Previously on The Affair, ‘207′
Whitney is checking out her parents’ alma mater, Williams College, but she’s disinterested, to say the least. She spends the entire tour setting up a Tinder profile for Helen because she wants to help her mother move on. “You have at least five good years left.” Oh Whitney, you’re so young and stupid. Tinder was just a distraction though, because Whitney doesn’t want to attend college at all. She wants to move to the city and pursue a modeling career after a photographer she met at a party said she could “be something.” Helen doesn’t take this news well and wonders how her daughter will make it without financial help. Never one to shy away from a low blow, Whitney points out that just because Helen’s always survived off her parents’ money doesn’t mean she will too.
Whitney has some hard lessons to learn. If she’s not even willing to spend a weekend in her father’s beautiful Queens apartment, there’s NO WAY she’s going to be happy with the closet-sized shit hole she’ll be able to afford living in the city. She’s barely content in a mid-range hotel room. When they run into Noah, who’s there at the same time on a book tour but his obnoxious publicist failed to tell him about the overlapping dates, Whitney begs for him to book her a suite. Noah and Helen need to slow their child’s roll. When her dorm host shows up, she expertly ditches her parents leaving them to argue over and be utterly confused by her. Ah, teenagers.
Though she denies his invitation at first, Helen ends up attending Noah’s book reading. The passage he chooses to share must have been especially painful for her. Not only does it discuss the day Noah moved out of their brownstone, but it also talks about the reason they left their first apartment in Harlem: taking a loan from her parents. This must sting a little extra after Whitney’s earlier comments – perhaps this is why she apologizes for it later on. Noah actually has some good thoughts on the whole Whitney issue however. He remembers Helen wanting to travel when she was young and how the Buttholes Butlers wouldn’t let her. Helen realizes she’s turning into her parents and reluctantly agrees with Noah. After dinner and a few drinks, Helen gets real with him. She was secretly happy when his first book failed. Devastated for him, but hopeful that he would give up writing and be content with her and the kids. She never dreamed he would be this successful, but she’s proud of him. Noah offers Helen the bed at his hotel – cause it’s nicer than where she’s staying – but she wisely says no.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#4a7097″ class=”” size=””]“Hey, millennials! What does FOMO mean?” – Helen[/pullquote]
It’s hard to say if Noah will ever be truly content. Even with rave reviews flooding in for his book, the chance at a literary reward, and a future with a woman who he ostensibly loved enough to leave his family, he still wants more. He’s too focused on what comes next to be satisfied with what he has already achieved. When Alison shows him the nursery she’s organized for their baby – in the room he was previously using as an office – he can’t be happy for one second before worrying about where his desk has gone. This dissatisfaction has been present for most of the series, but in this episode a lot of it revolves around the one bad review Descent receives, in a student newspaper. The critic – who, it should be noted here for future context, is a young black man – attends his book reading prepared with a few pointed, slightly harsh questions and comments for Noah. “Do you see anyone reading your book in five years?” I like the way a five-year time frame is used again here, drawing similarities between Helen and Noah’s fears about the future. Noah keeps his cool with the critic, even after he’s the one who informs him that the literary award went to another author.
Noah has always been portrayed as self-centered, narrow minded, and generally annoying, so his senseless comments after losing the award to a woman (who I presume is not white) should come as no shock. He believes he’s been the victim of affirmative action, that because he’s a straight white male he had no chance at the award anyway, and that it’s “impossible to be a man in 2015.”
I’ll pause and let that sink in.
What a fucking prick.
As if I needed another reason to hate this guy.
