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 (Episode 4)

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Welcome to episode 4, where most things aren’t made up and the family doesn’t quite matter. That statement’s only really about 43 percent true, but this episode is a sort of game-changer, even if it’s got a more mellow tone to it than the previous three.

For starters, consider this affair blasting off, with Allison and Noah consummating their relationship and going away on a day trip together. Like I said last time, this show is all about laying it on thick, and the fact that they are removing and isolating themselves on an island is sort of poetic. They both seem to be on the same, albeit seemingly unspoken, page that this trip is a significant development to their relationship.

What they don’t seem to be on the same page about, is what that means. They both know that they still love their families, and will never leave them. They’re aware that though some of the appeal is in not knowing the person they’re with (or more accurately being a blank slate to them). They are both under the impression that they are being pulled together by some sort of invisible string they can’t fight. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to feel very unsynced in how they’re approaching that moment.

1031103_1_3406307_01_444x250But in an odd way, this is one of the most synced episodes we’ve seen yet. Their outfits stay the same and by the end they share a moment where they seem completely in tune, lost within each other.

It wasn’t only a way to avoid editorial redundancies, using the view switch as a pause rather than a rewind was a brilliant way to show sort of how Allison and Noah differed in their approach to sex: Noah, concerned that he was crossing a line he couldn’t uncross, that he may enjoy it even though he never wanted it to be permanent, and that he needed the validation that he was still a good guy even if he was stepping out on his wife. Allison, concerned that if she took the huge step to consummate her affair it would be the only thing that could make her feel better, feel removed from death, and also afraid that it wouldn’t do a damn thing. We go from watching Noah grapple with the uneasy excitement he feels directly to Allison’s anxious grief setting back in.

It seems odd and yet fitting, then, that the only part where they’re account noticeably differed was when they visited the sunken pirate ship look out. Noah, who remembers the discussion before the sex, remembers conversations around Peter Pan, and Allison’s childhood memories. Allison, who remembers the conversation during a break from their lovemaking, seems haunted by the wind whistling like a child crying out for his mother.

Given that Allison’s lost a kid, it makes sense that she’d be bothered, but why then would Noah remember it as Allison’s favorite place? It’s another example of just how out of sync their memories seem to be, even when they almost perfectly align. But it’s also a way of rooting these characters in the lives they can’t break out of, no matter how hard they try.