Total Affair of the Heart: 204

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Well that really hit the fan, huh?

This episode actually got me thinking about my own parent’s divorce. Not because they are in anyway as boneheaded as Helen and Noah are here, but because the show does manage to capture that hurt that permeates and radiates through you during a divorce. Helen can’t find a release, whether it’s with Max or at the bottom of a bottle, and Noah can’t seem to face it at all.

Again the show makes no real movements to make Noah a sympathetic character: While Helen’s problems are technically of her own making, this episode seems to lay out why exactly her stability has always been so important. At the very least, it established that even when those around her complain about it, her “perfection” is what her world is built around. Noah, meanwhile, is so intent on making everything right for him that even though he makes mistake after mistake in the eyes of what’s best for his children, he still gets to end the day with a brew and a girl.

Dominic West as Noah and Nadia Gan as Madeline Lim in The Affair (season 2, episode 4). - Photo: Mark Schafer/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: TheAffair_204_9626

Obviously Noah’s actions do have consequences. The way his children look at him and will feel about him from this point forward will likely be a reaction for his, essentially, total obliteration of their home life (Richard Schiff lawyer may have overused the term “paramour” but he did tap the right emotional vein there). But the show doesn’t seem as interested in the immediate consequences for him.

The introduction of his sister, though, indicates at least someone will be able to call him on his shit. A major sticking point for Noah has been that people see his value, appreciate what he does for them, all the while not seeing that much of his actions revolve around what he needs. Though his sister is only introduced this episode, she had an understanding of his character and a sort of established camaraderie that felt believable to me. Though they clearly don’t see eye to eye on this (or Noah just didn’t want to hear it) she gets him, in that way where only a sibling who has seen you grow can.

As for Helen, she seems to have no one. Hell, she even tells the hairdresser that no one would come with her to court. I’m not entirely sure, but it felt almost like they were trying to play much of Helen’s screw ups and misfortunes for laughs, but it felt so cringeworthy to me. The entitlement, the sadness, the aching pain that Maura Tierney is able to communicate; it all made me want to curl up into a ball. And for God’s sake PULL THAT FOIL OUT OF YOU’RE HAIR!

This was so hard to watch...
This was so hard to watch…

It’s clear that they want Helen to be out to sea here (a parallel I found somewhat reminsicent of Alison at the beginning of last season). Before she seemed to be willing to be pulled in whatever way seemed best—her kids, Max, her mom, etc.—but all the while she was still waiving her arms, searching for some attention. It seemed like maybe Max would be the guy to give it to her, but as it turns out he was just as selfish as…well, honestly, most people on this show. Whether she picked up that Max gave Noah money largely to get the competition out of the way or if she just feels like she’s the only one not being given a lifeline, she at least finally acted on the insecurity she’s been feeling about their relationship as long as we’ve known them (four episodes, I guess).

It makes sense that Noah and Helen would both focus on the parts of court that felt most damning to their own side, which makes it feel really unclear where things are going to go. Like Helen’s own mother, who we learn faces problems in her own marriage (confirming what Helen’s dad told Cole), Helen is not in love, or maybe even in like with anyone. And what’s worse is no one seems there to catch her when she falls.

The best scene of the week comes when Helen’s mother (now a ginger) comes to collect Whitney to go to her Bryn Mawr reunion, and reveals she doesn’t even know where her husband is. It’s a subtle shift in the kitchen, one I’m not surprised Whitney missed, but it’s some powerful acting.

Stray Observations: 

  • We get the first linear appearance of Richard Schiff, who Helen knows through her father (and presumably booked through her father, but was unaware he wasn’t in the state/country. Curious) and a whole lot of “his paraMOUR”
  • “It happens to be the legal term for it.”
  • Whitney’s texts are all one-sided.
  • Also obnoxious—in fact, so are basically all Solloway kids, save for the youngest.
  • Ginger Grandma though…Not sure I love the hair, but the “one thing your father is good at is protecting his money” line was gold.
  • Helen wanting to drink straight from the bottle but also sing along to the song; a classic dilemma.
  • God Trevor was such a little shit. Takes after his Dad I guess.

 

 

 

Total Affair of the Heart: Season 2 Episode 3

And we’re back: Our first “traditional” episode of the season, bouncing between Noah and Allie’s views of the same events. Which draws a more direct line between the underlying tension of their relationship: It doesn’t matter how committed they both feel they are if they’re not sure where the other person really is. And to some extent they are in wildly different places.

Noah’s trying to shed his old life, and is excited to do so. He’s found a muse and it’s renewed his vigor for life. But in some ways the charm of his relationship with Allie is wearing off, and whether he’s right or wrong in perceiving it (as in the opening sex scene) or even whether it’s a bad thing (relationships cool over time, but remain fulfilling) he’s scared that it’s there at all. The ways in which they don’t know each other totally doesn’t have to be scary, but for Noah it preys on that uncertainty he has about the relationship—one he threw his life away for. The way she’s able to deftly lie to their host couple at dinner charms him, but it also taps into his concern about the front she puts on.

