This The Affair review contains spoilers.
The Affair Season 3 Episode 7
“Just let her know you’re okay.”
“But I’m not.”
So that was a big surprise, wasn’t it? We get an episode that’s split up into Whitney and Luisa’s perspectives as we get an appreciated change of pa—nah, I’m just fucking with you. It’s more Noah and Helen this week…
Look, I’m still a huge fan of this show and the actors that populate it, but as we begin hunkering down into the end of this season of The Affair, I can’t help but feel like the wheels of the show’s proverbial murder vehicle are spinning a little bit here. The second season, for all of its flaws and for how overly complicated it might have become, still always had a hell of a lot happening (remember that New Years Eve party set to LCD Soundsystem’s “North American Scum” as Noah started plummeting into darkness?). This year is a very different story and in spite of the show having more characters to play with now, it seems to be curiously narrowing its vision.
After the events of last episode, Helen once more goes into caretaker mode when it comes to a vulnerable Noah. I’m kind of blown away at the sheer audacity of Helen bringing Noah back into her house while she’s still with Vic, as well as having him perform medical duties on him, but I suppose that’s sort of the point here. It’s absurd and destructive, but it’s meant to be. It’s just the latest step in Helen’s Second Chances tour with Noah. She’s still even incorrectly referring to herself as Noah’s wife before needing to correct herself.
At this point, I’m almost like, why even give us one episode that features Juliette’s perspective when we’re barely—if ever—going to return to it? Her taking care of Noah here would have added a lot more verisimilitude to the season rather than continuing to ping-pong back and forth between Noah and Helen. In addition to the shorter season order, it quickly feels like time is running out for the year with very little seeming to have actually happened when taking a step back and looking at everything from a distance. It’s always interesting to see what areas the show decides to spend its time on, and I of course believe it thinks it’s making the right decisions. Still, once more I found myself thinking, Hmm, I wonder what Cole is up to right about now?
This show has been so dour lately that it even has a built-in release valve specifically for this sort of thing, and yet we’re consistently getting more Noah—even when the perspective at the time isn’t his. I just wish he was as fascinating as the show, or Helen, thought he was. What I am enjoying here is the idea that’s sort of being played with that perhaps Noah’s attacker is actually all in his head and some Vicodin-laced delusion. I’d almost prefer all of this meandering if it were all to culminate in a huge fake-out to illustrate how broken Noah is from his time in jail and the mistakes that he’s made. The only thing throwing this appealing theory off is his neck wound because somebody did stab him, right? We at least know that much, don’t we? Or did he like just trip and cut his neck on something and then these manic conclusions began to mount?
As Helen’s decision to have Noah rest in her home continues to backfire, the various people around her continue to question her judgment as she pleads ignorant to any ulterior motives here. I mean, it’s kind of bonkers when Whitney gets to be the voice of reason here as well as being the person to make the most sense for episodes now. Her conversation with Helen about the “Why?” of all of this is just heartbreaking. And this isn’t just some petulant child lashing out at her mother any longer. Whitney is right on the mark. She knows both Helen and Noah deeply and it’s rough to see Helen ignoring her daughter’s words in order to share a bed with Noah.
It’s also just uncomfortable to see Helen’s younger children pouring their hearts out to their mother while she is just lost in her head and doing a terrible job as a parent. Vic is also trying so hard here to hold everything together while Helen keeps crumbling and failing to rise to the occasion. When he’s finally had enough here, he’s more than justified in his reaction because like c’mon Helen. She just needs to say out loud that she’s still in love with Noah and she’ll feel so damn free. I don’t know why the show is putting Helen through all of this, and while the actions that go down between her and Noah at the end of her side of the story may seem like a triumph, as Whitney so eloquently puts it, everything can’t just go back to normal.
It’s rather telling that in Helen’s account of things Noah says, “I need help” in their car ride home together, however, in his side of it all he grimaces, “God, please help me,” as he runs out of his Vicodin. He’s not reaching out to her for help, he’s bitching about his supply. This crucial difference pretty much sets the tone for the rest of Noah’s half of the episode. He’s continually making reference to how he doesn’t feel welcome and how he shouldn’t be there, while Helen’s perspective is all about fostering a bond.
We continue to get more dream-induced chapters of Noah’s horrible time in prison. Once more, this material connects with Fraser gleefully chewing the scenery as he asserts his control over Noah. When you see how truly awful Noah’s time in prison was, it’s a little understandable to see why he is the mess that he is now. Elsewhere in Noah’s half of things Vic is shot from low angles, painting him in a position of power, while Noah whines about pain relief with Vic towering above him. This is an episode all about how powerless Noah is, it’s just a situation where Helen shouldn’t necessarily be the one coming to his aid.
As Helen continues to allow her life to implode and ignoring the voices of reason that surround her as she plods on with her mission, she seems to finally get the message by the time the episode is over. Helen chanting “I know you” while she has sex with Noah is maybe the saddest thing in the world. It’s an utterly devastating scene. It’s as if she’s viewing this sexual encounter as confirmation of such a thing. The only thing sadder is Noah telling her afterwards that she doesn’t know him at all. And she doesn’t, really.
The Affair is beginning to wrap up its arc here and while it might not be heading into the “all in his head” conclusion that I’m hoping for, I’m sure these final three episodes will at least push things into entertaining territory. Anyone think we’ll get something happy and light next week like the Lockharts hitting up Coney Island and chilling at the beach?