The Affair episode 4 review

Noah and Alison take a vacation together to get away from things like fidelity as their bond faces new highs and lows.

“Do you consider yourself a good person?”

There’s an interesting recurring thematic device through this episode where timing is a crucial element in life. That fate is a big player in our lives, and that mere seconds have the power of altering lifetimes. It’s a neat idea for the show to bring up, considering how Noah and Alison’s first meeting was so predicated on chance, and their inevitable blow-up will likely stem from the same agent.

But there are other signs of the importance of timing through all of this too. Like if Noah didn’t go back to get his change from the cashier, the person wouldn’t have bumped into him spilling his drink all over himself. Noah runs into Alison at the boutique, just as they’re ready to give up on their vacation. Even the detective in the present talks about meeting his wife randomly in the parking lot over a hit bumper, and that fate brought them together and has kept them that way for 25 years. The episode makes it clear that this is an important element.

It’s also curious, bur surely superfluous, that the “Previously On” segment makes a point of singling out the “He kills her. In the end” clip from Noah’s pitch last week that seemed like intentional misdirection, and perhaps re-showing that clip is more of the same, but maybe not after all.

Ad – content continues below

Similarly, due to some carefully worded dialogue and reactions between Noah and the detective in the present, it’s entirely possible that Helen divorced him after this affair came to light, taking custody of their children along with her.

The plot of the week, that Noah and Alison are outside of the town, on Block island, ostensibly on “vacation” together, is a very ballsy plot, as well as some pretty reckless actions by the two of them, as they go and engage in things like change room sex at little boutiques, as they’re pretty much screaming to get caught. Of course they’re off in a foreign place, but with every person they make contact with and talk to, it almost stabs you a little deep down, giving you the impression that this is going to end up being the person that says something to the wrong person and everything comes collapsing down on top of them.

Seeing Noah get caught up in lighthouses and how they work is pretty great as Alison talks about the beauty in seeing someone talk about something they love and you feel that he wouldn’t be looking that different as he talked about her. We see Alison put out the same affection as she talks about shipwrecks (the destruction of something beautiful, like say, a marriage), and it’s weirdly comforting to see these two bonding more and more, revealing secrets about each other, delving into each other’s sexual history and past, as you watch these two married individuals break their spouses’ hearts.

There’s a very revealing scene where Alison talks about not believing that people can be so easily reduced as “good people” or “bad people”, and by admitting such her ability for rationalization becomes a lot more clear. Alison’s certainly been the more passive one in the Noah and her dynamic so far, but her true, manipulative nature seems to be making itself more obvious. She’s more forceful with Noah, less ambivalent. When Noah quasi-rebukes the topic of sex with her, she straight up storms off and leaves the island. The sort of Alison we may be seeing in the next couple of episodes is very exciting.

Even after Noah and Alison have a fight and she appears to have left, they can’t escape one another. At the house Noah is checking out, he sees a painting of a shipwreck that he lingers on because he knows how much Alison would love it. Later on, they return to the same store and are thrown in each other’s paths, unable to get away from one another, their bond even stronger now.

Noah and Alison finally have sex here and when Noah laughs at the fact of how little they know about each other, she insists that they should keep it that way; that isn’t that nice. And through all of this you’re again reminded how much Noah is actually revealing about himself as they hang out, and how reserved Alison’s been. He tells a moving story about his dead mother to Alison, becoming vulnerable, while she offers nothing up in comparison. She’s very intentionally, meticulously kept things close to her chest and Noah thinks he’s been just as careful.

Ad – content continues below

When Noah finally does manage to get past one of her layers and finds out something honest about her regarding her cutting—albeit unintentionally—she completely hardens on him and becomes callous and defensive. She calls everything out as bluntly as possible rather than trying to actually connect with Noah and build something. In spite of the sordid situation they’re in, Noah is absolutely someone she could confide in and be honest with. Someone that could maybe even help her.

That’s why it means so much when, finally, Alison opens up to Noah and decides that she can trust him by telling him about her son, Gabriel, that her and Cole lost. There’s such a playful tenderness as Noah genuinely asks Alison simple questions about her lost boy and she finally comes alive as she gets to reminisce about how simple life used to be. Alison tries to end the affair on a “good note” not that long before this moment, but it’s clear after all of this sharing that these two aren’t going anywhere from each other. They’re more in love with each other, and the idea of protecting one another than ever before. The imagery of them not being able to escape from each other earlier in the episode only being strengthened by this. The episode literally goes out with them connected, as a single unit, unbroken, which is certainly saying something about their relationship at this point.

Dominic West knocks it out of the park every week here, but he’s particularly amazing this week as we see him shifting through angered frustration and grieving sympathy effortlessly. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was West’s Emmy submission episode (as well as Wilson’s), as the whole episode is essentially a mini-play.

It’s also significant that the perspective shift in this episode happens chronologically, meaning the episode’s not going over the same events twice, but when Noah’s story ends, Alison’s picks up right after it. Doing more different things with this device is entirely in this show’s favor, so hopefully we’ll keep getting more of it. It’s also a structural way of telling us that Noah and Alison really are a unit now, that one begins where the other ends. I know I’ve said it every week, but with an episode like this where Noah and Alison are physically removed from their families, seeing what Helen and Cole are up to during it all would be particularly enlightening. If they’re worried over their missing loved ones, or using the occasion to be bad on their own.

When Noah and Alison do have sex, it appears to be good sex too. Crazy, animal, passionate sex, not just a few pumps and then it’s over. It makes sense that we shift to Alison’s perspective post-sex, as she’s the more fragile, internal one. We see her telling herself not to freak out while Noah meanwhile sleeps soundly in bed. She stares off into the abyss after orgasm, not sure of who she is or what she’s doing, or if any of this has been remotely a good idea at all.

It’s amazing to see how immediately short she is with Noah after she’s ended up committing to the affair. She tries to get away from him, hurrying to end sentences and discussions as quickly as possible as she tries to just check out. All the while Noah finds himself falling for her more and more though. If anything, this dissonance between them feels like what’s going to be the explosive element to this decision they’ve gone into together. Alison easily seems like the type that could go off and tell Helen everything that’s gone down if she feels that she’s been wronged. It was the anticipation and courtship of this affair that drew us in initially, but it feels like the aftermath and repercussions of it are what are going to drive the rest of this season forward.                                                            

Ad – content continues below

As we move into the halfway point of The Affair, I’m still impressed with how much has been covered in such an economical way. Having Noah and Alison poised where they are provides the show with a lot of routes to take, which still, at some point, is going to ultimately involve a murder. I’m still hoping we get to see more of Helen and Cole in the coming weeks, but as it stands, this series is in no trouble of feeling tired, aimless, or wasting time.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing.


3.5 out of 5