Previously on The Affair
Three years after the trial for Scott Lockhart’s murder, Noah Solloway has hit a rock bottom, of sorts. Under the eyes of the law he’s served his time, but the consequences for his many transgressions is a debt that remains to be paid. He’s been reduced to living in the dodgiest of student housing, complete with an insect infestation. His children are, at best a little scared of him, and at worst completely uninterested in having any kind of relationship with him. The once, almost rekindled bond between him and Helen has been entirely severed. Alison doesn’t even seem to be a part of his life at all anymore. And someone from his time in prison is either haunting him to the point of hallucination, or is all too real and out for some kind of revenge. Well, you reap what you sow, Noah.
It’s as difficult as ever to sympathize with this man – something The Affair seems to be self-aware of, yet continues to try and change without success. After Noah took the fall for both Helen and Alison, it seemed as though he was headed towards a path of redemption. I clearly remember thinking that was his character’s turning point, and I would soon come to see him in a different light. But nope. Noah “the garbage monster” Solloway is, possibly more than ever before, a pathetic asshole. He continues to treat people with such little respect, and it’s hard to decide if it’s worse when he’s doing so deliberately, like with Helen, or when he’s infuriatingly oblivious to it, like with Audrey.
In a flashback to his early days in prison, Noah is taking an optimistic stance towards his fate. He reassures Helen that he’s tougher than she knows, and tells her all she must do now is wait. If he hadn’t meant to imply some kind of romantic reunion with his ex-wife he should have chosen his words a little more carefully. Helen was definitely under the impression there would be something to look forward to when he got out, but she gets a rude awakening when asking him, “what about us?” For Noah, there is no “us.” Not in a romantic sense, and not even in a friendly one. He’s incredibly cold and dismissive towards her, and it has nothing to do with his father’s recent passing. He makes it apparent, without needing to say so, that he doesn’t want her around. It’s clear Noah is holding a grudge – perhaps because he spent three years in prison to protect her. While it’s easy to connect the dots and see how a person like Noah would come to this point, it’s still entirely unreasonable. Guess what, Noah? No one asked you to take the fall for murder! You chose this path, so deal with it.
Dealing with ‘it’ may not be Noah’s strong suit, which in part (or in whole) could be due to his immense white male privilege. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that easy for ex-cons to find work; especially when you’ve been in prison for the death of another human. Noah, whose privilege seems to know no bounds, got a job as a university professor in less than 2 months out of prison. You’d think he would be grateful for such a lucky second chance, that he would be thrilled for every moment of it. Instead, he’s too busy being paranoid about someone following him, to give one of his students the attention and respect they deserve. For him to be so dumbfounded by Audrey’s tearful reaction, after he so thoroughly embarrassed and degraded her, was the perfect example of just how deplorable Noah truly is. Thankfully, Audrey had the opportunity to call out his special brand of bullshit. A particularly satisfying moment was when Audrey shuts down Noah’s suggestion that his presence in the classroom will help push her out of her comfort zone with writing. Women so rarely feel safe and therefore don’t have much of a comfort zone, she explains, so no man is necessary for her to improve her skills. I hope we see more of Audrey; she seems to be one of the few women immune to Noah’s inexplicable “charms.”
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Noah’s newest love interest and fellow professor, Juliette. She actually defended his character at one point, calling him “courageous.” Come. The. Fuck. On. Again, it’s hard to decide what’s worse: that The Affair has introduced yet another woman who seems to find this fleabag of a man sexually irresistible, or that they continue to give these women several traits of the manic-pixie-dream-girl trope. The problem isn’t with female characters that are in charge of and very open with their sexuality – in fact, that’s great. The issue, in this case, is that Noah is so undeserving of these women and it comes off as a disconnect between the writers and their story. Also, I’m not sure if the issue was with the writing, directing, or acting (or some combination) but everything about Juliette felt very over the top and out of place.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of all this, is the show’s refusal to simply make Noah the main antagonist. After two seasons of watching him ruin so many lives, including his own, this seems like a natural progression. Instead of capitalizing on this material though, it looks like The Affair has introduced an entirely new character to fill that role – a prison guard, played by Brendan Fraser of all people. As creepy and suspenseful as his character has already proven to be, he’s really only a threat to Noah, and that’s concerning. Could this mean season three will be heavy on its Noah focus? I’m not sure I could handle even one more episode with his character at the center of attention. How will the prison guard manage to impact the overall story? The disconnect between him and the other 3 main characters raises some red flags in terms of the season’s narrative being a cohesive unit. Honestly, the whole thing reeks of desperation, of a need for the show to always have someone who is worse than Noah.
Now, with all of that said, this episode was actually, surprisingly, pretty good. The tone and imagery presented throughout the hour was highly engaging and reminiscent of the first season, when everything was much less soap opera-y. The eerily lit, wholly unnerving scenes in Noah’s apartment were especially well done, and the closest the show has ever come to truly nailing a suspenseful moment. The problems lie with the character they chose to focus on. For the life of me, I can’t begin to understand the decision to feature Noah for the entire hour. His character is hard to handle for even 5 minutes, let alone 60. Shaking up their signature structure – two perspectives per hour – was definitely the right move in terms of keeping the show fresh. It offered a nice change of pace and allowed for a tighter story, where the audience could really dive deep into Noah’s POV; I just wish it had been someone else’s POV we were deep within. Imagine how bold it would have been for The Affair to kick off its new season with a character who has seen a little less of the limelight. Nevertheless, while I remain disappointed we weren’t given the opportunity to catch up with other characters (I’ll be honest, it’s all about Cole for me) this episode only managed to heighten my anticipation for what’s to come. I find myself feeling far more excited for this season than I was prior to this premiere. The fact that this episode could remain so intriguing despite Noah being in the spotlight, is a true testament to the quality of the show itself.
- I need to know what happened with his sentencing. I’m no law scholar, but three years seems like an incredibly short time to serve for killing someone. Yes, he didn’t technically do the killing, but that’s the crime he admitted to.
- The discussion at the dinner party was infuriating. It felt like the show wanted an opportunity to make a statement on consent, rape culture, sexual assault, etc., but it didn’t quite succeed. Having the two female characters defending bodily autonomy while the male characters whined about how much that sucks for them, was very realistic. It was overshadowed though, by what I believe the show’s final message was: life has grey areas, even when it comes to sexual encounters. Uh, no. Sorry, The Affair, but when it comes to consent, it really is a black and white issue: yes means yes, no means no.
The Affair S3E1 = 7.5/10