Best New Views – October 2018

Not gonna lie to y’all: October was rough, and long. Somehow the last time I wrote in is both yesterday and also exactly 1,532 years ago. Luckily some of that is just because of the sheer amount of things that filled my life during the spookiest month of the year. Sure, there was the usual pumpkin goodies and candies and camaraderie, but there was also dozens of good episodes, movies, and people. (You’d think that last one would be covered in camaraderie, but hey! Whatever!)

Because the world was so hectic for October I didn’t get much of reading done (at least, not in the way that would show up here). But the good news is that I am mid-way through something like 4 books.

As if the world isn’t bleak enough (with mid-terms loooooooming on the horizon), beloved Filmstruck will be leaving us at the end of November. With any luck, when I next write you I’ll have plenty of older films to populate this list from a binge where and when I can.

So in lieu of getting back down to business:

In A Star is Born, Equality is Dead

I didn’t exactly know where to put A Star is Born on this list; on the one hand, I didn’t love it. On the other hand, I recognize that it was a strong enough movie that I had multiple fascinating discussions about it with people I love and trust throughout October. Luckily Manohla Dargis published this perfect piece at The New York Times, which dives into how exactly A Star is Born (arguably throughout the years) has failed the woman star of its narrative.

Shout Your Abortion

I don’t want to review this—how does on review a life story even work? Just go buy this book. Read it and be filled. Soak it in and put it back out in the world.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

This show is utterly imperfect, and who the hell cares. Like Riverdale (which it shares a showrunner with), it’s a show that’s tangled and shoddy at times, and consistently fun to look at and take in.

220px-sydney_bristow_aliasAlias

I watched this show when one of my best friends loaned me her enormous box-set (as in, a literal golden box based on one of the relics from the show). In so many ways this show was an artifact of a bygone time: Dialogue laden with heavy exposition, a quaint conception of the government as indelible force for good, Bradley Cooper being shunted to the side.

But (not the first to say this), Alias is a crucial link between the TV era it was borne into and the one it would bow out to; a confirmation and heightening of the spy genre; a debut of the mystery box that would define at least the next 10 years of television.

God bless J-Gar and her inquisitive pout.

Frankenstein

Did I initially read this for a now-different upcoming project? Yes! Was I blown away in spite of it? Also yes.

It seems so odd that there was a world so hidden beyond “throw the switch!” and “I think you actually mean Frankenstein’s monster;” Frankenstein the novel is told so much differently than any of the adaptations I’ve ever heard of, and so at odds with its place in pop culture.

While reading (/listening, thanks to creative commons), I was grateful to have this New Yorker piece in the back of my mind.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Over the summer me and my partner made a sort of plan to watch Tennessee Williams movies every time it was unbearably hot; Seattle’s summer, with all its smoke, made it a bit more interminable than we expected, so we didn’t get all the way down the list. So how refreshing it was to get to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in October, and find a surprising hit of the warmth of summer without the sweltering depression that can come with it (and Williams’ work).

This movie is a classic, with so much written about it that there’s not much I can add in a quick graf. But let me just say: My they are an attractive couple, and boy does Williams have a way of making the heat winds stir up a bunch of trouble fairly naturally.

Two of my favorite shows: Superstore and The Good Place

Superstore is back baby! And so is The Good Place! God bless! Thank god for great-ass comedies that are providing a safe space.

I’m a little on the fence about The Good Place‘s future, but I have nothing but faith in their ability to make me laugh and take me to new places.

And Superstore — perhaps Gomez best sums up my feelings about Deena, and everyone else:

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Youtube jam of the month: 

Honorable mentions:

Designing Women (1957)

The Maltese Falcon

The Guilty

Collette

 

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Best New Stuff – August 2018

August was hazy. Literally.

Seattle was swamped by a smoke storm, and so for weeks on end what appeared to be fog or even low clouds was actually unhealthy, ashy air blowing in from wildfires on all three land-sides of the state. Do not recommend.

The whole thing left the last bit of summer in a bit of a drag, but not without its highlights. To name a few:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

As one headline put it: America is horny for wholesome, and boy howdy, was this film wholesome. As if it weren’t enough that this film centered on Asian American woman finding love — which, despite the next entry in this post, is startlingly still a rare occurrence — this film takes the long-running trope of “fake relationship” and somehow makes it not just believable but grounded. For all there is to say about the internet’s burst of love for Peter Kavinsky, there’s something truly run and radically soft about the entire affair (with a large thanks to Kavinsky). The real star, here, is Lana Candor, who is the one to watch, and manages to navigate the startlingly human approach to the situation. Coupled with Set It Up, Netflix is on a roll with its rom-com offerings.

