What a tragedy.
After last week’s gamechanging hour, it’s quite impressive that The Affair managed to produce a penultimate episode with such powerful impact. We’re used to getting new perspectives on the show, but two perspectives from the same person? Now that’s cool.
Double the Alison
Although the show never outright says it (when has The Affair ever confirmed anything?), I choose to believe that the first half of the hour is Alison’s idealized version of events, while the second, darker half is a closer representation of what actually happened (especially after everything we learned last week). In the former, Ben is sweet, loving, and regretful. He admits he’s married, and even insists on cooking for Alison. The various heart-to-hearts between the duo culminate in some passionate lovemaking with both finding some peace with each other. It’s kind of cliché, and honestly a little bit slow, but that’s the point because…
In the second half, a creepy, hooded Ben arrives. This version of the character is aggressive and on-edge, and he showcases a healthy dose of toxic masculinity (he incessantly orders Alison to cook for him). In addition, he shows zero remorse for a war story he relays to Alison in which he killed a little boy (in fact, he compares the act to killing an ant). When he is finally confronted with the truth about his wife, he accuses Alison of “seducing” him and ends up killing her. The entire second half of the episode is painfully nerve-wracking; since we know Alison will die, we’re constantly wondering what it is that will lead to her demise. It’s tension-inducing storytelling at its finest, and it’s even more impressive seeing as how the whole episode basically takes place in one location. Simply unforgettable! I still can’t believe the show went there and killed off one of its primary leads.
With Helen’s pep-talk still lingering, Alison finally finds the strength to reclaim her agency as she refuses to be the “other woman” any longer. Although this act ultimately ends with her death, it’s still extremely satisfying to see her stand up for herself. There is real, tangible growth to her story arc, and it feels eerily complete. Her final monologue is particularly gut-wrenching (read it in its entirety below). There’s beautiful contrast with the optimism in her words and the darkness of her reality. I get chills just thinking about it.
Bits & Flings
– The broken faucet is a wonderful symbol for Alison not being able to fix her life. It’s also a clue for the perspective shift.
– The tracking shot that transitions us from one perspective to the other is one of the coolest things I’ve seen on TV all year. It’s so seamless and beautifully made.
– Alison’s clothes of course change between perspectives.
– The screeching kettle is a great metaphor for Alison slowly going insane as Ben keeps denying that he’s married.
– The shot of Alison’s bloody face as her eyes close is so traumatizing. I’ll never forget it.
– The statue that Athena gave Alison ends up being the very object that kills her. Ouch.
– I don’t think any show has ever had a more appropriate theme song – Alison does indeed “sink back into the ocean” as her story comes to a close. Mind blown.
Barbs & Betrayals
Alison: What are you gonna do, Ben? You gonna kill me? You think that scares me? My son died. He died in my fucking arms. So, what in God’s name do you think you can do to me that I haven’t done to myself a million times? I have been in pain my entire life. And maybe that’s what makes people think that I’m weak. And maybe that makes people treat me like some sort of receptacle for all their grief and rage. And disappointment. But I am fucking sick of it. I just want to live a different life. I want to live a different story. I’m still young. I can be someone else. Someone who deserves love. Someone who can be happy.
A bold and heartbreaking hour that acts as a fitting end to Alison’s journey. Let’s hope the finale can stick the landing.