This The Affair review contains spoilers.
The Affair Season 2 Episode 5
“And then one day, somebody’s going to show up at your house…”
We’re always internally fighting with the idea of who we think we are and who the rest of the world sees us as. There are times when these two versions of ourselves are not that far apart from each other, and other moments when they’re shockingly disparate. For a show that is constantly toying with perspective and hindsight, this is an all too appropriate topic to dig into. Most of this season has been about determining what the truth is regarding what’s going on between all of these people, but this episode takes a moment for them to try and figure out what the truth is about themselves.
Things immediately feel jarring when Yvonne starts being a total asshole to Alison with their honeymoon phase of the job seeming to be very much over. You can’t help but think that after Yvonne read Noah’s manuscript and seen how much of a shine that Robert has taken to Alison, she might suddenly see her in a different light. This becomes the case when Alison learns that Yvonne and Robert met through very similar, adulterous means that her and Noah did.
While Alison might be worried about what Yvonne (and then Robert) think of her, she can’t help but start dissecting the topic herself. Perhaps Noah keeping her from reading his work isn’t just him being protective of his material, but in fact protecting her from what might be inside there. She really begins to question who she might be at her core when she innocently shares some information with Robert that ends up warping their dynamic. When Robert tells her “I guess you just have this effect on men,” he means no harm, but you can see it cut through Alison as if she’s wondering if Noah (or any of her previous relationships) has just been enchanted this whole time by some sort of spell.
There’s a moment where Alison ia out doing errands and a complete stranger ends up knowing a surprising amount about her life, and even what’s in store for her future. Once again we see that this episode is all about other people trying to write Alison’s story for her, with her being utterly unable to pick up the pen and start scribbling her own ending.
The culmination of all of this is the painful scene where Alison is simultaneously evicted and fired, so to speak. Wilson’s work here as Alison is fantastic as she just flounders around Robert, unable to understand why any of this is happening and only able to guess at what sort of monster these people see her as. There’s a brief moment of Alison letting loose that almost feels like it’s going to parallel Helen’s breakdown from the previous episode, but she maintains her composure. She’s not going to let other people dictate who she is. That is until her weakest moment drives her to actually go see Helen as a last resort to figure out where Noah is.
Here Alison is face-to-face with the personification of the version of herself that she doesn’t want others to see and it’s heartbreaking watching her plead to Helen that she’s “not like this” and a good person. What’s even worse is when Helen lays into her, breaking down Noah to his base parts and providing Alison with a chilling prophecy of where their life is headed. Helen writes Alison’s story for her because she’s already been there.
We’ve seen an incredibly sparse amount of Cole so far this season as we officially reach the halfway mark, but the return to his life that we’re given a glimpse of here goes far in terms of filling in the gaps. Namely by showing us the gaps that he’s been filling in the past weeks as he seems to be on a much deserved sex binge. Honestly, Cole’s opening scene plays like a set piece from Californication, as we see him pumping away and punched out in a matter of seconds while the expletives punctuate the comedic timing of the farcical scene. If anyone is writing Cole’s story, it’s shitty sex romp comedy writers.
Reality does eventually set in for Cole here in the form of the ever-growing fuck-up that is Scotty. He’s off putting blood, sweat, and tears into a get rich quick scheme that fundamentally goes against what Cole sees for the future of the family. As hesitant and dismissive as Cole is of Scotty’s plan, who wouldn’t want to watch The Lockhart Brothers spinoff where Cole and Ghost Scotty run a nightclub together?
Clearly this material is going to end up connecting to Scotty’s untimely end as more suspects are added to the roster and we’re given less of a reason to think Noah’s the culprit accordingly. I’m still unsure where all of this is heading, but at this point if Cole was somehow the killer of his brother and was trying to frame Noah for it, I’d kind of be all right with that.
We also get a healthy dose of Cole bonding with Louisa again, as their inevitable relationship inches closer to coming to fruition. It’s appreciated to see him going through the same hardships that Alison is this week. In a nice piece of symmetry Louisa tries to reduce him to his brother, writing off who he is and filling in his blanks for him. Their dynamic is working well enough at this point (granted, Joshua Jackson has good chemistry with everyone), but I’m still going to need to be sold a little better on their pairing. Seeing Cole light up when he’s playing with children is a delight all around though and giving him something positive in his life to slowly soften his edges is exactly what he needs.
His wallowing reunion with Alison had me genuinely tense. These are two fragile people who are both incredibly wounded at the moment and for the first time ever in this series I thought that the two of them might hook up once more. I’m not going to reveal what exactly happens in the ending between them, but suffice it to say it’s rather huge stuff.
Regardless of what goes down between them though, it’s touching to see Cole having Alison’s back, not out of any romantic intent, but purely out of habit and exposure to her for so long. He protectively asks things like, “Did he do something?” and defends her character (although his following actions are contradictory in the most contradictory of ways). In an episode that’s been all about these two having their stories taken away from themselves, they are able to repair each other and correct each other’s narrative in the way that they need to get better. The question is, what about those around them?
As The Affair moves into the second half of its season, this already incestuous show seems to only be getting increasingly incestuous. I’m a little concerned that mixing all of this together could blow up in the show’s face, but until that happens, let the grand orgy begin!