All season, The Affair has ridden a dark, moody, emotional wave, intertwining Noah and Alison’s stories of not just the carefree days of a summer fling, but of the harsh, cold reality of what it has meant for them and their families afterwards. Its first season finale, “10,” felt like an odd coda given all that had come before; a lot of answers and teased moments were addressed quickly and boldly, but left in doubt where a second season might pick up. Hit the jump for why being alone is all very glamourous — until you need a kidney.
I usually just focus on character development and emotional moments in The Affair, so to be a little different (because “10” really did have a different feel to it), let’s explore plot first. We knew from weeks ago that Scotty was the one who the murder mystery revolved around, not Cole like many of us initially predicted. Though Noah had been a suspect from the start, and all of the evidence (like … not even a little bit, not even in a vague, Serial-esque way … all of it) pointed directly to him, it couldn’t be that simple, right? The Affair has been anything but simple.
And yet, there was Detective Jefferies looking like a lotto winner after he acquired the clinic assault tape, as well as the payoff Jake the Mechanic was able to pick up on a wire. The look and pause Alison gave Noah when she realized it was Jefferies at the door also seemed knowing — did she know he was really guilty? (And is he?)
This is also not to gloss over the fact that the irritating vagaries from earlier in the season were all addressed very clearly at the end of “10.” Noah and Alison are together, living in Manhattan, and have at least one child together (unless it’s one of Noah’s children but, honestly, with the dirt Grandma Butler was gathering on him, I bet Helen could have easily sued for and won sole custody). So all of this is pretty huge.
On the other hand, there was really only so much back-and-forth with their spouses that could reasonably (or tolerably) continue, so that future reveal needed to happen. Cole had been incredibly forgiving all season, but “10” finally saw him at a breaking point (even though, only moments before, he was — like Helen — willing to do anything to get his spouse back). With Noah and Helen, too, it seemed like despite Helen’s desires and Noah normalizing (almost, for a night) with the family, it was really over from his point of view.
In “10,” The Affair also seemed to want to make clear (in the opening montage) that Noah and Alison’s relationship is not just the cliche that it absolutely looks like (particularly from Noah’s perspective). Noah goes off and has sex with every woman he comes across (which makes his reunification with Helen in that regard seem completely meaningless). And yet, he still dreams of Alison and misses her. But is that really a star-crossed lovers thing, or just Noah pining, as he always is, for something he doesn’t have?
On the other hand, Noah and Alison’s relationships with their spouses have been about rescuing, with Noah and Alison on the receiving end. In their relationship together, though, the saving seems more mutual. For Alison, Noah is an escape and a fresh start, whereas for him, she is a muse and the person who gives him a new lease on his own dreams. With Helen, Noah’s writing never flourished. Through his relationship with Alison, he’s a bestselling author with a movie adaptation in the works. He’s also, possibly, a murderer.
But as I said before, The Affair is rarely so straightforward. Could it be possible that Whitney, the show’s true sociopath (forget what Helen said about Noah, Noah is just an asshole like everybody says), could have killed Scotty in a rage? After all, he clearly wants nothing to do with her now. Or was it an accident? Did she take her father’s car, and Noah is trying to protect her after her mistake?
“10” didn’t land particularly well for me, although it did have some great moments, like Noah and Victor at the Department of Education, the pain of Helen and Cole explaining how much they still love their cheating spouses, as well as Noah’s conversation with Harry the lit agent about the freedom of being a single man again. But ultimately, the murder plot is the show’s weakest link, and where things left off (with a knowledge of where Noah and Alison are now, together) leaves Season Two its own mystery. Are we done with flashbacks, or will we go through seeing Noah and Alison starting to build a life together, as it (in the present timeline) is already falling apart? Regardless, The Affair has given us more than enough reason to stick around for this season, and for the next.
Episode Rating: B
Season Rating: A-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Is New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani the most name-dropped critic ever?
— When Cole asked how Noah and Alison would feel if he and Helen got together, I had an In The Mood for Love flashback moment and really wanted this to happen.
— Some of the memories being different make sense, but Cole’s gun-wielding being remembered so differently by Alison and Noah seemed to push the boundaries of plausibility. Could they really not remember something that extreme?
— Noah being brazen enough to have sex with his coworker at school … get your shit together, man. Idiot. Although it did lead him to actually finish his book.
— I found Victor’s rotation of reading material hilarious. A rare quirky side-story for the show.
— Whitney, after asking Alison if she had indeed been screwing Noah: “Why? He’s so old, and your husband is so hot.”
— “There is another side to you, which makes a lot of sense, since she sure as shit doesn’t respond to kindness” – Cole.
— The Lockharts losing the ranch is a huge blow, and I’m actually more interested to see what the fallout from that is than anything. Their family really interests me.
— Noah saying he doesn’t miss Helen yet … cold! But then again, he’s getting everything he wants, so. Her calling him out for not even giving her a chance to work through this with him before he pulled the rug out was completely valid.
— “I don’t want to divorce you, you asshole!” – Helen.
— “Should I congratulate you on revealing yourself as the useless asshole I always knew you were?” — Grandma Butler.
— “Have you ever been alone? It’s all very glamorous, unless you need a kidney” – Phoebe.
— “I just want you to have something that you love” – Alison to Cole.
— Alison kills me every time she brings up Gabriel, especially here when talking about him being there every day, as she talked Cole off the suicidal ledge.
— I really loved Alison’s first few scenes with Athena, particularly because of how accurately the writers come up with that New Agey jargon.
— Who killed Scotty?