Helen’s reaction was identical to mine: incredulous laughter and a “you did not just say that!” Thankfully she stops him from approaching the critic, for now, but then proceeds to be way to nice. She admits that while he’s made some stupid choices recently, he’s fundamentally a good guy. I’ll believe it when I see it. Helen worries he’s letting the success go to his head already and she’s seeing similarities between him and her father. You’d think that would have been enough to clam Noah down, but no. Once Helen leaves for her hotel – after confessing she can’t read his book without crying – Noah ends up, very drunkenly, confronting the critic. When he learns that this kid has already published two novels and a memoir, he goes in for a punch, misses by a mile, and falls on to the bar. This is definitely the show taking a shot at privileged white dudes, right? It’s interesting to note this critic never even appeared in Helen’s POV, likely because he wasn’t as hostile as Noah portrays him. It’s easier for Noah to remember all of his insecurities and discontent being an external cause, rather than something he needs to deal with internally.
The incident has made its mark all over social media, but Eden’ spinning it so that Noah is seen as “the bad boy of the literary world.” It’s so hard to be a white dude these days, what with all the fancy hotels and beautiful publicists who can make your indiscretions disappear! Speaking of indiscretions, Noah invites Eden into his room, in a non-business fashion. They’re all over each other and the clothes are coming off when Eden puts a stop to it. She doesn’t want to screw up their work relationship but a line has definitely already been crossed. Looks like we’re going to get another affair within The Affair.
After seeing video footage of the fight between Alison and Scott, Gottlief and his assistant are trying to figure out what exactly happened between these two. Scott had made numerous calls to Alison over the past year, none of which she returned. Was she trying to run away from a mistake, possibly one that resulted in her pregnancy? If the baby is Scott’s, it’s possible he was threatening to tell Noah and she decided to “take care” of the problem.
Helen is worried about Noah’s chances in the case. She wants to keep him out of prison for his kids’ sake, or so she says. When Gottlief admits they have another suspect but still need confirmation, she swings into action. While watching Martin’s wrestling match, Joanie drops her soother on the ground. Helen slyly pockets it and brings it to Gottlief. She seems bothered by the idea of helping incriminate Alison so Gottlief promises to use the evidence only if there’s no other way.
- Noah’s speech about love being a kind of faith where two people hold each other up was surprisingly poignant. Too bad he seems completely incapable of applying it to his own life.
- If Joanie has any Lockhart DNA, it’s Cole’s. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I just can’t see Alison with Scott, then again I can’t really see her with Noah and that’s actually happening. Either way, I remain devoted to #TeamCole
- Maura Tierney is especially good at playing Helen slightly different depending on the POV. Her facial expressions were nearly identical in both scenes of the book reading, but had the perfect amount of “don’t give a fuck” through Noah’s eyes.
- I may not like Noah’s character but Dominic West is really, really good at acting drunk. His slurred speech was giving me The Wire
The Affair S2E8
The Affair had trouble getting started this season but the last several episodes have really turned things around. I think a lot of this can be attributed to the deviation from its original structure, which made me nervous about whether or not it would return to the “he-said, she-said” format. Well, it came back this week and it didn’t disappoint. I always appreciate the subtle differences in wardrobe, attitude, and dialogue that give each memory it’s own atmosphere. What impresses me most however, is when these overlapping memories give us a broader understanding of the characters recalling them – both individually and in relation to who they share the memory with.
As usual, Noah’s memory of the night is pretty self-involved with him obsessing about the award and the bad review. For Helen the evening is a little more adult, full of parental discussions and ending in a type of closure. The most important detail to be gained from these opposing memories is how well these two know each other. They have a long, long history together and it’s effortlessly displayed here. While Noah can remind Helen of her youth and how similar she is to their daughter, Helen can recognize the destructive path Noah is about to take and encourage him to get back on track to enjoy his long awaited success. I have my doubts that Alison and Noah will ever know each other this well.
The added focus on the flash-forwards was great as well. The flow from them being an objective to a subjective viewpoint was flawless. These scenes have a muted, almost melancholy color palette, which lends them a little gloominess and mystery that I think works really well. I’m glad we’re finally spending more time on this part of the narrative and I hope it’s a trend that continues.