This The Affair review contains spoilers.
The Affair: Season 2 Episode 7
“You are the only one who has the ability to change everything. What the fuck are you waiting for!?”
Happy Thanksgiving, right?
And you might even think that this episode is going to be all sunshine and lollipops as it begins with Noah and Alison appearing to be doing surprisingly well together as they’re out and about considering where they were at the end of the last episode. A baby can do those things though. I’m also guessing then that this baby isn’t from Cole and Alison’s tryst several episodes back — which was my thought when this bombshell was initially dropped — although clearly the series isn’t finished with the issue of paternity.
With this episode of The Affair we’ve jumped forward a fair bit in time to the point where Alison and Noah are sitting pretty on the success of his novel, The Descent, with a second printing even looming on the horizon.
It’s nice to see the show settling into this phase of its narrative — not to mention the bonkers new apartment that Noah and Alison have moved into — as their issues now have progressed past the usual fracture points that have been picking away at them for the past few episodes now. While it might feel a little beneath Alison to have to be worried about Noah’s comely publicist that’s taking up all of his time now — he plays into the matter accordingly, reflecting the version of Noah that all too easily could throw away a family for a shiny new model — the story is working for the moment at least, lest it not go down the same familiar trappings.
Petty jealousy unfortunately isn’t the best use of Ruth Wilson’s skills, but watching her listen to her unborn child’s heartbeat is a worthwhile detour and a revelatory example of her ability. The concept of children has been so fundamental to her character, and so watching her get so close again to that ideal is equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking.
Elsewhere Noah continues to be the absolute worst as Alison and Athena try to cobble together a humble Thanksgiving between family and friends (also how crazy is it that Max is there with them!) as he slowly tracks mud through the night whether he’s trying to or not. The point is that he’s just so oblivious to how hard Alison has attempted to create a bit of tradition here, and if this is an example of preoccupied and successful Noah, then maybe that’s not someone she’s interested in.
As table set-y (and hey, it’s Thanksgiving) as the beginning of Alison’s half of the episode begins to feel, it certainly pays off by the ending where Noah’s publicist is suggesting he leverage his history with Alison to sell copies of his book. This essentially boils down to the point of the whole show, where Noah and Alison are debating over what actually happened in their lives as the specifics of their history have gotten impossibly muddled at this point. To see the show applying the gas in this direction once more as it heads into the final episodes makes sense. Let’s just see where it goes.
Cole has been curiously neglected all season and has certainly been getting the short end of the perspective stick so far. He always has been a bit of a loner though. We check in with him as his relationship with Luisa is heating up, just as Alison and Cole’s seems to be on the decline. I’ve commented before on the show’s tendency to start characters’ sides of the story with them in coitus with their respective partner, but in spite of the artificial closeness that seems to be going on between Cole and Luisa, it seems like there’s still quite a bit of distance between them.
In fact, it’s this proximity that they’re sharing that might be responsible for the rift that they’re going through. Cole seems to obviously be having issues moving ahead into a committed relationship with someone new (judging by how just hearing “I love you” during sex shrivels him into a mess of nerves), with the tremendous stress he’s getting from his family not helping any in the matter. I kind of love seeing Cole with someone who doesn’t hide anything, saying exactly what’s on her mind. Watching Cole avoid her and give her flimsy excuses to hold her at bay is equally frustrating though, as are his lonely plans to try and segregate himself for Thanksgiving.
It’s even harder to watch Cole needlessly pick fights with Luisa, looking for any reason to snap on the poor woman so he feels like he has some sort of legitimacy for abandoning her and brooding by himself over the holidays (the sadder reality is that he nearly holes himself up with Noah’s fictional version of their lives and his own self doubt, instead). It’s crushing stuff, especially since it seemed like Cole might have been on an upward trajectory, but clearly his actions with Alison months ago have festered deep into his being and messed him up.
It truly feels like the only person Cole would accept a Thansgiving invitation from here is Alison, and we know exactly how pleasant her dinner is on the other side of things. In order for Cole to find happiness, it’s going to involve a lot more than just finding the right other person. He’s still got more than enough to figure out about himself, like if he wants to murder his brother, for instance. This week Scotty is really pushing the familial buttons with Cole, to the point where it seems like everything out of his mouth is either a lie or a piece of duplicitousness. It’s also not easy watching Scotty play mock patriarch here, endlessly trying to be the good guy, while we have a reasonably good idea of the ulterior motives undulating underneath his skin.
Cole eventually does choose to insert himself into his family in the end, but sadly it seems like it’s just so that he can complain about Noah’s book to all of them, as well as his perception of how it paints them all. While we’re on this point, a lot has gone on this season regarding the incestuousness of everyone and how the show seems to be painting affairs to be as common an act as applying for a job, but some real leaps are taken forward in this direction this week.
We now learn that not only is the entire Lockhart/Hodges feud a result of a fiery affair that tore Noah’s lineage apart, but also one that ended in a baby being drowned. Either of these reveals would be staggering for Noah, but the fact that it’s both of these things is quite a ballsy move for the show to make. It’s a pretty ridiculous coincidence, to the point that Noah might begin questioning if all of this is just one big joke for how badly he’s being “tested” here. His entire tragic life is turned into cause and effect and bad airport literature before his eyes. As crazy as all of this “family being cursed” talk sounds initially, it would help explain the fact that at least three infant deaths have happened within the family now in so many years.
A tremendous amount of The Affair has been concerned with figuring out your own narrative and chiseling out what is true against all of the lies raining down around you (which once again is illustrated perfectly by Cole and Whitney’s dueling recollection of him “almost killing her”). This episode explores the beautiful idea of not necessarily what is truth and what is fiction, or who is right and who is wrong, but rather the damage that can be done from believing a narrative that’s been passed down to you for generations. The Lockharts have begun internalizing the idea that they’re cursed, and all of their bad luck seems to make sense accordingly. It’s easier to embrace such a twisted narrative then to try and rise above it sometimes. You can see the same thing going on throughout the rest of Montauk with the publication of Noah’s book. Everyone is feeling like celebrities, clinging to the version of themselves that has been created, squabbling for the chance to play their part in a story that’s already been eschewed. No one is themselves anymore.
We’re all nearly drowning. But sometimes it takes someone else dipping below the surface to realize how deep you yourself have sunken.