What a trilogy.
Starting with a game-changing eighth episode, and followed by a crazily ambitious follow-up, The Affair’s brilliant fourth season has finally come to an end, and what an ending it is.
The grief of it all
Fittingly divided across three perspectives (Noah, Cole, and Helen), this closer adopts a surprisingly optimistic and life-affirming approach. There’s a lot of death surrounding our characters this season, but the show is refreshingly uplifting about it all. Alison’s death is a definite gut-punch, and yet Cherry’s speech to a broken Cole (as he latches on to his ex-wife’s ashes beside his son’s grave) is a thing of beauty (read it below). Cherry hasn’t been a consistent part of the show in a long time, but her appearance is undoubtedly her finest yet; her monologue is affecting and all too real. Mare Winningham just knocks it out of the park, and her dynamic with Joshua Jackson is simply outstanding. Come back next year please!
And then there’s Helen. To say that she’s been through a lot since the show’s inception is an understatement. Her cathartic scene with Noah is one of the single finest things this show’s ever produced. It’s especially moving to see the two former enemies comfort each other through hard times (particularly as Helen realizes she never really loved Vik and in fact “used” him to get over Noah). It’s the kind of nuanced exchange that can only happen after four seasons of “baggage” and growth, and Tierney and West are just phenomenal here.
A little bit of growth
It must be said that just like the rest of the season, Noah’s section was the weakest part of the finale. Watching him catch up with Ariel wasn’t exactly thrilling, but I admit that I finally see the purpose of the Anton subplot: for the first time ever, Noah acted responsibly (after causing so much havoc since the show began) and nudged the young man on the right path. Christopher Meyer has been a stellar addition to the cast, and his “paradox” piece about Noah was a masterpiece. There’s also a wonderful dose of hypocrisy with Noah accusing Anton of “using people’s lives” for his writing, which is exactly what he did with Descent.
Strangely enough, the show doesn’t’ even address Ben’s murder of Alison. The psychopath even speaks at Alison’s funeral but that’s pretty much it. Will Cole pursue justice for his ex-wife next season? Now that she’s cremated, that’s going to be immensely difficult. I have a feeling the show might be putting the whole subplot to rest.
I’m also surprised that Vikram isn’t long for this world. I thought for sure Sarah Treem and her sneaky writers would give us one last swerve ball with regards to his health (especially after he told Helen he would fight not long ago). Moreover, although I predicted Sierra would get pregnant, I never thought she would fall in love with Helen so deeply. She was a fun side character this year, but I don’t really care about having her on the show next season. I would rather The Affair focused on its core cast so close to the end.
Bits & Flings
– So Ariel used to have a crush on Noah. Are you surprised? Every woman that Noah meets on this show seems to be obsessed with him.
– Anton reading “he’s fucking my mother” out loud is a certified jaw-dropper, and the “sociopath” claim is actually scarily accurate.
– What is the significance of Noah noticing the singing girls on campus?
– Cole calling Alison his “wife” in front of Luisa has to be the most cringeworthy thing of all time.
– Cole and Athena’s argument over where to bury Alison was really hard to watch. Who do you think should choose where to bury her?
– Noah calls Alison “magic”. That’s a really beautiful and accurate label.
– I loved Cole asking Noah if Alison made him “happy” and his utter lack of response.
– The flashback to Cole and Alison assessing the number of times they’ve had sex was sweet but she didn’t look all that happy to me. Am I missing something about this flashback? Definitely feels like we’ve seen it before.
– The shot of Cole crying in his mother’s lap is just heartbreaking.
– So Cole and Luisa are finally over, but he will get her the citizenship and she will remain Joanie’s legal guardian. Seems appropriate.
– Luisa says something in Spanish after the break-up. It translates to: “Nothing saves us from death unless love saves us from life“. Wow!
– Gorgeous moment with Cole watching Joanie sing along and thinking of her mom after her dad breaks the news.
– It’s a quick moment, but Helen sees a dead body outside Vik’s room. Foreshadowing?
