Last episode we talked structure, as the framing of The Affair began to shift under our feet by placing Noah’s and Alison’s tales end-to-front rather than side-to-side. This week shifts again: Alison’s story comes first, while Noah’s half-hour plays second fiddle. But this episode also contained a lot more story and character development, which served to make that structural flourish just an interesting oddity. While still not as gripping as the pilot, the sheer amount of plot progress in episode five makes it one of the best to date.
And we finally know who’s been murdered! We’ll hold until after the break to reveal the victim’s identity, for the sake of anyone still catching up. But it’s worth mentioning up front that tilting the hand this early can mean a) The Affair has a lot more in store for us or b) The Affair is going to get really boring really fast. Hell, based on some other reviews for the first half of the season, some people already find watching the cat-and-mouse-and-Pacey game akin to watching paint dry. But I’m going with a), Regis, final answer. So far The Affair hasn’t given much reason for distrust.
Before we get to the who-got-murdered, Alison’s account also deserves mention for providing a lot more backstory on her family (the Baileys, not the Lockharts). Her organic-loving faith-healing mother visits for the first time in forever and brings a healthy amount of chaos with her, which is probably the reason she hasn’t visited in forever. She’s annoying, if I may put it as delicately as possible. Interestingly, though, she takes one look at Noah and states declaratively that she knows Alison is having an affair with him. Alison balks, but Hippie Mama raises her hand. She’s cool with it, like, we all have energy inside of us, you know? So it totally needs to be released, like. You know? Like, whatever. Cat’s out of the bag, is the point.
Also: At the start of this season it seemed that Alison’s account would consistently portray Noah as the seedy instigator of the affair and herself as the innocent victim, and vice versa. That was interesting, if a bit expected. This episode, though, manages to weasel out of that expectation: not only is Noah not devious or preying in Alison’s account, but he’s irresistibly romantic in the most childlike ways. He expounds on how he loves teaching because he feels like he has something to give, and we know there must be at least a grain of truth to that because he’s said as much to his father-in-law in his own accounts.
But to hell with deep thematic originality: let’s find out who got offed! Scotty, Cole’s brother and Alison’s brother-in-law, apparently gets run down by a car as he walks along the road leading to a club called The End, which isn’t foreboding at all. Are you totally shocked and awed? No? Me neither. Part of this may have to do with the casual way the detective rolls this information out. I nearly missed it. The other part is who cares about Scotty? Colin Donnell, who plays Scotty, also played Tommy Merlyn on Arrow until that character also got demoted to Not Alive. That death was pretty meaningless, but Arrow forced so much significance on it that the meaninglessness of the death wasn’t even the problem. The meaninglessness of the life — i.e. having Tommy Merlyn there just to die and make people cry later — was the real issue there.
Thank goodness The Affair isn’t Arrow. At this stage, yes: Scotty is one-note (he’s actually no-note, having only had three or four lines over the course of five episodes). But now that we know he’s going to die, the character development gets a lot tougher. Every line Scotty has from here on will be viewed through a different lens, and every problem he causes will in turn cause us to wonder whether this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Alternatively, The Affair could leave him at one-/no-note status, and that way when he dies there’s no Arrow aftereffect.
We’ll just have to wait and see. Best line of the week goes to Noah’s daughter Whitney, who asks in 100% earnestness “How do I unasshole myself?” and then pauses to listen, carefully, as carried along on the Montauk wind is the faint and fleeting sound of my palm hitting my face.