Now here’s a very uneven hour.
As wonderful as Sanaa Lathan is as Principal Janelle, Noah’s perspective this week is an absolute bore. Getting him involved in Anton, Janelle, and Carl’s family dynamics is completely unnecessary, and feels so far removed from what the show is about. The Affair is already packed with a number of captivating characters vying for screen-time, so it’s disappointing to see the show dedicate half its running time to a family we’re not invested in. I appreciate the attempts at diversity, but not at the expense of characters we actually care about and have spent years of our lives watching.
The End of the World
The other half of this week’s hour is absolutely spectacular. I never even knew I wanted to learn more about Alison’s parents, but watching her meet her dad (whom she later discovers raped her mother) is a real jawdropper. Yup, Alison is the product of rape and it’s a truly heartbreaking revelation that’s achingly brought to life by the incredible Deirdre O’Connell. I’ve always found Athena to be an intriguing character, but she’s spellbinding this week as she reveals Alison’s past. Here’s hoping Athena sticks around for the rest of the season so we can explore the subtle dynamics between mother and daughter even further.
Carrying on from the rape reveal, everything snowballs from one cataclysmic event to another: Alison meeting Ben’s wife in the most uncomfortable of moments, learning he has kids, getting almost assaulted on the plane, accidentally shoving an old lady (who bangs her head), getting arrested, and finally having an all-out panic attack in a car with Noah. Whew! It’s an enormously stressful turn of events, and director Stacie Passon amps up the anxiety with a great deal of skill.
This episode is also home to one of my favorite sequences ever: the final scene between Helen and Alison in which the former genuinely asks for advice on how to stop letting men take advantage of her. It’s a really compelling exchange that’s beautifully performed by both Maura Tierney and Ruth Wilson. I love that after so much drama, Helen allows her husband’s mistress to spend the night in her time of need. Talk about growth! It’s even more interesting to witness how Alison sees Helen: incredibly well put-together and soft-spoken. If only Helen could see herself in the same way. But, that’s the beauty of this show!
Bits & Flings
– Noah and Ed Sheeran – what a combo.
– So why is Trevor so angry at his dad all of a sudden?
– Noah tearing up the tickets felt exceptionally childish to me.
– How awkward of Anton and Carl to walk in on Noah and Janelle making out. Cringe.
– Anyone else recognize Alison’s step-mom from Starship Troopers? Yup that’s the lovely Dina Meyer!
– So that drowning premonition was actually a near death experience that Alison had as a child before her father saved her.
– Priceless: Athena’s laugh at the kidney request.
– The whole airport sequence had me on edge. What could Alison possibly do to send her to prison?
– The little girl filming a tied up Alison on her phone was beyond evil.
– “Maybe it didn’t happen” sums up the entire show perfectly well. So meta!
– Thanks for the pills Vik!
– I wish Cole was there during that final reunion.
– I like that Helen basically kicks Noah out because she can feel Alison needs her. It’s a small moment that’s never actually verbalized but conveyed through body language.
– Notice how Helen is kind of visibly happy when she learns that Alison’s new boyfriend is married. Karma!
– Helen’s advice to Alison about not playing the “victim” was quite thought-provoking. Do you also think Alison brings everything on to herself? Hmm..
– Awesome final moment with Helen turning off the lights and leaving Alison alone with her thoughts.
Barbs & Betrayals
Alison: Helen can I ask you something. Can you be honest with me?
Helen: I’ll try.
Alison: Why do men look at me and see someone they can fuck with? Nobody thinks that about you. What is it about me? It’s like they can smell something on me.
Helen: Do you not think you had any choice in the matter?
While Noah’s story is a misguided bore, Alison’s narrative singlehandedly manages to elevate this episode to unforgettable status.