Sharp Objects

That Zepplin needle drop, I mean, goddaamn.

A massive improvement on the book, weaving various strands of mistreatment and anger together in an eloquent and ultimately gutting portrayal, all beautifully strung together by Amy Adams. The show (unlike The Leftovers the book, see below) manages to not answer any questions too concretely, helping (along with the sharp and lush editing) to make the whole thing feel like a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare. Its exploration of the harm that comes to women doesn’t shy away from the vindictiveness between women, and even manages to note that sometimes — perhaps more often than we’d care to admit — women’s anger is unjustified or mismanaged.

Some enthralling recaps on the show over at The AV Club and also at Tom and Lorenzo, now that HBO isn’t being a butt about it.

Crazy Rich Asians

The opulance. The decadance. The luxuiousness. And that’s just the wrapping. Crazy Rich Asians manages to be both an excellent rom-com, without skimping on the “personal is political” angle.

Trial and Error, season 2

The second season of this lovable goofball of a show was like watching someone juggle goldfish bowls while riding a unicycle. It’s possible the unicycle was more wobbly than it was on the first go-around, but the sheer accomplishment of staying steady and keeping those goldfish in the bowls is an achievement unto itself. Often times it seemed like it was getting too caught up in its own cleverness or random sense of humor, but just when I think it’d tipped too far the absurdity turned out to be a clue — and I got hyped to notice it!

At the very least this show deserves to be renewed for a third season, because I need to know exactly what the hell is happening with the witches of East Peck.

The Leftovers

This time, it’s the book. I didn’t love it the same way I loved the show — which makes sense, given that the book only covers the first season, the weakest of the show — but it was a fairly good read to try out. Where the show pivots the themes of mass loss and grief into spirituality and philosophy (while also maintaining the interpersonal affects of the disappearance), the book stays fairly grounded in the person whose head you’re in. It’s a great exploration of how two people can approach a meeting entirely differently, and still think they’re on the same page. I think it needs a bit more embroidery to fleece together the stories (for a book that’s all told from perspective there’s a lot left to the imagination) but it also steadfastly refuses to offer up any easy answers or conclusions about why or how these people’s lives are the way they are.

Honorable mentions:

The Feels

Blue Collar

Paterson

 

Youtube song of the month:

Best New Stuff – June 2018

Well golly, that was one helluva Pride wasn’t it? When we started the month everything seemed like a wide-open horizon. Now…well, it’s been a long month.

Writing about culture, in times like these can seem trivial. Unlike others, I don’t have any grand statements to opine about empathy machines or revealing who we really are; right now culture feels like a thing to do, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like the thing to do. I find more and more that I am explaining to people what actual representation looks like. It’s not always the stories in front of the camera, sometimes it’s the people behind the camera too — and the people who green light these things, and the people who shape political landscapes our art is born onto. That’s representation that we need to fight for, and that needs fighting for at the moment.

That being said, here are some things that just gave me life this month:

Nanette

Wow. There’s so much to say about Hannah Gadsby’s daring, groundbreaking, and gutting comedy special, but to put it succinctly: While the rest of the world was talking around talking about how to appropriately deal, as a society, with men who have hurt others, Nanette tackles it head on, forcing the issue in your face and elegantly circling the horses around you. By the end of the hourlong special, I was rapt, and the feeling has consumed me for days. Run don’t walk to your nearest Netflix outlet to hear on why Hannah Gadsby is the comic special to watch.

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The Good Fight

It’s become tired to say that something is (or will be) an important artifact of the Trump era. But leave it to the Kings (the writers behind this and The Good Wife) to find a way to make it wired, and—most importantly—fun. For all its pointed politics that can sometimes misstep or mis-swing, perhaps no scene has summed up like under this administration quite as much as a (liberal) judge getting a push alert to his smart watch, and uttering “Oh! This world!” and then continuing about the scene without a second thought. The Good Fight doesn’t always win its battles (its continuing blindspot for race relations, despite focusing on a Black law firm, is proof of that), but it did manage to be a fun 23 episodes, that didn’t pull back from the pulled-from-the-headlines nature the first show embraced—even as the headlines get more and more ludicrous.

