This show’s strongest suit has always been the way it messes with our heads thanks to Alison and Noah’s unreliable stories. But this episode established that this device could very well also be its weakest link.
I say weakest because last week, Helen said some horrible things to Noah about how she never expected someone like him to cheat on her because he seemed “safe”. This week, as the two dealt with their daughter’s pregnancy, Noah assures her it’s not her fault, where Helen responds with a cold “I know”, as if blaming Noah’s infidelity indirectly, especially since his mistress’s brother-in-law is the one who “did this” to Whitney. It’s moments like these that make me question whether Helen is really just condescending and wants to blame her husband for the world’s problems, or whether this is merely Noah’s perception of his under-appreciating wife and increasing my belief that Helen and Cole deserve much, much better partners.
But the show takes risks, as evident in this penultimate episode. There were a lot of plot developments this week and some of them were a bit silly for a show like The Affair. It wasn’t just reckless of Alison and Noah to have sex in Noah’s bed or for Alison to lose her bra or wear Helen’s clothes, it was just hideously disturbing and it’s become nearly impossible to love or care for either of these people. Noah is an asshole in his perspective as well as in Alison’s, whereas Alison herself is spiteful (emptying Helen’s expensive shampoo bottle, WTF?) and simply unwilling to give her marriage a second chance.
This isn’t a shortcoming from the writers’ room though; this is simply the reality of the show’s main characters. Even if it is the hardest thing in the world to believe, Noah is sure that Alison is the love of his life. And even if it only complicates everything and makes no sense whatsoever, Alison has no trouble sleeping with Oscar in one of the most unsettling scenes on television. But on top of all that, Noah telling Helen that he’s in love with someone else after witnessing a shocking suicide jump from a building made this episode messier and messier.
The performances are still the best thing about The Affair at this point, and I wish Maura Tierney would get recognized for her raw reaction to Noah’s confession. When she found Alison’s underwear in Noah’s belongings and uttered the phrase “was she here?”, I felt all kinds of frightening chills crawling down my spine. Absolutely brilliant scene, down to her tossing Noah’s things at him and kicking him out of the house before slamming the door shut a bunch of times. Chilling and beautiful.
But while Noah hasn’t been really given a reasonable reason for acting the way he’s been acting (seriously, who does that to his partner after discovering they have a pregnant teenage daughter?), I’m more worried about the writers trying to explain Alison’s outrageousness by saying that she’s simply grieving. I loved her scene with the doctor where she replays the events leading up to her son’s death and the surprising twist about him dying by secondary drowning, especially the way she starts screaming and thinking she’s actually gone back to that period of time, but it’s in no way a justification for some of the bizarre things she did in this hour.
This is still a fantastic show, no doubt there. I was impressed by the intense cliffhanger where the two perspectives finally collide, and what it means for Alison to get on the train (alone?). But are we justifying all the messy plots and characters’ irresponsible actions by saying the narrators are simply unreliable, or should the unreliability be strictly for little details like who found the pregnancy test or what they discussed during sex?
I hope the finale leaves us with more answers and a mind-blowing sendoff.
Unfaithful Flings & Bits
– Cherry assured me that she is the devil this week. Her scene blaming Alison for Gabriel’s death was brutal. I don’t know whether to loathe her or praise Mare Winningham’s stunning performance.
– Alison viewed Noah’s home as too perfect, clean and organized. It really drew my attention for some reason.
– I loved Max and Noah’s honest scene at the office. Max is really starting to grow on me.
– Spectacular music and camerawork during Alison’s scene in the water. Seeing that mother and son waving at her from the beach was a nice, emotional touch.
– More on why Alison is awful: she was waiting to get her half of the ranch money, divorce Cole and take off.
– Whitney acting weird when her parents confronted her about the pregnancy test really had me thinking perhaps it was Alison who was pregnant. Turned out, Whitney is just simply weird.
– Scotty is run down by a car (in the future). But I’m more intrigued by how creepily mysterious the detective is, mind-fucking with Noah about his kids and everything. Will the finale next week give us a definitive clue to who killed Scotty?
Alison: Why don’t you just say it? You’re never going to leave her. This was never real. It’s just been a game to you. Just say it. Just tell me the truth.
Cherry: I told you to take him to the hospital, remember? I said he doesn’t look right, there’s something wrong. But you didn’t want to do it because you were a nurse and you knew better.
Alison: What’re you doing?
Cherry: And I didn’t push because it was your decision. Because you’re his mother. I have lived to regret that restraint so deeply.
A solid penultimate episode, building up to next week’s finale through various plots that seemed a bit messy at times.