downward significantly. But this show needs some more positivity, especially if it’s ready to start shedding its gimmick. Will our players see clearly now that the rain has gone? Does it matter?

Other thoughts

  • The waitress had the same thought as I did about Helen’s odds on Tinder, though a bit more brazen—after all, why are you incredulous of the 40-something woman who arranged a date on Tinder? It’s not like they would be surprised by her once they got there, per se.
  • “Red or White?” “I prefer whiskey.” I love this guy. Potentially destructive and alcoholic as he may be.
  • The whole business with her name being Eden feels a bit over the top in this episode, honestly.
  • Apparently Noah does coke now, like it’s no problem at all. What’re you going to do. Definitely not think to call your pregnant wife and tell her you’re safe during a hurricane, no siree Bob.
  • Actual note from this episode: “Phwoo Noah is drunkkk”
  • Cannot stress this enough: Most Awkward Hot Tub Award


Total Affair of the Heart: 208

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“You just…want it all,” Helen drunkenly and wistfully tells Noah over drinks. Though it’s told from a Noah perspective, the warning could be applied to either of them.

“208” shows us how Noah will never be satisfied; he’s finally living his dream life—in more than one way—but it’s not quite enough, or rather, right. Alison and him are engaged with a baby on the way, but she’s undone his office so that she could make a nursery. His book is one of the most talked about of the season but he’s passed over for a literary prize. “Descent” is heralded in a (seemingly) fawning New Yorker article, but the review from the paper of the college where he’s done his reading bashes it as little more than pornography. He wants all of the high-profile fame, but none of the baggage and target-status that comes with it.

cdn.indiewire.psdopsIt’s something that Helen was likely always attuned to; this week she admits that when his first book failed she was happy, because it meant maybe he would settle for just being a husband and a father. That her words come to the audience before we see Noah’s side, and the plight of fame he’s starting to feel, is no coincidence—nor is it that we never see it from his. She’s always had a fairly good read on Noah, even if it was filtered through what she wanted from him. And as long as we’ve known him he’s turned away from that.

The way Helen sees it, she and Noah fucked up Whitney, but she’s a bit less clear on how fucked up they are themselves, divorce or no. Her parents kept her on such a specific leash all her life she never stopped to think about how she got everything she had wanted: Noah compromised on taking a loan from her parents so they could get out of a scrummy apartment in Harlem. She admits she wanted all of Noah, but not all of his dream, she wants Whitney to think for herself but not if that means pursuing a modeling career.

That Noah chooses to make not one but two boneheaded decisions in light of his “failures” while Helen doesn’t seem to even grow an interest in the Tinder profile her daughter made for her that seems to be blowing up isn’t surprising. Helen learned her lesson about impulsive decisions, Noah has ultimately been rewarded for it. The ways he acts out shouldn’t really be surprising, but I still felt a bit taken aback when he goes all in with Eden. She’s definitely been a major source of fission in so many of his entanglements across the last two weeks (When Eden checks her phone and reveals she knew Helen and Whitney would be touring colleges it became clear that Helen and Alison share a contempt in common), but I kind of thought the show might be a bit more delicate about the fact that nothing—no happy(ish) home, wife, career, fame, child—seems to satisfy Noah Solloway entirely.

Episode 208And as the night winds down it’s not clear if either Noah or Helen is read in on the illumination that the other sees in them. Helen seems to have moved past the nostalgia for her marriage that Whitney observed at the beginning of their day, declining a (allegedly chaste) night in Noah’s suite, while Noah seems to realize that he needs to appreciate the wins while he’s on top. But in the first episode that seems to be weaving in the time shift to the arc of the episode, with a back and forth on Helen’s visit to Lawyer Jon’s office, it seems Noah and Helen have gotten better at coparenting, or at least faking it, so there’s some growth happening there. Whether or not it’ll pull them out of the descent they’ve started down, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Stray observations

  • Whitney’s outfit for touring colleges makes her look like a teenage witch and I am here for it.
  • I feel very out of touch with the zeitgeist, but are there really people Helen’s age regularly using Tinder? Like enough that there would be like 2 or 3 matches in the span of under an hour in a college town? Genuinely curious.
  • The future, according to The Affair is very monochrome and bleak. It’s still a bit mum on how far ahead they jump, but I guess that’s what we have to look forward to.
  • “You have at least five good years left. I’m just trying to help you maximize them. …You might even have six.” Whitney herself is not often the best drawn character, but Julia Goldani Telles is always solid.
  • That said it is supposed to be December and she is a senior looking at colleges. That’s not great.
  • I couldn’t hear it exactly, but was that The Smiths playing in the background when Noah makes the (utterly boneheaded) decision to go in the bar and confront the critic?
  • Sorry about the delay; American Thanksgiving got in the way of everything this week!
  • For all the show has been building up Eden as some sort of rude handler, she defied expectations set for her here. Good on her.
  • Once again we’re exploring the future with no one perspective—a weird shift I still have a lot of questions about. But it seems Toby Lawyer Jon isn’t going to settle for mere wondering about the parenthood of Alison’s baby—finally, someone going after the answers.
  • I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: This show can be really overt with its imagery, but that shot of Noah signing his books was pretty masterful, if obvious.