– Love the twist with Doctor Kristina being Vik’s ex. Of course his parents couldn’t resist making Helen feel bad about that.
– Whitney is back and more annoying that ever. That makes Helen calling her a bitch insanely gratifying.
– How much of an asshole is the nurse at the hospital? Chill dude it’s just a visitor pass.
– Helen’s “I fucked her too” is the most hysterical thing of all time.
– Does anyone else feel like Noah and Helen might actually end the show as a couple again? That would be quite the bold decision. And dare I say, I’m kind of rooting for that?
– The moment that definitely got me all teary eyed: Vikram saying he’s on the “other side” and that he wants “more life” followed by Helen getting into bed with him and endlessly whispering she loves him. Goosebumps. Omar and Maura are astounding here.
– So many hysterical physical moments featuring Helen. Loved her hitting Sierra with her purse and ADORED her poking her neighbor to wake her up.
– Love the final sequence with Helen walking to the roof and finally smiling. There’s no cliffhanger here which is a tad disappointing, but it’s still satisfying to see Helen somewhat at peace after a season of trauma.
Barbs & Betrayals
Anton: I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. So smart, so worldly. Wanted to have that kind of grace resting on my shoulders. To move through the world like it was a woman who belonged to me.
Cole: How did you move on?
Cherry: Did I? I’m glad you think so.
Cole: I am always too late.
Cherry: Life is… God it’s messy, honey. And you’ve had more mess, more tragedy in your life than most people. And your answer, like mine, is to try and take control, and sometimes you just can’t. And I want to tell you that the worst of it is just behind you and that it’s all gonna get better from here on out. And I hope it does. Baby, it might not, and all I’ve ever wanted, all that I wish for you, is for you to know you’re strong and you can survive. So you can be the shelter for Joanie the way I tried to shelter you. Not everyone gets to grow old, Cole, but if I had to bet I would say that you will. And the sooner that you understand that as the great, radical gift it is, the sooner that you start to think of what you have instead of what you’ve lost, the happier you and your little girl are gonna be.
Helen: (to Whitney) Why don’t you just give me a moment with my friend, and you guys can go fuck in the spare guest room or something.
Helen: I don’t know if I love him. I mean, the way I’m supposed to. You know I love him enough.
Noah: What does that mean?
Helen: Not the way I loved you.
Helen: God, poor Alison. How was her funeral?
Noah: Ah, it was awful.
Noah: No, her mother had her cremated, so the ceremony was on the beach, and Cole grabbed the urn and ran away with it.
Helen: Are you fucking kidding me?
Helen: Oh, my God. Everybody’s so fucking crazy.
Noah: That’s enough. You are a lot of things, Helen. You are neurotic and-and overbearing, and you’re snobby, and you’re judgmental – and-and superior, but –
Helen: Are you gonna stop?
Noah: But you… you are not broken. I don’t know anyone who’s tougher than you.
Helen: That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.
Noah: Yeah, well, I mean it. And I know you love Vik. I’ve been watching you both for however many years. You love each other. Maybe it’s not the same as it was with us, but who gives a fuck? Where is it written that love should be exactly the same every time? And now he’s dying, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And I know that that is terrifying. I know that’s the worst feeling in the whole world. But I gotta say, if there’s one person I would want to be with when I die, if there’s one person who would make me feel, no matter what, that I was safe and that I was loved, it’d be you.
Helen: Okay, that really is the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.
Helen: Did you ever meet our neighbor, Sierra?
Noah: Don’t think so, no.
Helen: Well, she’s pregnant.
Noah: That’s nice for her.
Helen: With Vik’s baby.
Noah: What? Oh, God. Helen. Look, Vik’s not in his right mind now, you know?
Helen: I don’t care. I really don’t care. Look, I fucked her, too.
Noah: What? And I missed it?
Vikram: I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to go. I want more days. I want more life.
What Sarah Said by Death Cab For Cutie
A stunning season finale that’s extremely touching across the board. Fantastic!