For a Good Time, Call…

It’s hard to pull off a platonic love story between two female friends without it seeming too queer baiting, and For a Good Time, Call… definitely indulges those tendencies too. But by the end of this fun film, it’s clear that—on whatever level these women choose—they are soulmates, through and through. And their fights, to-dos, and deep affection finally reflect that of women friendships I know.

Plus, my god, they are funny.

APESH*T – Everything is Love

The release to end all releases. Once again Beyonce has stopped the world with a few Instagram posts, a video, and a full-fledged, long-awaited album with her husband. Everything is Love is neither of the artists strongest work, and coming off an album as strong and powerful as Lemonade it certainly falls short, just by nature of being more experimental and less nuanced. But the album has deceptive depth, and—honestly—all the songs are bops, in their own way. It would probably be better received if it had followed the self-titled album, but Everything is Love will likely hold more of a place in the zeitgeist than its initial response may reflect.

Also, I mean, this video, my god:

Ocean’s 8

It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal, and it won’t fix anything. But good lord did I need a movie full of competent women wearing kick-ass outfits pulling off a heist. I now own a velvet blazer, so Cate Blanchett’s propaganda worked.

1528406019661-3e6935b8e43ce5e189a9309d47097a4bHonorable mention: 

Incredibles 2

Fahrenheit 451

The Assassination of Gianni Versace

The Color Purple (the musical)

Best new stuff – April 2018

What up what up, we’re back at the end of another month! Let’s get some of the more important visuals from this past month out of the way:

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BEYONCE AT COACHELLA

It was so momentous that during my mid-month check in, wherein I take notes about what I watched in the first fortnight of the month so that the end-of-month Zosha has more memory, Beychella was the only thing I managed to write down.

Anyway, suffice it to say this was a month, and now we’re on to May. But before we do that, let’s review some other stuff:

Solaris

There’s a lot I sort of wish I could change about Solaris, but I’m so immensely grateful for it. I love finally getting around to bigger names like this and seeing all the ways it shaped and informed a genre, like slotting in a puzzle piece — a middle one, not even a perimeter. Solaris is so raw for such a structured film, a perfect balance of wearing its ideas on its sleeve while also being a deep well to mine for philosophy.

Dirty Computer

Janelle’s new album is here! And guys, it’s good. At parts it feels not quite as good as the sum of its parts, but between the call to arms that double as bops, and the stunning visuals of her accompanying “emotion picture” there’s no reason to not be listening to Janelle right now. Seriously what are you doing? (Unless it’s Beychella; then you get a pass for whatever.)

Punch Drunk Love

After having heard people talk about this (as Adam Sandler’s best performance ever) for years, I finally took the plunge for a forthcoming essay I edited at BW/DR. And wow. Wow! So enchanted with Paul Thomas Anderson as an auteur so preoccupied with the alchemic magic that happens within relationships, and how beautiful—and challenging—it can be to find someone whose weird matches your weird. This film shared so much DNA with Phantom Thread, I can’t wait to watch them together.

Jane the Virgin

Well the latest (and, apparently, penultimate!) season has wrapped and dAMN WHAT A TWIST. But leading up to the twist the show managed to do something truly remarkable: Ground itself utterly and completely. Every move felt right, every pain cut deep, and every smile was like that first day of 60 degree sunny weather in Seattle after winter. So in awe of how much this show does while making it all look easy.

“How Riverdale Turned Archie Into a Facist”

This essay is exactly the kind of thing I want to do with all of my time. Focused, yet flexible enough to envelop broader criticisms and insights about the show, this piece grabs you with its title and earns its keep by tracing a path so eloquently I ended up thinking I hadn’t given the show enough credit for what it did. 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻

Call Me By Your Name

As part of my reading books that movies I loved recently were based on, I reached for this one. So much more urgent than the movie, yet still just as sticky with heat. Spent a week after reading this thinking that I had already been through a week of summer weather, but realized it was just André Aciman’s feverish prose that painted such a vivid picture it was like I was right there in Italy with Oliver and Elio. Perhaps not quite as sophisticated as its cinematic counterpart, a bit less interested (and thus, neglectful) of the age difference at its core. But invigorating nonetheless.

