This review of The Affair contains spoilers.
The Affair Season 3 Episode 3
“I believe that love is never boring.”
I’m still not sure what to make of this season’s direction.
With all of The Affair’s characters receiving their fair share of re-introduction time over the course of this season’s first two episodes, I was genuinely curious to see which path this entry would end up following and who would be steering things forward.
That’s why it’s so surprising when the episode throws the welcome turn at the audience by presenting Juliette’s story, rather than any of the four core cast. It’s a move that likely solidifies Juliette Le Gall’s status as Noah’s new love for the season, but one that we’ll have to wait and see regarding whether or not it pays off. Juliette talks about spontaneity being a necessary ingredient to romance though, so maybe the show is just taking a page from out of her notebook.
Shifting to other characters’ vantage points certainly doesn’t mean that the show has run out of things to say with its main cast. This decision more so acts as another example of the show’s theme of people being layered and how you can never really know somebody. That concept is simply spreading. No one is just a sidepiece or a one-night stand anymore, but rather a character that you’re made to empathize and spend time with. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were getting episodes from Vic’s perspective soon enough, too.
The episode gives us a fairly cursory glance of who Juliette is, but it’s still helpful in unlocking her mysteries. It’s comforting to see that she’s someone that still has to cut her losses and have sex with consolation prizes sometimes, regardless of the stature or knowledge that’s attached to her. It’s a little telling that part of Juliette’s job sees her helping restore old documents. This is not dissimilar to what she’s doing with Noah either. It’s still finding an old, lost relic and giving it value and appreciation once more.
There’s a rather loaded scene where Juliette is reading Noah’s Descent at an increasing frequency, in spite of dismissing it as trash. She’s eventually so engrossed with the novel that she’s even masturbating while reading it though (information that would really make Noah’s fucking day, both as a man and as a writer). She’s clearly a fan of the sordid, pained experiences that are Noah’s specialty.
It’s another interesting decision on the show’s part to see the season deciding to cover so little ground at this point. Juliette’s story is still covering territory from the premiere. I’m not opposed to this smaller sandbox approach, especially when Noah is bleeding out, quickly dying somewhere in this timeline. Time and patience are necessary elements this year. That being said, I can respect the show getting to this Noah in peril business almost immediately rather than turning it into some end of the season mystery to solve. This angle works much better with it, but it does lead to things like Noah spending the bulk of his half of the episode lying in a hospital bed.
On Noah’s side of things we start getting some answers regarding his stint in prison and why he’s so terrified of a certain guard in particular, John Gunther (Brendan Fraser), courtesy of some coma flashbacks, surgery hallucinations, and hospital dreams on Noah’s part. It might be clunky, but it gets us there, and we learn that Noah and this prison guard actually swam together back in the day.
In fact, John might even have a certain sort of Annie Wilkes-level devotion to Noah’s career. As this show has shown us countless times before, sometimes love is a whole lot scarier than hate. His kind behavior towards Noah carries an eerie tension to it. It’s either not genuine or it’s riding on the verge of snapping, and it seems to be a nice turn in Fraser’s career (he’d probably kill it on something like Fargo). John’s connection to Noah’s past and his interest in his career also had me briefly considering the outlandish idea that perhaps Noah’s first novel is actually John’s, with Noah somehow stealing it and rising to literary fame accordingly. This is a theory based purely on tone though, with no real evidence to support it yet.
As Noah is going through the healing process, unsurprisingly Helen is right there by his side. Helen rattles off Noah Solloway health facts, as if she’s on a game show, at no one’s acquiescence. All of this seems far too typical of the show’s latest version of Helen. Once again, Noah’s far too eager to get rid of her. “You can stay, but please stop talking,” is about the nicest thing that he says to her here.
They’re clearly not through with each other though. None of these people are. It still might be early on into the season, but with each new piece of information that it delivers, things are only getting more engrossing. This year is certainly proving to be a different sort of beast that you need to put your trust in, but so far it is at least continuing to provide reasons to do so.