Previously on The Affair, “304”
After the near flawlessness of last week’s episode, it seemed as though The Affair had gotten itself back on track. While this week’s installment was far more captivating than the first three of this season, it was still a step in the wrong direction. It’s clear this was meant to parallel with the fourth episode in season one, where Alison and Noah first visited Block Island. That was the first time The Affair ever deviated from its structure, by having the second POV pick up from where the first had finished. It was also the first time Alison talked to Noah about Gabriel’s death, which is mirrored here with Noah’s in depth revelation concerning the details of his mother’s death. For all these significant parallels, and a few less significant ones, “305” does deserve some credit. It manages to bring Alison and Noah’s affair full circle; “104” was when their budding relationship could no longer be denied and “305” is where their relationship has officially, legally ended. However interesting these parallels are though, it doesn’t make up for the overall tedium of yet another episode that fails to capture the spirit of what has made, and has the potential to make, this show so good: the rich character building from the dueling perspectives.
A large part of the problem, and the one that sets the events of the episode in motion, is the contrived nature of their adventure to Block Island. Alison simply wants Noah to sign divorce papers, but he won’t do so unless she gives their marriage one last chance. To put it plainly, this is silly. How could one day fix the ocean of problems between them? Not only that, Alison should know better by now than to give in to Noah like this. His mere proximity to her threatens to jeopardize everything she’s been working towards; not just in terms of Joanie, but her own mental health as well. At the very least, it’s a relief to learn she’s not going along for the ride because of some unresolved feelings for Noah. She’s now firmly of the mind that what they had was a mistake, born out of a deep desire to escape their lives. Perhaps this trip was a moment for her to escape one last time. Hopefully she learned something from being so close to missing her first unsupervised visit with Joanie.
The one highlight of the episode, which is almost painful to admit, was Noah’s story about his mother’s illness and death. Dominic West makes it easy to loathe Noah Solloway, but when it’s necessary, he can also make you feel a fairly deep (however short-lived) empathy for the man. Noah remains a horrible person, but it’s impossible to deny the acting excellence from West during this confessional scene with Alison. It’s a heartbreaking story, one that surprisingly involves real sacrifice on Noah’s part. Or, at least the willingness to sacrifice; in the end he never had to give up that university scholarship. The most interesting detail to surface from his story, is that this is why he believes his connection to Alison remains so strong. She’s the only other person he’s met who’s had to watch someone they love die so tragically. Though this insight into Noah’s psyche is certainly compelling – and much more nuanced than I ever expected to see – the moment is swiftly ruined by having him and Alison jump into bed together.
As I suggested, perhaps this was the final escape both of them needed to truly find closure on their time together. To continue their marriage would be a mistake, not only for their characters but also for the story as a whole. If this episode was what The Affair needed to tie up these loose ends, then I’ll grant it. Should the show present a chance for a reunion between these two, this episode will essentially be just a waste of time.
- It’s unsurprising to learn Noah doesn’t believe in marital rape. Seeing Alison laugh at his mention of this however, is both surprising and discouraging. The Affair needs to stop it with this bullshit. It is not intriguing or “edgy” it’s offensive and annoying.
- Alison had some deeply gratifying dialogue, on the other hand. Whether it was telling Noah to get the fuck off of her, or explaining to him that taking responsibility for one’s actions is something he would never understand, or questioning Cole on why he believes she’s healthy enough to fuck but not to be the mother of their child, Alison got in some deep cuts.
- Why was Noah acting like such a doofus during Alison’s POV? Could the behavior be a result of his recent painkiller addiction?
- Speaking of too many drugs…Noah is definitely hallucinating, right? The back of Juliette’s car was not ruined, like it should have been if Gunther had really crashed into him. I’m starting to believe Noah stabbed himself, but why? And how will this prove to be interesting to the overall plot in the slightest?
- As good as Brendan Fraser is at being super menacing, the prison plotline is boring. I hesitate to say this, but giving Gunther his own POV might be helpful. At least then we wouldn’t have to keep seeing this just from Noah’s, very likely unreliable, perspective.
The Affair S3E5 = 7.2/10