TV review

Whodunnit Solved, But This Isn’t the End of ‘The Affair’

The Daily Beast

December 21, 2015

There will be a third season of The Affair, Showtime has said, which is just as well as we know now that vain, manipulative novelist Noah (Dominic West) didn’t kill ne’er do well, and even more screwy Scott Lockhart (Colin Donnell).

But this recognition did not bring resolution. Far from it. Things look set only to become more complicated. I think even the most dedicated Affair fans needs a break from this.

Instead of Noah being the killer, the frustrated, priapic, pulp novelist was a passenger in a car driven by his ex-wife Helen (Maura Tierney), after Scotty was pushed into the trajectory of said car by Noah’s present partner Alison (Ruth Wilson).

And then Noah, who has behaved like the most dishonorable wretch in the last eleven episodes, did the honorable thing at his murder trial, and didn’t implicate either woman, instead crying out that he had in fact killed Scott.

If anything else, this will surely give Noah material for another best-selling book. And it will give us meat aplenty for season three, as—depending on who you believe—Noah still has feelings for Helen, and Alison definitely has feelings for Cole (Joshua Jackson), who is the father—not Noah—of her daughter Joanie.

This quartet could even possibly customize the ‘re-affair,’ with ex-husbands and wives having affairs with themselves behind their new partners’ backs.

This is me being selfish. It would mean Dr. Vic Ullah (Omar Metwally) would suddenly be free to be all mine. Mwahaha.

The final episode of this brilliant second season, written by Sarah Treem, one of the show’s creators, began with the much-missed dogged Detective Jeffries (Victor Williams) finding a stone at the scene of Scott’s apparent hit-and-run with Alison’s name on it. (Such an obvious stone had somehow gone totally missed by investigators.)

Flashing back into the past, it’s the day of Cole and Luisa’s (Catalina Sandino Moreno) wedding. The stones with the names are for the guests.

It was three months on from the last episode. Alison had taken on the running of the remodeled Lobster Roll in Montauk, having bought it with Cole.

In her spartan upper floor home/office, Noah asked when she was coming back to the city. He said he was happy for her, but would she consider coming to France with him to research his latest book. Maybe, Alison said. Noah said he was proud of her.

Downstairs in the restaurant, guests circulating readying for the nuptials, the characters had the same sensation as us maybe—how strange it was to be back here, back where The Affair began, with Noah and Helen dropping in for a meal en route to their summer retreat, and Alison there, as a waitress.

Three years on, so much had changed, or had it? Margaret (Kathleen Chalfant) and Helen seemed to be a reconciled mother and daughter; Margaret even joked with her once-reviled ex son in law about how good Xanax was, and cooed over his cute phone video of Joanie.

Alison apologized to Noah about being absent; he stayed supportive and said they should just get through that day. But watching her crying during the ceremony, and pursuing her afterwards, Alison told Joanie wasn’t his daughter, but Cole’s.

In Noah’s recording of events, he delivered a noble, martyrish speech about being tempted to be unfaithful, but not doing so, because Alison had been his one true love.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I never want to see you again,” he said.

Helen and he then left for an impromptu chat and swim in the ocean. Noah told her he had not wanted children. She, drinking from a bottle of wine, said Dr. Ullah had had a job offer in LA, which both were weighing the implications of. (Dr. Ullah, I am free to both go to LA, or not go to LA, but I do not come with the dreary bag of life shit Helen does. Just saying. Call me.)

Their ocean dip redefined the sea—previously so threatening and freighted with death in this show—although familiar nightmares return as Noah drove Helen home along mist-shrouded roads.

His premonitions of something happening—for a while it was killing Alison—crystallized into a sensation of tangible possibility, so he stopped the car and let Helen take over driving. Both had been drinking, so we knew something bad would happen.

He touched her hand as she drove; she looked at him—and bam, they hit something. Not a deer, as Helen said, but Scott Lockhart. Noah got out, saw the body, looked towards some undergrowth, returned to the car, told Helen to forget all this, and to tell everyone she got a cab home.

She told Noah she loved him.

Back in the present at court, Noah’s lawyer (Richard Schiff) wanted to know if he should put Detective Jeffries on the stand, to implicate Alison in Scott’s death.

The stone, plus the information Noah was not Joanie’s father—and the possibility Scott was blackmailing Alison with that information—is too juicy to ignore, and could help acquit Noah. Noah stalled.