Meanwhile Alison remembers herself as much more independent in her version of events. Her memories also largely take place away from Noah; sometimes because she removes herself from the situation, but also because she’s restarting her life. She like Noah is looking to start anew, and she finds some inspiration with their host couple. Oddly the spiel she gets is something that Noah likely needs to hear more, but as someone who’s spent a large amount of the past few years (and most of the show) running away from the past, it was so touching to see Allie’s connection here.

bal-the-affair-season-2-episode-3-photos-20151-020Of course their relationship isn’t existing in a vacuum, something Whitney’s presence in this episode loudly reminds our couple. Though it may seem a bit easy, their different scopes of Whitney, it also revealed a lot more about how this young girl goes through the world. Our scope of her in the first season is through Noah, who sees her as a classic, demanding teen—same here—but Allie shows that there’s a lot more going on to her than meets the eye. She may be young and self-indulgent, but who isn’t on this show? And honestly, if her trist with Scott Lockhart is going to be such a major component of this show, I’m glad we’re giving her a bit of dimension.

 

Stray observations

  • “OH MAN THIS COULD BE AN AWKWARD LUNCH” is what my notes read when Max shows up
  • It’s interesting to me how amiable he makes the whole divorce sound to Max, who is undoubtedly at least getting something of a full picture with Helen’s side. “She’ll be single for like 30 seconds,” he says of Helen’s post-divorce life. Does he really believe that? Or is that just what you tell old college friends about your old college sweetheart? Does Max buy it?
  • Huh, Alison doesn’t remember drinking more. Another one of those discords that may seem laid a bit thick in “The Affair,” but that feels somewhat honest to pissy partners.
  • Also that the dinner is a roundtable. And that Whitney Ubered all the way to their writing cabin.
  • Also interesting that they remember the other person being the one to protect Alison? In Noah’s version Alison “leaves to take a walk” or whatever, and in Allie’s Noah is the one who escorts Whitney out of there.
  • MAN Whitney can throw down. For being such a teenager girlfriend knows a lot more than meets the eye.
  • And lastly: The meeting in the lawyer’s office. The plot thickens.

 

Total Affair of the Heart: S2 E2

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And now the other side of the coin. This week seemed to be all about definitions. And in some ways, it was an answer to the flurry of episode one: Noah’s movements and activities in the city showing someone who isn’t a part of that life anymore, and Helen’s sadness around the shattered life she has mirrors Alison’s movements and activities in the idyllic small town showing someone who’s not sure where they belong right now, and Cole’s sadness about the life he has now that he can’t bear to live with.

Where last week we saw Noah’s life largely getting started from the affair—”finding his muse,” getting a book deal, feeling in control—we see Allie’s life has taken a sharp right, if not halted, because of the same events. And now she’s unsure of her place in the world. She’s not sure where she is with Cole, who she is without work, where she is (or where she’ll be) with Noah, and who she’ll be on the pages of the book he left on the desk.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.55.14 AMWhat’s nice is the way all four chapters seem to build on each other; how each character sees themselves, others, and their relationships. We know how shitty Noah’s day made him feel, and we know how Helen saw him bringing that on himself a lot too. But now we see that Allie’s perspective somewhat aligns with Helen’s (Noah’s a jerrrrrrk when he’s cranky) while also seeing that he didn’t remember the fight because the life in that cottage and resolution of the night made it so inconsequential to him. He feels confused and worried, she feels confused and trapped.

But neither of them seem to feel very sad about their decisions, unlike Helen and Cole. Like Allie we see him struggling with children and the cloud of death that their minds associate with kids, but for him the pain is magnified. Joshua Jackson is really good at looking schlubby and utterly worn down here, which is good because apparently Cole is just burning out. All he wants to do is drive, drive, drive, which is really a whole new look for him. Before he was exactly where he always wanted to be and always would be. Now he just wants to be on the move.

Right now, like Helen, he is mostly in “sad” and “transitory/unknown” part of his post-divorce life, but given that this is the first we’ve seen of him since his outburst at the end of season one, Jackson does a great job channeling all that unhappiness that’s burning inside of him without an outlet. Selling that much of a pendulum swing in a person whose point-of-view is suddenly thrust into the spotlight isn’t an easy task. Jackson doesn’t have as much to do with the character here as Maura Tierney did with Helen last week (at least for now) but he does sell that Cole would see himself as sympathetic.

Again the show seems to be doubling down on the shockingly different memories of Alison and Cole’s meeting, but I guess it makes it easier to see how they’re played (and remembered) emotionally. Something about Alison’s headspace has always seemed a bit more authentic and grounded to me. Not because her views are correct or even the most honest, but the feeling behind them is so much more real, for lack of a better term. Something about the harshness of the second interaction with Noah versus the sweetness of the first seems like a genuine way to remember the events of the day, or at least the emotional current running underneath it all. Oddly enough their life—though clearly undefined—felt like each had an established sense of trust towards the other: Noah leaves his book out in plain sight, even though he expects Allie not to read it. She remembers the whole range of emotions he made her feel that day, and ends her side on a happy note.

