This review of The Affair contains spoilers…
The Affair Season 2 Episode 2.
“I am sure that this will work out exactly how it should.”
As soon as I saw that Part 3 of this story with Alison would be re-covering what we saw in the first episode with Noah and Helen, I started to put up a bit of a guard. I had concerns that much less ground might be covered this season now that the series is taking two episodes to cover what it used to accomplish in one, but I’m still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt (having twelve episodes this year instead of ten helps, too). It’s obviously too early to effectively predict anything at this point, but we’ll see how this ever-divided perspective continues to be developed.
Alison’s side of the story, that we start the episode on, is the more familiar of the two that we get this week, with much of it augmenting what we saw from Noah’s perspective in the premiere. Alison was so fragile last season and I’m genuinely curious to see how she’s holding up now that she “has” Noah. She appears to be restless at the moment and unable to focus. Her segment is more lethargic and ethereal like they’ve been in the past, and continues to reflect her clouded personality well.
It’s kind of devastating to see Alison asking questions to Noah about what Helen and his family thinks of her and what they see her as, when in Noah’s side of things we’ve seen that he flat out denies that he’s still even with her. Noah truly does seem to be in love with Alison (although the fact that this is happening from Alison’s perspective is certainly worth remembering), but there’s still something holding him back from going all-in.
The direction that Alison’s story ends up going is that Cole has tracked her down and they have a rather confrontational reunion, which really shouldn’t be all that surprising. Such a thing was inevitable and it’s nice to see it not being dragged out at the least. Cole basically holds Alison emotionally hostage as his mood ping-pongs all over the place. It’s also worth noting the parallels going on here and within the scene between Noah and Margaret last week, with both of these heavy scenes originating around the taking and returning of possessions from a move.
Let’s also not forget that the end of Alison’s day in Noah’s account of all of this had her saying that her day was good in spite of everything that we’ve seen. Or perhaps Noah, in his safety net, is just hearing what he wants to hear. However, in the version presented through Alison, things are even bleaker. Noah doesn’t even ask her how her day is here, with his lack of interest ultimately being more important than what her answer is.
It’s additionally brutal when Noah basically grumbles his way through being with Alison and shoots down absolutely everything that she brings up. It gets to the point where he’s approaching becoming a caricature until Noah catches himself, apologizes, and we see that it’s just the bad day he’s been having and not any animosity towards the woman that he’s changed his life around for. It should be very interestin in the coming weeks to see how Alison’s new job as the assistant for the head of a major publishing house ends up intertwining with Noah at all.
It’s nice to see a bit of a formula being settled on as Alison and Cole’s segments, just like Noah and Helen’s, are also concluded with glimpses into the future. Last season there were entire stretches where we got nothing at all on the flash forwards, with other episodes devoting huge time to them. A little more structure is certainly a better thing in the case of this show, and already these teases are getting me excited rather than feeling like they’re spinning their wheels.
As the episode shifts over to the Cole side of things, we see that after the events of last season he seems to have put together a meager, albeit respectable, life as a cab driver. We see that he’s largely taken control of his life by watching and following those around him. By feeling like he has power and information, he’s doing what he can to be the master of his own life again. Although, doing it like this, with that beard, he’s looking all sorts of creepy. He tries to block out his days and ignore what’s going on around him, but he’s only able to for so long. Last week we saw that nightmares were invading Noah’s reality, well Cole can’t even get to the luxury of sleep with life itself being too rough on its own.
In a very serendipitous scene, Cole ends up carpooling with Bruce (the always welcome, John Doman), Noah’s former father-in-law, but rather than it feeling hackneyed, it comes off as revelatory. It’s quite telling to see that Helen’s father has left Margaret—inspired by Noah even—and going through much of the same malaise that everyone else is at the moment (and it perhaps does clarify why Margaret has suddenly become so controlling with Helen and her kids as she’s lost power elsewhere in her life). He talks about being married for forty years with it sounding like a brag, before clarifying, “Forty wasted years.”
To see that making these decisions and feeling in flux with your life are always present and not reducible to a mid-life crisis is a big statement for the show to make. Even if Noah and Alison are happy twenty years from now, and even if Max proves himself and Helen’s able to accept him, who’s to say that this whole cycle doesn’t just repeat itself over again?
Adulter. Rinse. Repeat.
This second episode inevitably gives us some scenes with Scotty, too, because we’re going to need to start caring about him before somebody offs the guy. There’s much chatter throughout both halves of the episode regarding Alison’s family’s property and the large sum of money that’s connected to it. Noah’s interested in it as he’s approaching the destitute line, and Cole’s family is eager for him to stake his claim while he’s still legally entitled to it. It’s only a matter of time until seeing how this ends up connecting to the larger murder story at hand.
As the episode begins to wrap up, the truth behind how Cole found out about where Alison and Noah are living is the sort of twist that you’d expect by the fragmented narrative here. Additionally, in Cole’s version of events Alison is much more cheery and accommodating to him. This clearly feels like a reflection of him not being able to let go of her, with Alison’s side of the story probably being closer to what actually happened. I’m all for Cole’s psychosis playing into a larger part of the season, and even to see his recollection of events begin to wildly diverge from everyone else’s as he becomes increasingly deluded would be some incredible stuff. It’s still early on for The Affair, but if they can continue to ride the strong foundation they’ve set up here and figure out how to not waste too much time with the four-way perspective split, they should have a very compelling season on their hands.
And let’s hope Noah never finds out about his toilet. He might as well be cuckolded on, I mean, Cole fixed the man’s toilet. You don’t mess around with that kind of thing.