After that fade to black, Alison’s point of view saw her in a drabber, less overtly sexy yellow-patterned dress than Noah imagined her in. Her Lobster Roll home office was also considerably more homely than the spartan space Noah had imagined.

Noah’s imagined ease with her absence from home is not recalled by Alison, who instead remembered him trying to pressure her to come back to the city and be a family again with him and Joanie.

In her memory of the phone video Noah has, Alison recalled Joanie, but also Noah with Joanie, not just Joanie on her own.

On the beach she seemed emotional watching the vows of Cole and Luisa, but not because it is her ex, as Noah thought, but because one of the vows—much more personal and sweet than in Noah’s memory—Cole makes to Luisa is to support her dreams, which, in Alison’s mind, Noah wasn’t doing for her.

Also, possibly, Alison was listening to this gorgeous vow and wondering what Cole would have been like to finally be a father now to Joanie.

There was no confession to Noah about Joanie not being his son—at least not as Noah remembered it. Instead, Alison and Cole had a lovely few moments on the beach–more innocent than Noah and Helen’s—talking about him, Luisa, and giving his new relationship a chance.

Cole told Alison all he wanted was a child, and Luisa cannot have children.

The beach, for them, suddenly is about hope and the future, and time healing something, rather than the place forever associated with the death of their son.

But Alison did not tell Cole he is the father of Joanie.

Like a bad penny to end bad pennies, Scott turned up, better but not fully so after a stint in rehab. But he was soon drinking again, after Cole told him the promise to let him be involved in the running of the Lobster Roll was a ruse to get him to rehab.

Scott threatened Alison with revealing the truth of Joanie’s paternity, as per the video tape we have seen before, and unlike the lawyer who watched it (and me, for a few weeks), he didn’t mean that he was the father of Joanie, but when he said, “That’s our baby,” he meant a Lockhart.

In Alison’s version, she told Noah he was not Joanie’s father as Scott sang a menacing ‘The Housing of the Rising Sun,’ at the wedding reception as lights flickered in and out of darkness, redness, and whiteness on his, Alison, and Noah’s faces. All very David Lynch-ian.

After she whispered the confession to Noah, Alison’s recall is that she walked along the country line, alighting upon Scott in a disused row boat (who must have finished singing and gotten there super-quick).

Alison said she’d consider his proposal to take a part in the running of the restaurant, then confessed she won’t. Furious, he told her he wanted to have sex with her—everyone else has.

As he went to coerce her, they struggled and she pushed him—into the path of Helen driving her and Noah home. In Noah’s version, he looked to the undergrowth and saw nothing, in Alison’s version we saw Alison emerging from the branches and confessing her role in the incident to Noah

Back at the Lobster Roll, reunited (was it just me, or did none of even the basic timings make sense in this episode?) Noah and Alison confessed their love for one other, and held one another as they both broke down.

Noah’s preferred end of Descent—the male protagonist and his partner joined in a terrible secret—had now come true.

Noah, suddenly, also emerged as protector of both former wife and also mistress-turned-partner.

Alison wanted him to confess about Helen being the driver; but Noah eventually gave his lawyer permission to call Jeffries to the stand—Alison would be implicated, it seemed. Noah had betrayed her in favor of the mother of his children.

But no. Then he stood up and confessed to Scott’s murder, protecting both Helen and Alison—at which point, The Affair audience begged not to be disturbed by the outside world until at least Tuesday, signed off work variously with stress and fever dreams.

Not only did Noah redeem himself with this selfless act, in whatever version you believed, it was telling both couples were happiest on the beach with each other in their original configurations: Noah and Helen, and Alison and Cole.

Also, whatever else, parenting (specifically mothering) trumped sexual and romantic love in the last reel—Noah sacrificing himself so Helen could stay with their kids, and so Alison could stay with Joanie.

None of this redeems Noah’s douchiness, but it sets us up again with the possibility of a more textured anti-hero when season three comes back.

The shuffling of these couples, and their multiple perspectives, will once again be complicated when Noah’s legal woes deepen, given his false confession to killing Scott. We cannot wait. Come back soon, you privileged, fucked-up weirdoes.

And yes, that was Dr. Ullah next to Helen in the courtroom. And yes, that was me, passing notes to him just behind.