Wow, what a powerful hour of television.
For some reason, when the season premiere culminated with Vikram dropping dead in the bathroom, I didn’t once think that he might get diagnosed with cancer. It’s a gut-wrenching twist, one that’s made all the more depressing with Vik confirming that there is no cure for pancreatic cancer. This is actually a series-best showcase for Omar Metwally; the actor delivers a poignant performance as a man finally coming face to face with his mortality. Whether it’s small gestures of love with Helen’s kids, or his harrowing monologue in the car (after Helen’s betrayal), Metwally makes every single scene count. Talk about an underdog!
Predictably, Maura Tierney is also mind-blowing this week as she struggles to deal with the fallout of Vik’s diagnosis. In fact, I hope we get scenes of Helen and her therapist Ezra every week because they are just so delightfully absorbing and complicated. Although the show never spells it out, we are left to assume that Helen knows she can live without Vikram, but probably not Noah (who has been the one constant in her life). It’s a stunning turn of events, and the guilt drives her to betray Vikram by telling his parents about his cancer. Priya’s reaction is also quite complex – you feel her pain and yet she refrains from stepping in (much to Helen’s horror). Wow!
And then the cherry on top: Vik wants Helen to give him a baby even though he won’t be sticking around for long (and is refusing treatment). The ending is especially heartbreaking because Helen’s guilt drives her to the fertility clinic, when we all know this won’t end well. I love this show!
In the premiere, I mentioned that Noah’s school shenanigans seemed too far removed from the rest of the show. That continues to be the case, but at least they were utterly fascinating this week. That’s all thanks to Sanaa Lathan’s glorious turn as Principal Janelle Wilson. Wilson is just tremendous in the role, injecting the perfect dose of authority and likability. Moreover, she’s a terrific foil for Noah, and I kind of wish the show didn’t have her fall for him by episode’s end. Can no woman resist Solloway’s charms? Nevertheless, the two have some first-rate chemistry, and there’s an amusing layer with Anton being her son (whom she failed the year before). Now can we please get a scene between Janelle and Helen?
Bits & Flings
– How hilarious is Anton’s recap of the show in the car? Read it in its entirety below.
– Why were the teachers snapping their fingers in the meeting?
– Although the school riot felt like it came from a totally different show, I was suitably engaged throughout.
– Janelle’s monologue about race and her profession was stunningly delivered by Lathan. Give her more monologues show; she’s just mesmerizing.
– I couldn’t shake the fact that Maura Tierney herself had cancer long ago and she probably wrestled with some bad memories while tackling this storyline. I’m so glad that she successfully beat it.
– How annoying is Sierra? Loved Helen putting her in her place after tripping on those darn garbage bins.
– Most disturbing scene of the week: Vik wanting sex and orgasming in less than 10 seconds before quickly fleeing. Poor Helen. The Affair certainly specializes in unsettling sex scenes.
– My favorite thing of all time: Helen grooving to rap music in her car like an utter badass. I need that GIF!
– I was as shocked as Helen was by Vik’s speech about the “long journey.” Seemed pretty optimistic to me.
– Did anyone think Priya would react that way to the news about Vik? I almost thought she would slap Helen and blame her for the cancer.
– I loved Vikram mentioning Beirut – that’s where I live!
Barbs & Betrayals
Anton: All right, so let me get this straight. She was married to you, and then she cheated with you. And then she left you for you. And then she cheated on you with you. And then she had your baby, but then said it was your baby. Did I get that right?
Cole: Pretty much.
Anton: Damn. White people crazy, man. That is some real – Maury Povich shit right there.
Noah: Who’s Ben?
Cole: The guy she’s been seeing.
Noah: Isn’t he married?
Anton: Girl’s got a type.
Sierra: So, do you want to come?
Helen: I totally, totally don’t.
Vik: (after Sierra laves) That was bitchy.
Helen: Well, it needed to be done.
Helen: Can you just get the fucking kids? I have to go to this benefit for Vik tonight.
Noah: Sure. Two fucking kids coming straight up.
Helen: Hey, and you know this whole nice-guy routine you got going on? Knock it off.
Vikram: You really don’t understand anything, do you? You might as well have grown up in a fucking castle. You are such a privileged, entitled little – you want to criticize my parents? What the fuck have you ever had to sacrifice for your kids? My dad was a doctor. A cardiologist. Like, a really respected young doctor back in Beirut. And now he’s a fucking dry cleaner because he wanted to raise me here. They never took vacations or went home for weddings or births or funerals, because every last scrap of money was for Vikram. For Vikram’s education. So they could send me to college and medical school. They denied themselves everything to make me into something they could be proud of. So yeah, yeah, denial is a way of life for them, and all I wanted, all I asked of you, was to spare them the pain of knowing that all that was for nothing. I mean, couldn’t they get one night, just one night, to enjoy what all of their sacrifice had achieved?
Helen: Don’t say it was all for nothing. We don’t know that. There are treatments. There are trials.
Vikram: You’re not a fucking doctor, Helen. I am.
Helen: I know.
Vikram: No, you don’t. I have pancreatic cancer. And those trials aren’t promising. They’re desperate. Because there is no real treatment for this. There is no cure. No hope. I am going to die. I’ve spent my entire career giving false hope to my patients, and I am not gonna fucking do it for you.
A captivating hour with a razor-sharp script and a ton of emotion. Outstanding!