The Affair: Episode 10

Posted on December 22, 2014

The-Affair-Season-1-Episode-10-Finale-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLODominic West in Showtime’s “The Affair”

 

Between this and the Homeland finale, we’re getting the impression a memo was handed down from on high at Showtime informing all their shows to go totally left-field for their finales.

We wish there was a camera trained on our faces during the opening montage of Noah’s fuckfest. Never before have our lips been so curled in disgust at the sight of a man having that much sex. Not for prudish reasons or because we were invested in his marriage or his affair, but because it was, without a doubt, one of the absolute LAMEST sequences we’ve seen on television all year long. When we think about the subtlety and dream-like atmosphere of the first few episodes of this season and then mentally crash cut to Noah’s ’80s Teen Sex Comedy Adventures, it’s a shift so drastic that we feel almost insulted by it. All that ruminating on the nature of memory and the dangers of relying on autobiographical stories for facts and we get a silly sequence like that to cap it off. Worse, it was followed by the equally-as-eyeroll-worthy “Noah writes a best-selling novel and wins the admiration of total strangers” montage. With so much time spent on examining and re-examining the actions and motivations of the two main characters throughout most of this season, it just comes off unbelievably cheesy to suddenly skip around the story so much and in such an unimaginative fashion. The only thing that was missing were spinning newspaper headlines and calendar pages being ripped away to show the passage of time. And yes, we realize that we’re looking at Noah’s subjective view of his own life, and we absolutely agree that he has a tendency to inflate his appeal to other people to an embarrassing extent, but this was so stylistically off and so different from every other time he told his story that it just took us right out of it.

Which isn’t to say we hated the episode completely. Like a lot of what Homeland did this season, the story became disappointingly melodramatic but undeniably entertaining at parts. The showdown in (and/or outside of) the Lockhart family kitchen was simultaneously ludicrously unlikely and can’t-look-away mesmerizing. On the other hand, it’s kind of hard not to produce fireworks when you throw your entire cast into one unlikely situation and force them all to shout deeply uncomfortable things at each other. In a way, it’s almost a dramatic cheat. And we have to admit that the one thing that caused us to vocalize our disgust out loud was the end of the scene, when Noah and Alison rushed into each other’s arms – with his wife and daughter, as well as her husband WHO JUST GOT TALKED OUT OF KILLING THEM ALL SECONDS AGO, mere feet away from them. Even taking into account the subjectivity of these recollections, that’s just a ridiculous action to ask the audience to accept.

Speaking of which, there was a significant ramping up of the differences in the stories with that one scene. Alison manages to erase several people from the scene completely while Noah (typically) inflates his own manliness and force of personality; forever portraying himself as some alpha male when the truth is much sadder and more obvious.  We don’t mind the ways in which these differences manifested this time. It makes a certain amount of sense that Alison would only really see Cole and Noah in that scene. Note how much nastier Helen is in Alison’s version and you can see why it could diverge so much from Noah’s. It seems that the longer this show goes on, the more frustrated the audience has become at this conceit. We don’t find it as hard to accept but we do find the choices made to be occasionally arbitrary and meaningless, which muddles the concept significantly. And like many of the viewers, we think the story would be improved tremendously by allowing some of the other players their turn at telling their version.

At least we got some answers to long-lingering questions. Are we the only ones who found them disappointing in their obviousness? So Alison and Noah live in the city and have a child together. Shrug. We’d probably feel something about that revelation if we saw any real progression toward it, both in a narrative and in an emotional sense. That’s the problem with stories that place such a value on jumping around the timeline to keep the audience invested. It skips a lot of the emotional progression of the characters.

Even so, there were some truly great performances and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the real MVPs of acting on this show are the two spouses, not the two leads. Maura Tierney has had several chances this season to demonstrate her skills, but this was the first time we saw Joshua Jackson acting on this level. In fact, their performances were both so good that they pretty much elevated the episode from being a Knot’s Landing knockoff into something more profound. A little more reliance on the skills of the cast and a little less on too-clever scripts would be a huge step in the right direction for this show.

 

[Photo Credit: Showtime]

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