Note: If you’ve already watched the entire season, be sure to check out Chris’ in-depth coverage of all the episodes.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first sat down to watch The Affair‘s debut episode. But by the end of the pilot’s running time, I found myself completely captivated by this tremendously unique psychological drama.
The reason The Affair works so well is due to the phenomenal performances at its center. Dominic West and Ruth Wilson are perfectly cast as the show’s primary duo, and they add a world of dimensions and complexities to Noah Solloway and Alison Lockhart. Although it’s often difficult to root for them as a couple, watching them navigate their way through their tumultuous circumstances is remarkably fascinating. Their journeys are raw, provocative, and highly realistic. However, the real MVP for me is undoubtedly Maura Tierney; her turn as Noah’s neglected wife Helen is especially memorable, as she’s responsible for some of the show’s most powerful and affecting moments.
Of course I can’t discuss The Affair without signaling out its groundbreaking concept: every episode is split in half, with the same pivotal events relayed by our two narrators in all their contrasting glory. This narrative device allows the writers to toy with our perceptions of memory bias, creating a truly immersive experience where viewers get to pick out every little detail (from set design to wardrobe). Each of these touches help shape Noah and Alison’s widely distinct worlds while illuminating their thoughts. It’s brilliant storytelling, and there’s nothing quite like it on television.
Unfortunately, while the finale proved to be a gripping affair (pun intended), I was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied by the season’s climax. Although the first half of the year was impeccably mapped out, I didn’t get nearly enough answers about the show’s central mystery by the time the season came to a close. I get that the writers want to keep us hooked for next year, but a finale should provide some semblance of resolution and closure. A lot of the question I had during the pilot remain unanswered, and I don’t think that’s a wise move on the show’s part. After all, things can get frustrating very fast (see Lost), and the show’s signature flash-forwards began to lose some of their impact in the final hours. Still, I’ll refrain from judging any further until I see what season two brings to the table.
With an engaging concept, sharp writing, and vividly drawn out characters, The Affair‘s debut season is a thought-provoking and engrossing achievement.