“A Love Profane”

Two years of Lemonade, looking back at Deaux St. Felix’s stunner of a review from back then.

 

Honorable mentions: 

Death of Stalin

A Quiet Place

Bob’s Burgers

Superstore

 

And now to leave you with a distinct Youtube mood of the month: 

Best New Stuff – March 2018

In like a lion, out like a lamb.

While the first part of this month had a lot of senior editing for me over at Bright Wall/Dark Room, and producing at SeattlePI, the second half — well, it was more of the same. But I somehow carved out more time for some viewings on the side. Here’s what was the best of the docket:

3 Women

Initially picked up for an essay forthcoming at BWDR that I was editing, this Robert Altman classic has a sort of haunting, dreamlike (in the truest sense of the word) feel to it that will stick with you long after that final shot of the tires in the desert has left the screen. It’s ineffable and aloof, and yet somehow eerily familiar and reminiscent. Avant garde identity theft/personality melding in the 1970s with Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall. What’s to go wrong?

The Strange and Twisted Life of ‘Frankenstein’

The best kind of analytical essay is the kind that makes you want to immediately pick up the thing being dissected and revel in all of it. That’s exactly what this New Yorker piece by Jill Lepore does, weaving biographical details of Mary Shelley with historical meaning with quick hits of studied analysis. It makes me want to have a (preferably old and fragrant) copy of “Frankenstein” right in my hands, and to read the book and the essay all in one sitting.

Annihilation

Last week talkies, this week raw eBook (just kidding, it’s a regular book): After watching the movie, my boyfriend and I have taken to reading the book and — though there’s still more book to read, thank god — I’m confident to say that this is one of the better new reads I’ve done this month. It’s completely enthralling and diligently crafted to build and build and build, in a way that always leaves you wanting more no matter where you stop. Plus it’s a completely different taste than the movie (think man vs. man rather than man vs. nature) which means I have no idea where we’re going to end up.

Hold Up, They Don’t Love You Like I Love You

I mentioned before that great analytical essays make you want to immediately rush to the thing being dissected, but there’s other forms of great too (normally people who are better writers, or who write with more time spread these things out, but it’s my blog so enjoy the cracks, readers!). And perhaps no one is as good at the “Utterly catching you off guard with a funny, lighthearted tone and so intricately blurring the line between analysis and recounting that you’re not even sure how to pick it apart” than Fran. Her latest essay at BWDR is a masterclass, covering so many different things and handling it all with aplomb. Now how do I watch Ocean’s Eleven?

One Day at a Time

Norman Lear is still there, but the game has changed — and thank god it has. This (still unrenewed!!) Netflix sitcom follows a Cuban-American family through the ups and downs, comings outs and and coming ons, day-in and day-out of their lives and reader, it stunned me. I really didn’t think I could still do the tried and true sitcom formula, but One Day at Time knows when to keep the jokes down and focus on the heart. And though it often veers into Full House-esque, after-schools-special monologues, it’s masterful and empathetic in the way it tackles its subjects. Watch it now on Netflix, or just leave it streaming in the background so Netflix registers viewers and renews it already; I’m not your mom.

**since I wrote this review ODaaT got renewed! We did it America! #Blessed

Schitt’s Creek

This show — despite being recommended by so many people I love and respect — took me a while to get into, but thank god I did. “Girl’s Night,” in particular, bowled me over in the way it gracefully unfurled its true wingspan, swinging so simply from “wacky hijink” scenario to “grounded, interpersonal connections that make you want to reach out and stroke the screen.”

Honorable mentions:

Jane the Virgin (everything I need, and will probably be coming during its finale in April)

A Fantastic Woman

The H Spot

Youtube vid of the month:

Bonus: 

 

The TV Shield: How Policing on TV Needs to Evolve

 

Crime procedural have long been a staple of prime time television. In a crowded TV landscape like the Peak TV we’re in now, crime shows remain a familiar draw for viewers. There is an easy-to-tweak formula that networks can replicate over and over again. This formula is how we end up with so many TV police tropes, including ripped-from-the-headlines police, psychic police, detectives in a certain location, crime scene unit officers, law enforcement teaming up with mathematicians, federal agencies enlisting cutting edge technology, and goofball police all crowding the TV Guide with their antics.

