Previously on The Affair, “307”
If there is a true love story to be found in The Affair it’s most certainly about Cole and Alison. The fantasy Helen has (or previously had) about knowing who Noah is at his core, is actually a reality for Alison and Cole. If they had never lost Gabriel, they would still be together, without a doubt. At some point, they are bound to be together again, it’s just a matter of timing. Their past is marked with sorrow and betrayal, and it may be years before they sort through it all. True love on TV never comes without a little tragedy, though, does it?
Heartbreak and torment, and sadness in general, is kind of this show’s jam, with this season being especially melancholy. When this episode began with such happy news for Alison – Cole and Luisa agreeing to shared custody – it was a bit of a shock. Rays of sunshine are so few and far between in this world, and even when they do appear, storm clouds are always lingering close by. Alison should be on top of the world to have Joanie back, but here comes Cole to rain on the parade, being mad about Noah of all things. Alison deserves to be excited at the prospect of a new job, one that gives her an important sense of purpose, but again, here’s Cole to chew her out for being too impulsive and flighty.
Now to be fair, Alison definitely could have framed her conversation with Cole about the job offer at Woodlawn in a much better way. Had she come to him after considering a few more details, like how she would balance her time between the new job and Joanie, he may not have been so angered by it. The way he sees it, Alison is failing to appreciate the gravity of being granted shared custody. For Alison, helping Kendra was probably the first time she’s felt useful, outside of being a mother, in a very long time. What’s somehow lost on both of them, though perhaps only outwardly, is what it means that Alison would rush to tell Cole this news. It’s not just that he can understand her interaction with Kendra on a different level than others, it’s that her natural response was to share her excitement with him and no one else. Alison and Cole are continuously drawn back together because they have a connection that just can’t be broken. Which is clearly very challenging for Cole.
It was almost immediately obvious that his callousness towards Ali during the episode was a result of his unresolved feelings for her. If she weren’t around, his life would probably be a hell of a lot easier. His love for Alison wouldn’t vanish, but he could tuck it away somewhere deep in the recesses of his heart, rather than be faced with the complications of it all on a daily basis. He may want to pretend otherwise, but these feelings are causing major problems for his current marriage. There’s the obvious problem of not being able to truly, fully commit to Luisa, as was already proven when he cheated on her with Ali. Perhaps even worse, though, is that his loyalty to Luisa seems to be driven not by his love for her, but in reaction to Alison’s presence. Only after a difficult interaction with Ali does Cole decide to go all-in on starting a new family with Luisa. He even admits to building an entire life only to prove how he’s so over Alison. But it’s all for show.
Cole needs, misses, wants, and loves Ali. Excuse me while I weep tears of joy for a moment or two! The choice to have his confession happen in a jail cell was so on point. Cole is figuratively and literally trapped by his conflicting feelings. Wanting to do right by Luisa means staying silent on his whereabouts the night Noah was stabbed, but his deep love for Ali is why he went to Woodlawn that night and got himself wrapped up in this mess in the first place. That his secret is revealed when there is a physical barrier between him and Ali, illustrates the complicated nature of it all so perfectly. Even though the entire truth is now shared between them, there are still obstacles preventing them from reuniting. It’s not just Luisa or the broken bond of trust, but also Cole’s insistence on maintaining an honorable outward appearance no matter the toll it takes on his true self. Despite Ali’s suggestion to stop pretending – because she loves him, too – Cole decides to stay with Luisa because he believes it’s what a “good man” would do. To paraphrase Ali, he’d rather be the miserable hero than the happy asshole. She’s absolutely right, too.
Though Luisa welcomes Cole back into their home, his expression during their embrace says everything: all is not okay. For now, Cole will go on living his half-truths. He’ll probably start another family with Luisa, and try to distance himself from Alison as much as possible. But none of it is fair or just to anyone involved. Alison and Cole should be happy assholes together; Luisa deserves much better than all this mess. Cole can build a new house and a new life, but his true home will always be with Alison.
- This episode was probably my favorite of the entire series. Joshua Jackson and Ruth Wilson bring so much life to Cole and Alison every time they’re given the opportunity. And as much as I dislike Helen, Maura Tierney is brilliant at playing all the different perceptions of her character.
- Hope Olaide Wilson was excellent in her brief scene as Kendra. The delivery of her dialogue felt very authentic and was extremely moving. And those tears! I don’t know how it would work, but I’d love to see this character again.
- “It’s incredible to be alive. Everyone else assumes that life is a given, but you and I both know that it’s not.” These few short sentences were very powerful, and show just how much Alison has healed in the recent past. Counseling Kendra doesn’t wipe her slate clean, but she’s at least trying to find a path to redemption, unlike some other characters on this show.
- “I think people see what they want to see in other people.” Thanks for that overtly direct nod toward the very show you’re in, Helen. I’ll have more to say about their “girls night” next week, as it looks like we’ll be getting Helen’s POV from it as well.
- Cole’s ability to at least try to let Alison go is in striking contrast to Helen’s inability to move on from Noah. These bits of contrasts and parallels that pop up every so often are about the only thing keeping the Solloway and the Bailey/Lockhart sides to the story relevant to one another.
- Which makes me wonder, how will The Affair keep these stories connected in the, now officially renewed, fourth season? It’s already been a bit of a stretch this year, and it seems even more difficult now with Alison and Noah’s divorce finalized. Perhaps some upcoming event will entangle them all together again. Otherwise, can we just get The Alison and Cole Show, please?
The Affair S3E8
The Affair – S3E8 – “308” | Starring: Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney, Joshua Jackson, Julia Goldani Telles, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Brendan Fraser