I love how this season has been focusing more on Helen’s side because it’s been fascinating to get inside her head and, as expected, Maura Tierney is nailing the role with her top-notch performance.
This week, we delve deeper into Helen’s psyche and it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch. Don’t get me wrong, this is still one of the most uncomfortable shows to watch, but it’s the kind of uncomfortable that you’re okay with (especially if you’re masochistic like me). I never knew I would love seeing a character spiraling out of control so much, and yet there I was absolutely captivated by Helen’s questionable actions. A drunk and high Helen had so many fascinating scenes in this week’s episode, but it’s that one particular scene at the hair salon that I loved the most. That entire sequence, from Helen constantly staring at the other women laughing uncontrollably to the sight of seeing her mother in the mirror to the way the show visually illustrated the drugs’ side effects taking their toll on her, is a thing of beauty and definitely one of the most impressive things this show has done so far. God, I love Helen.
The thing that’s also so impressive about this episode is the tension. This isn’t a pulse-pounding thriller obviously, but the minute Helen starts running down the streets looking for her car, you start waiting for something bad to happen. That wait, which takes a while, is agonizing and reaches its boiling point when Helen tells her daughter to take her seatbelt off. Even better, we’ll never know just how bad that fender-bender really was (in Helen’s version, Stacy only gets a minor bump, but in Noah’s version she’s bleeding out of her forehead) because both of our narrators are typically unreliable.
Even Noah’s part had some pretty intriguing highlights this time around, but his scenes only added more discomfort to an already uneasy hour. Jennifer Esposito’s character in particular was interesting as she provided some much-needed reality check for Noah. Their scene in the kitchen was so real and painful to watch (a trend this show usually goes for) and only made Noah look more selfish than usual. I hope we see more of Nina in the future because I can never have enough of Esposito on my television.
But it’s everything Martin-related that really took the show to much more distressful heights. I don’t know what to make of that entire bathroom sequence where Martin becomes ill all of a sudden, but it was so awkward I was wishing it would be over already. After sitting through an entire half hour inside Helen’s stoned head, it seemed almost excruciating to try to figure out what was wrong with Martin.
The flash-forward at the end didn’t deliver any major bombshells except that Noah is being trialed for Scotty’s murder in four months, but seeing those two lawyers on opposite ends still provided an amusing contrast with the opening scene. And thank you, show, for ending such a troubled hour with the “Change the Locks” song that will now be stuck in my head all week.
Unfaithful Flings & Bits
– The opening courtroom scene had me confused, I thought I was watching a flash-forward at first. And Helen’s lawyer’s use of “paramour” got a bit tiring in the end, no?
– Loved Helen and Margaret’s scene in the kitchen as the two women realize they’ve been dumped by their respective husbands. It makes the Margaret-in-the-mirror sight gag that comes much later feel more powerful and realistic.
– I usually hate Whitney, but I really laughed at the two-seconds of screen time she received to shit on her grandma.
– I wasn’t really rooting for Helen and Max anyway, so I can’t say I was disturbed by the breakup. But kudos for such incredible acting from both parties; that scene felt very realistic.
– One of the episode’s highlights: Maura Tierney singing, drinking, dancing and stripping to the tunes of “Change the Locks”. This woman needs to be handed all the awards.
– Still not loving Alison this season. Was she really suggesting Noah not see his kids except for the weekends?
– Helen laughing in the police-car at an enraged Noah is hysterical. More of that please!
– What’s the deal with Noah and his father?
– During Noah and Nina’s brutally honest speech, the second she calls him a brat and he stops and turns around, I was genuinely scared he was about to kill her or something. Sheesh, that was frightening.
– Noah chasing after his son on the trampoline is so goofy, it’s hilarious.
John: Well, it [paramour] happens to be the legal term for it, but if you prefer I could say concubine. Fuck buddy? Slut face?
Helen: How about cunt? Cunt works for me.
Helen: I thought you didn’t want to go.
Whitney: I don’t. Grandma is paying me.
Max: Would you like to fuck and then open your present or open your present and then fuck?
Max: I should have known. I did know, back in college. The moment I saw you, I thought “that girl is too good for me. She’s too pretty. She’s too rich”. For Noah too, but then, you know, you married him. You fucking married him and I thought “Ok so I was wrong”. Then you deigned to fuck me, and I couldn’t believe it. I mean, here’s this angel in my bed. Who is also real and down-to-earth…and funny. Turns out, I was right the first time. No one’s good enough for you. No one can make you fucking happy.
Noah: I’m in love with her, Nina!
Nina: And I’m in love with Brad Pitt, but I don’t get to fucking live with him!
An emotionally devastating hour of The Affair, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.