Previously on The Affair, “302”
There’s no getting around it, so we might as well face facts right here at the beginning: this episode was terrible. Definitely the worst episode of The Affair, and it might even be worthy of a spot on a list of top 10 worst TV episodes ever. It was tedious, unoriginal, and worst of all, offensive. Since I know I’m not the only one who takes serious issue with Noah’s character, it’s as though The Affair is actively going against what a large majority of its audience is interested in. That’s not always a bad thing – writers should be able to tell their stories in the best way possible, regardless of fan reaction. Unfortunately, this added focus on Noah, and those in his orbit, doesn’t just irritate fans, it ruins the story in general.
After spending the entire hour of the premiere with Noah, it seemed reasonable to assume the next few episodes would let us catch up with the rest of the main cast. Episode 2 gave us some time with Helen and Alison, but still nothing from Cole. Instead of splitting the focus between him and Noah this week – which would have made enough sense since Cole is a person of interest in the case for the attack on Noah – The Affair chose to dive into Juliette’s POV. Why? Who asked for this? What purpose does she have to this story? Perhaps she’s going to play a bigger role moving forward, but this introduction to her was monotonous as hell and didn’t encourage much appeal for her.
The closest she came to being interesting, was when we discovered her husband is quite a bit older than her and is suffering from some type of dementia. Her life has definitely been impacted by her husband’s health and it could speak to why she’s come to America in search of adventure. Still, that mainly feels like the old trope of using one character’s illness (though usually it’s a death) to propel another character’s story. A key reason it’s especially difficult to get invested in her, is her apparent obsession with Noah. While reading his book, Descent, she’s suddenly so overcome by his prose that she masturbates. Obviously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a woman masturbating, the problem is what motivates her to do it. Maybe at the height of his book success, Noah could have been seen as a desirable figure. After having been to prison for murder though, it’s harder to understand the allure.
I’d even go so far as to say that, because the audience has always been more aware than the characters of how terrible Noah is, it was much easier for us to see why women shouldn’t be falling for him. However, during Juliette’s memory of the dinner party, we learn that despite his disgusting treatment of her in class, Audrey can’t stop thinking about sleeping with Noah. UGH. Though Juliette’s recollection of the dinner party finally brought the dual perspectives back into the mix, it was thoroughly disappointing on the whole, and the main reason I describe this episode as offensive.
The group’s conversation regarding consent may reflect those being had in real life, but the difference, and the problem, is that it’s being brought to life through harmful caricatures. What’s more, The Affair seems to keep coming back to this topic of consent being a “blurred line.” I swept this fact under the rug during the premiere because it was Noah’s perspective; he’s a garbage person with garbage views, so it made narrative sense for his POV. Unfortunately, Juliette’s POV didn’t change much in that regard. In fact, Audrey was even more of a militant feminist from her perspective, and Mike was even more of a straight, white, male douchebag. While consent is most certainly a black and white issue, the people who have these conversations fall into every grey area imaginable. Why choose to emphasize the damaging stereotype of shrill feminist? And why, dear Queen Beyoncé why, would they choose a female character to say the nonsense that came out of Juliette’s mouth? Essentially, her argument is that consent and eroticism are mutually exclusive; that consent is not sexy. Well, fuck you very much. To add insult to injury, Juliette says this while staring longingly, suggestively at Noah. So, while it’s possible she truly believe this viewpoint, it felt as though her character was merely looking for Noah’s attentions.
Now, pair all of that with my latest epiphany about the show, and it only reinforces the likelihood that The Affair is taking a pretty dreadful stance on women, consent, rape culture, etc. You see, it’s taken me a long time to realize this, like, way too long, but nearly every woman on The Affair is some kind of damaging stereotype. Alison, who was once the manic pixie dream girl for Noah, is now the town hysteric. (Never mind the fact she has an actual mental illness and was seeking help for it.) Helen is the scorned ex-wife who still pines for her scumbag husband. Audrey is the shrill, one-note, militant feminist. And Juliette is the “exotic” European who has antiquated views on sex, which are romanticized instead of challenged. Even the more ancillary female characters aren’t safe; Margaret is the annoying and pushy mother-in-law, and Whitney is the bratty teenage girl who seeks the affections of older men who do not have her best interest at heart. So far, Luisa seems to be the only character not afflicted, but that could easily change by the end of the season.
If The Affair doesn’t start convincing me they don’t hold these warped views as truth, I may have to Nope Out on the show. And even then, I’m not sure it would fix the myriad story problems they’ve created for themselves.
- Brendan Fraser was surprisingly enjoyable as prison guard John Gunther. Unfortunately, his character is negatively impacted thanks to his proximity to Noah. Gunther’s actions against Noah are obviously wrong, but he can’t be the only person who’s ever thought about doing them to this guy.
- I bet there’s going to be some kind of twist where we find out Gunther isn’t the one who attacked Noah. We can’t rule out Juliette since her account of finding him already stabbed came during her POV. A better show wouldn’t be so mysterious – it would be obvious it was Gunther, but the more important question would be why.
- Looks like we’ll finally be spending some time with Cole next week. Here’s hoping it’s as good as it needs to be.
The Affair S3E3 = 5.5/10