Review: 'The Affair' - 'Episode 8': The winter of our discontent
A review of tonight's "The Affair" coming up just as soon as I send my daughter's French clothes to the dry cleaners...
When the Solloways returned to Brooklyn last week, I wondered if "The Affair" might try to go an episode or two without Noah and Alison interacting at all. Instead, tonight's episode simply jumps the action ahead several months, skipping past the end of summer and the immediate aftermath of Helen and Cole learning about the affair, and depositing us in the middle of a long, grey winter, particularly where the Solloway marriage is concerned.
Some people wondered last week if Helen had forgiven Noah too easily. As it turns out, things have been anything but easy between them in the months since his confession, with Noah seeking a level of forgiveness Helen isn't ready to offer, and Helen understandably using the affair as an excuse to take the moral high ground in every argument. This leads to the episode's best, most uncomfortable scene, where they visit their couples therapist (played by Blair effing Brown, people), and Helen bluntly lays out the unflattering reasons she married Noah — and, therefore, why the affair feels like more of a betrayal than if she had married a more exciting man — while Noah just demands her forgiveness, as if his four months of penance is all that's necessary to make this a non-event.
Inevitably, though, events bring Noah back to Montauk to attend Bruce's latest awards dinner. Here, the parts of the episode that interested me most had less to do with Noah and Alison reuniting on the night her grandmother dies (or on the usual differences in perspective, like Alison being dressed in a more glamorous fashion in Noah's version, or Noah being less of a hero figure at the hospital in Alison's), than in the parental relationships on display. Here, we get our first real understanding of how exactly Bruce turned into this (to borrow a line from another John Doman/Dominic West collaboration) gaping asshole, with the stories of the one and only time he was a Pulitzer finalist, and the relationship that inspired that book. Alison's mom gets no such moment of understanding here, as Athena bails on funeral planning — or even helping her daughter navigate her grief — to get away from this "archetypal wound." (Good lord, would I love to see an upcoming episode where Bruce somehow winds up in a room with this insufferable person.)
As for the Noah and Alison of it? As I've said before, that remains the thinnest, most self-serious part of the series, and I appreciate how much time has been spent on the original families, and how the different narrative devices have been dressing up some fairly stock material. In that way, in addition to the fractured timeline, "The Affair" is very much like "True Detective" — and I think the show has suffered a bit, as "TD" did in its final episodes, from the main characters leaving the interrogation room.
Still, the Suffolk cop is on the case, and I'll be curious to see where his investigation, and the story as a whole, goes over the final two episodes.
What did everybody else think?