Total Affair of the Heart: Episode 206

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Finally some semblance of reason from these people. Specifically, Noah and Helen. In this episode Martin’s health issues (after first appearing earlier this season) make way for some real airing out of the room, and Helen finally sees what really matters.

It seemed to me like the show was making a case that it’s not that everything is suddenly in perspective, per se, so much as it gave Helen and Noah a breather and a reminder of what it is they’re really fighting for and about: Their kids.

I kept expecting Helen to break down through out the episode, but her half is really about her strength and how she let herself get lost in all of this. Helen’s mother can’t believe that the anger Helen felt didn’t justify her doing whatever was necessary, and that led to her offering helpful unhelpful advice that was not in tune with what Helen needs. And in all her grief and rage Helen didn’t notice how far she had been pulled down from what she wanted—to close the book on this whole ordeal—until she literally removed herself from the conversation in the lawyer’s office. It was then that she finally saw how little voice she was really having in the whole proceeding.

06-affair.w529.h352.2xAnd from there she seems to be really pulling herself up: She makes peace with Noah over Martin’s hospital bed, she lets Noah hang out for a week in her house, and even offers to have him stay there with the kids on his weekend. Noah, in turn, notices her kindness, and isn’t a total fuck-up. Though we don’t see the hospital trip from his perspective, it’s clear that the ER room was home to them revisiting what it was about their partnership that made them good together and good parents. Martin’s doctor’s game plan of “let’s all work together” is something so innocous, but it’s exactly the sort of mundane statement that can pull you out of your funk and back down to Earth.

Of course Noah’s girl-trouble isn’t over there. He’s ready to move Alison back and move on with their lives, but—surprise! The way he left his fiancee alone for six weeks with very little (at least on screen) by way of communicating where he was didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, especially after last episode’s book reveal.

“You’ve been wonderful,” is something that Noah needs to hear from Alison, and since we’re seeing this from his perspective I don’t even know if that’s what she really said or just the high he was riding from the sudden promise of the future. It seems a bit simple, given that we know how much Alison has been struggling to find understanding and her place in the world, honestly. Which is why the next part—where she rips into him for his book-version of her—feels so much more honest.

It feels right to me that Noah would’ve known that his portrayal of Alison was sensitive, maybe even while also knowing that it wasn’t her, while simultaneously lifting it almost entirely from their relationship. That also helps make sense of the flashes we’ve seen him get of running someone BN-LD714_sebast_G_20151108115323over. Turns out (at least, right now, it seems) he’s been fighting against the ending he really wanted for the book: Running her over (? or presumably some similar death-filled ending for her). Likely he knows he’s taking out a bit of aggression over having “[blown] up his whole life over her,” as he seems constantly reminding her these days. But he also wants her to remember that the book isn’t real. Even if it is something of an outlet. Which is what makes his “we end up together” reassurance of the end of the book so hurtful to Allie. She’s much further down the road of reconciling how much truth he put in, she just wish he’d be honest about it.

And in the present day we get our second flash-forward that isn’t couched in anyone’s perspective. At first it seems like it’s from Helen’s, in her lawyer’s office, as she offers to put the brownstone up to help pay a witness (I’m guessing, based on her outburst with her mother that she is no longer financially linked to her parents? Even though the money is her dad’s). But then she leaves and we see Richard Schiff-lawyer call Oscar—who we know it is, thanks to last week’s scene between him and the detective.


Now that we know that Noah’s flashes are tied to the desired ending to the book it takes away a bit of the confusion about what his role is in all this if it wasn’t the murder. But still know him and Alison seem to be hiding something—maybe Scotty finds out that Alison’s baby is from her (presumably) one-night stand with Cole during her six-week time away from Noah? Her pregnancy is one of those plot points that reconciles a lot of holes in what we understand so far. No wonder she wants a little clarity from Noah.

Stray Observations

  • Apparently Grandma’s ginger do didn’t fly at the college reunion because she’s back to grey now. Oh well.
  • Noah asks Allie if she only read sex scenes and she says no but it seems “the whole thing was sex scenes.” Again: Is Noah a trashy romance writer? Because I could be down for that; maybe his reconciling with that is what gives him that douchey-English-major air.
  • Watching Bruce and Margaret fight Richard Schiff-lawyer is clearly used to it, and also clearly not getting paid enough (Although he might be; he does seem like a rich white person lawyer in NYC)
  • Six weeks later: Helen’s hair is pretty cute!
  • Noah: “We can go anywhere you want this summer!” Martin: “Not Montauk” Helen: “No definitely not Montauk.”
  • Whitney acted the hell out of the maturity and naive bewilderment that comes with consoling a crying parent.
  • “The story’s not even about you, it’s about me” is so classic Noah Solloway I can’t even stand it.





Total Affair of the Heart: 205

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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.