But as all our players converge in the future in court, no one’s perspective seems to shed much light on their emotions or expectations of the situation. Alison is a bit jarred by the new lawyer (oh Richard Schriff, you delightful douchenozzle-player) and Helen’s involvement, while Cole’s face in courtroom is observant and largely inscrutable. Now that this story is building in the future more, not just being used to draw out the memories of the couple, I’d like to see a bit more happening here, but I guess that’s just down the road.

Stray thoughts: 

  • House pooooooooorn
  • Doesn’t really seem like Cole knows what to make of the situation either
  • Alison, with baby what’s-her-name in court, doesn’t seem too thrown by Noah’s fate. But as we’ve seen Alison and Noah seem to have something they’re not sharing.
  • Alison’s day vacillates between an established couple and a formerly established couple, before ending with Noah and her: a sort-of established couple, except maybe not officially.
  •  Her memory of the reconcilatory dinner seemed to be post-sundown, whereas Noah’s was distinctly before. Hmmmmmm.
  • With Helen’s dad moving to leave her mom, this family is just getting REKT by divorce.
  • The carride with Helen’s dad and Cole was very interesting; the ways they’re able to connect but also being in distinctly different vantage points of the whole thing. I wasn’t sure if Cole knew the situation? He seemed to have a look at the end, and was curious about the “son-in-law” in particular. Maybe I’m just terrible at reading Joshua Jackson.
  • This show has me ogling at ring fingers. Hello babysitter -Cole.

 

Total Affair of the Heart (S2 E1)

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I feel like I’ve said this before, but “The Affair” has never been the most nuanced show with its visual imagery. And clearly, season 2 is ready to double down on that.

If the mess of emotions we left our characters in at the end of last season didn’t tip us off, the premiere of season 2 did: A storm is coming. And our web of people and lies is smack dab in the middle of it.

Only know we get to see them grow: This season has already seen the introduction of Helen’s point of view, and next episode will be Allison and Cole. And though the show seems to be committing to more dramatically different memories of events (if you’ll recall, last season’s finale really took divergent memories to the extreme) it seems to be committing to them a bit more honestly here.

Of minor note: Helen wears white in Noah's memory, and a more solemn black in her own.
Of minor note: Helen wears white in Noah’s memory, and a more solemn black in her own.

The narrative device—at its best—serves to show us not just how the primary characters are seeing the world, but also what those around them are playing off of. It’s not that memories IRL are necessarily so different, so much as the emotions that cloud what we remember about a scene or event effect what hurt and feelings end up sticking with us.

The wildly different memories of the mediator scene actually felt more natural to me; it makes sense that both halves of the former couple would feel talked down to, bruised, and miffed at the other’s curt reactions. It explains the gulf between them, if it doesn’t necessarily excuse it.

Helen’s POV is new, so let’s start there: Here we see that Noah is a jerk (no surprise, for either us who have already found him to be a jerk in basically every POV, or for an ex-wife to feel that way about her philandering ex-husband), and Helen is sad. It should be an interesting exercise now that we get to see Helen in her own right, not through her husband as he falls of love or his mistress as she falls deeper into an affair.

:(
😦

So far it’s been a lot of how we manage our grief and, sadly, how others do. Throughout her half Helen is indulged, somewhat, but often it’s limited by others; the most heartbreaking scene comes as she arrives home after a rough afternoon and finds Whitney screaming about her essay, her mother micromanaging her house, and her youngest son weeping because he’s learned that his whole world is permanently upended.

On the flip side, Noah’s world has him really (and somewhat finally) grappling with how decisions can affect and ricochet through the lives of others. It’s present in the more obvious interactions with his family—very heated arguments with his ex-mother-in-law, his kids removing themselves from his presence—but it’s also in the small conversations with his friend, who plans to have his wife call Helen and set up a dinner. It may all feel worth it when Noah comes home to Allison, but the conversation that these two will have for the rest of their lives, or at least for the forseeable future, isn’t going away. For him the storm seems to be just brewing over his shoulder, just out of reach. And for Helen the storm is in full swing.

Stray thoughts:

  • It’s one of the more “classic” books my somewhat unorthodox education covered back in the day, but I loved the dance around/spoiler alert for “Of Mice and Men.” Thanks for lookin’ out guys.
  • In neither reality is that a mediation guy I’d want to have. You’d think it was his first mediation, I mean damn.
  • The characters of color number is going up!
  • Future Watch: We know he’s happy with Allie, but there seem to be some smoother waters with Helen, he’s finally able to accept money for a lawyer. Or he’s just that desperate.
  • Peen sighting—ok cable tv, I see you.
  • Should be interesting to see how this show starts to develop now that they’re playing with four irons in the fire. It almost feels like the story itself is going to be less sprawling. With four POV we may cover less ground and stick to a core couple of months, given that for the most part they’d save 4-memories of one day/event/episode for bigger happenings. I’m also wondering if the show will continue to split evenly, or if they’ll find themselves playing around with last minute reveals by quickly changing character POVs. Long story short, excited to see what they do with the expanded landscape.
  • Welcome back everybody!