The Affair took home a few surprise awards at the Golden Globes this past weekend, including Best Drama Series (beating out the likes of Game of Thrones and House of Cards) and a Best Actress trophy for Ruth Wilson. Dominic West was nominated as well, but lost out to Kevin Spacey for Cards. As a consolation prize (and because episode six was very much The Dominic West Show), this review will be very Noah-centric. You’re welcome, Dominic.
We catch up with Noah as his best friend Max visits him out in Montauk. They go drinking, clubbing, and guess who they meet during their night of revelry? I may have said this before, but Noah and Alison running into each other constantly just seems a bit contrived. This time, though, that aspect is at least partially left to the imagination. Noah plays it like he has no idea who Alison is, for the sake of appearances in front of family friend Max — but as Max’s taxi pulls away from the club later that night, Noah spins and scampers back up the stairs like a child on Christmas (in reverse) and promptly and passionately kisses Alison. So it could have been the case that this particular run-in wasn’t at all accidental, and Noah’s getting more and more bold in his fling. More importantly, West absolutely nails that giddy super-romantic childlike glee.
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There were a couple new story elements and plot revelations in the fourth hour of The Affair, but like the third episode this one didn’t have nearly the same degree of crackle-and-pop as the opening segments. Let’s hope that’s not a new trend, and let’s dive right into episode four.
I’m somewhat surprised it’s taken me this long to mention any parallels to True Detective, as the structure alone is pretty much identical to that of The Affair – future-set interrogations framing a series of flashbacks that may or may not be true, an overbearing sense that the past and the present are linked by something we viewers just can’t grasp yet, etc. Now, though, the comparison is both unavoidable and deeper than the structure. The fifth episode of that first season (“The Secret Fate of All Life”) is the first time that the verbal recounting of the old case by Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is in direct conflict with what we’re actually seeing. Likewise, the memories of Noah and Alison are now starting to seem more and more dubious (or are they? Dun dun dun).
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Are the accents of Ruth Wilson and Dominic West beginning to bother anyone else? There’s no doubt that this is a great actress and a great actor cast nearly-perfectly as a woman and a man who are naïve and innocent in one moment and devilishly devious in the next. Plenty of Brits can handle the American accent with aplomb, and West in particular has had more than enough practice with The Wire’s McNulty and a few other American characters. Wilson is the more frequent offender in this third hour of The Affair, allowing her English English to show itself in her American English, especially in the framing scenes in the interrogation room.
She’s still perfect for Alison, though, as West is perfect for Noah, and though the third episode isn’t as good as the first or second it still moves the story forward into the promise of next week. That’s really the main reason why this show is working so far – the promise of next week. That’s not to say that the individual episodes aren’t doing enough, because they’re certainly far better than most of the drivel on television today. But the story and structure is so twisty-turny that the extended period of theorizing in between episodes is nearly as exciting as the episodes themselves, and that’s a mark of a solid and lasting series.
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The second hour of The Affair expands on the first episode not only by advancing the story with additional plot complications but, more importantly, by delving deeper into Noah and Alison and their present-day perceptions of the ill-fated affair. The biggest plot-point revelation is the purpose of the investigation that frames The Affair, that being tied to a murder case, and we already know a few bits and pieces of that crime. “Just trying to figure out if anyone might have had a motive to kill this fella,” the detective states, while Alison later mentions something about “whoever ran him down”. This is, of course, only the second episode of the show, so it’s tough to say how much of this is actually truth. Still, The Affair isn’t giving us these pieces for no reason.
And so we begin speculation early, using what we’ve been given so far. An obvious choice of victim would be Joshua Jackson’s Cole, Alison’s husband. If Noah and Alison engage in an affair that becomes increasingly involved, it’s only a matter of time before Cole finds out. This early in the game, that possibility could easily be a red herring. Could it be someone more minor, like Oscar the diner owner? Noah’s father-in-law, perhaps, using the discovery of the affair as blackmail material? The person who ends up being this “victim” might not even have been introduced yet, but it’s a fair bet that they crop up somewhere in season one.
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Showtime has always been between Starz and HBO with regards to original series programming, creating a great many more memorable series than the former but never quite reaching the consistent quality heights of the latter. Dexter, Weeds, and Californication are arguably Showtime’s most successful efforts alongside the historical dramas Tudors and Borgias, all of which are good shows worth watching. The premium channel’s sudden jettisoning of all of their “adult programming” series by 2010 might further evidence their desire to be seen more like an HBO than just a cheap knockoff, or maybe they just realized that nobody watches scripted softcore porn shows.
While The Affair might not exactly herald an Age of Showtime, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. The first hour is split down the middle in order to separately follow both Noah and Alison, both recounting the day they first met at a summertime getaway. We meet Noah, played by Dominic West, as he and his family get ready for their summer. They fight, as any family does, but they’re happy. Noah and his wife roll their eyes as their kids do kid things. They reach their destination and meet Ruth Wilson’s Alison, a waitress at the little diner, and when Noah’s daughter starts choking Alison stands by helplessly and later bursts into tears as Noah thanks her for the lunch. One thing leads to another and it’s clear that Alison is a whole lot more reckless than Noah.
Continue reading The Affair 1.1