But as the political climate shifts more and more divisively, show runners need to start being more aware of the moral predicaments their heroes are thrown into — and what that means as a reflection (or not) of modern policing.

brooklyn99.jpgSource: The TV Shield: How Policing on TV Needs to Evolve

Where The Man in the High Castle Dodges Reality

“The Man in the High Castle” should be the program on everyone’s lips after November’s election. After all, the show takes place in an alternate universe in which the U.S. has lost World War II, leaving the Nazis and Japanese empires to divvy up the states. Streamed through Amazon, the show isn’t beholden to any strict network guidelines around language and content. Instead of saying the pledge of allegiance in the morning, school children turn to a picture of the Fuhrer and perform a Nazi salute. The show’s premise is eerily close to discussions and debates rolling around the American zeitgeist now. And yet, it’s about as soft as the “Edelweiss” cover that opens its episodes.

Read more.

The Affair – 310

If “310” had existed in another season, or after another run of episodes, this might be a different review. The episode — chronicling Juliette and Noah’s days in Paris, and commitment to their family members as well as each other —has plenty of sweet, emotional moments. It’s just that they only barely connected with what we just saw.

Take Noah’s arc this season. We’ve seen him come to terms with a burden he was carrying around with him for the entire show (except it had never been mentioned), spiral out of control multiple times, cope with his time in prison, dissolve his marriage to Alison, burn his bridge with Helen, and finally realize that he stabbed himself in a disassociative episode and…none of that, is here.

Whatever build up there was between Juliette and Noah this season, whatever complications she adds to his life, is largely absent here, save for an errant mention of when he was out of control a few months ago and she helped him right the boat. What was his recovery process like? Who knows. It’s not relevant here. Never mind the fact that the entire season built out a mystery and a few mental health episodes to keep its wheels turning. The Affair has always struggle to balance the different strands of the show, but here it feels like it bucks the hook its so steadfastly held onto in favor of a romance drama.

What’s left has some nice moments: Juliette’s quietly sad disbelief at Etienne’s lucidity, only to still be crushed when her fears are confirmed moments later; Noah’s talk with Whitney, though perhaps a bit on the nose (The Affair specialty), feels like a solid connection between these two.

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But it doesn’t feel at all like a resolution to their arcs. For Juliette, it feels like her introduction has gone from hot, sexually-open, stereotypical Frenchwoman to grieving wife seeking escape to ignored lover to…girlfriend? I guess? Again, we haven’t really seen anything from this relationship, pre-recovery or no. Juliette’s arc mostly makes sense when we look at what (apparently) the writers are trying to do with Noah, which is completely rehab his image.

It’s a bizarre step, seeing as how he didn’t need to be rehabbed until they decided to spin him out of control to spin out a season mystery. Noah has always been a bit of a scumbag as a real person, but as a character who opted to go to prison at the end of last season to protect the women he loves, he was not exactly in need of saving. “310” returns him to that place he always seems to get to in Affair finales: loved by a woman, against all odds, and stepping in to be her night in shining armor.

I’ve written before that season 3 of The Affair felt a bit like a show they had ventured off the roadmap with, and “310” only confirms that for me, unfortunately. But they’re renewed for season 4, so next fall The Affair will be back on the map, one way or another.

Stray thoughts

  • I can’t get over Juliette getting a finale half, which seems a bit weird to me. Although we left basically everyone else at a nice stopping point (Alison getting shared custody of Joanie and a potential job, Cole choosing Luisa, Helen coming clean and mending things with Vic) Juliette has been so close to a non-entity. Her plot line here, while narratively rewarding in some ways, seems to only exist to prop up Noah’s half.
  • Noah would pretend he’s Hemingway.
  • I really liked the way they played the two versions of Juliette’s colleagues. Too often the memory questions this show asks seems to be overly-convenient (the restaurant scene, or the season 1 finale) but this one was a simple illustration of how weird social situations are, with or without a language barrier. The no subtitles in Noah’s was a nice touch too.
  • I’m not saying Juliette’s boss was wrong or right, but damn that scene was brutal to just be a random, lingering thread.
  • As was the black humor of getting Etienne’s body into the elevator. Oof.
  • From the notes: It’s only a matter of time before Noah shows up inappropriately [after Etienne’s death].
  • Oh Furkat. What a douche.

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.