Let’s recap. Season one of The Affair was fantastic, and season two is still one of the finest seasons of TV I’ve ever watched. However, while season three started out with potential, it completely fumbled the endgame with one of the worst finales in the history of TV. As a result, I practically had to force myself to watch the show’s fourth season premiere. Thankfully, it’s a very engaging affair (pun intended).
Earthquakes and Exes
Maura Tierney has always been The Affair‘s MVP, and that tradition continues this year. Her face is just so darn expressive, and I found myself completely captivated by her story from beginning to end. The interesting thing here is that Helen is truly incapable of relaxing and finding any sense of peace, as evidenced by that spectacular monologue in her shrink’s office (read it in its entirety below). Tierney’s body language and line-delivery are flawlessly on point here, embodying a woman that is both restless and miserable, but also capable of injecting some much-needed humor and self-deprecation.
Naturally Helen soon realizes that all her problems are Noah related, and ultimately asks her ex-spouse to stay out of her life. It’s a very satisfying development to be sure, but it all comes crashing down in that jaw-dropping cliffhanger: a finally-at-peace Helen sees a fallen Vikram in the bathroom. It’s a random twist, but it’s definitely got me intrigued. But please show, don’t kill off Vikram. Omar Metwally is just terrific in the role and I’m fascinated by his relationship with Helen.
Sometimes I wonder if The Affair would be be better off without Noah Solloway. The character can be so darn unlikable, and the premiere’s script takes an ill-advised route in focusing on Noah’s efforts with Anton, a misunderstood student in Noah’s class. Much like the author’s adventures with Juliette last year, this is already a completely pointless subplot that does nothing but take away screen-time from other more deserving characters. I’ll try to reserve judgement for now, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
Much more interesting is Noah coming to terms with Trevor’s sexuality. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be all that bothered by it, which is an unexpectedly welcome reaction. Yes, much like Helen, I anticipated that Noah would be an “earthquake” about it all. Perhaps there’s room for growth this season after all. As always, Dominic West is impeccable in his performance.
Bits & Flings
– Love all the new shots in the credit sequence. Fiona Apple’s theme song is still as haunting and as beautiful as ever.
– The premiere starts with a flash-forward of Cole and Noah looking for Allison. Where could she be?
– Noah’s fellow teacher Joel is an aspiring teacher. He also wants access to Noah’s agent (this hints at another unnecessary subplot the show can certainly do without).
– Noah calls Max. Why?
– Seriously that house is insane. The helicopter shot panning away from Helen and Vikram on the balcony left me in awe.
– I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Vikram’s mom. On one hand, it feels realistic to have her be so judgmental of Helen (everything from Vikram’s skinniness (“A husband should be fat“) to not giving him children, but it’s also a tad much. Must EVERYTHING in Helen’s life go wrong?
– I love that Helen still goes for the wine whenever times get tough.
– Those hallucinatory earthquake vibrations were just chilling.
– We’ve got a new character this season in the form of Helen’s neighbor, Sierra. Her mother is potentially very famous, she picks fruits, and she’s interested in “goat yoga”. Also, there was a bit of chemistry between her and Helen.
– I’m always fascinated by the differences in perspectives that prove memory bias, and this week was no different: Helen views Noah as very aggressive when he arrives to the school event, whereas he’s very calm in his version of the story. Moreover, Noah remembers Helen peeing as they discussed Trevor in the Mexican restaurant, while Helen remembers the opposite. How wonderfully strange.
– One more very compelling difference that really caught my eye: in Noah’s story, he politely asks for a margarita twice. In Helen’s version, Noah just grabs a beer from a waitress passing by, proving her perspective of him as an entitled ex. Wow!
Barbs & Betrayals
Helen: Who’s texting you, anyway?
Helen: Brooklyn, as in our former borough?
Vik: So, tell me, what are you going to do to relax today?
Helen: Go to therapy.
Vik: That just makes you hate your mother.
Helen: I already hate my mother. And besides, this is different. It’s West Coast therapy. Very chill.
Ezra: Now I feel I understand the magnitude of your concern.
Helen: Was that an earthquake joke?
Helen: I have literally nothing to worry about right now. Whitney’s back in school. She has an age-appropriate boyfriend who she likes. And I like him, too. And Martin seems happy at William and Mary. And the younger kids really like school here. And Vik has an amazing job. And we live in a gorgeous house. Oh, and my parents are 3,000 miles away. I don’t have to work right now if I don’t want to, and it’s sunny every day. Every goddamn day. Every goddamn day is sunny perfect. But you know what, sometimes the sun gives me a headache. And I fucking hate this ocean.
Ezra: You hate the Pacific?
Helen: Yeah. There’s nothing you can do when you’re around it except look at it. It’s so huge and blue and obvious. It’s like an attention whore.
Ezra: The ocean is is an attention whore?
Helen: Okay, no, when you say it like that, it makes me sound crazy.
Ezra: That’s not what I was trying to-
Helen: I know, but never mind. It’s all right. Just… you don’t get it. Never mind.
Ezra: You know, I think this would be a really good time to just try closing your eyes and holding your breath.
Helen: Fuck you, Ezra.
Helen: Oh, my God, it’s you. You’re the earthquake.
Noah: I’m the what?
Helen: You’re the other fucking shoe. You’re the reason why I can never ever relax. Because every time I see you, I am just waiting for the next disaster to happen.
Noah: Jesus Christ, Helen. That’s a little unfair to me, don’t you think?
Helen: No, I don’t.
I’m cautiously optimistic, but this premiere is a very solid start to The Affair‘s fourth season. Well done show!