Without a doubt, Cole Lockhart is the most isolated part of The Affair. His perspectives have felt adrift from the main narrative all season, and have threatened to go too far into maudlin melodrama at times. Throughout, his story has been anchored by Joshua Jackson’s solid, deeply human portrayal of Cole as a man who has lost everything and is furious at the world for all it has taken from him.
Browsing: The Affair
One of the best things about The Affair is the way it tracks in moral ambiguity. Its shifting perspectives make it more difficult to get a bead on its characters, but this haziness runs deeper than that. This is a show that refuses to judge its characters, even when they are being awful. It presents them as they see themselves and are seen, and implores us to draw our own conclusions.
Most series have to do a fair bit of table setting at any given point in their run, moving the plot forward or setting up pieces that will be important down the road. These are rarely great episodes, but they serve a narrative function that makes them somewhat necessary. The Affair is a different beast, however, more structurally complex and narratively hard to pin down than the average series.
There’s a weird conflict at the heart of The Affair. The vast majority of the show is focused on the inherent ambiguity of human interactions, on the way we all bend our own experiences, and on the impossibility of any objective answers to any question involving two or more people.
Every interaction is a clash of perspectives. We all bring our own worldviews to bear on our daily lives, from the broadest perspective to the narrowest. We are all, always, building our own narrative, tweaking reality to fit our perceptions, to stoke our own egos or feed our own insecurities.
This season finale tried really hard to remind everyone where the show started in the first episode. Noah in a pool, flirting with a pretty girl but resisting for the sake of his marriage. Cole fucking Alison from behind on the hood of a car. With pretty obvious dialogue and imagery, there were tons of little reminders all over this episode that these characters have changed a lot since episode one.
In the penultimate episode, the show threw subtly and careful pacing out the window in favor of packing as much action as it possibly could into just under an hour. It mostly worked. There were a few moments that seemed completely out of character or sudden, and there were a few emotional beats that could’ve used time to breathe, but taken as a whole “9” was an exhilarating and intense ride.
Four months after Noah and Alison ended their affair, their marriages are in much different places. Noah desperately wants Helen to forgive him so they can move on while Alison and Cole seem to have reconnected.
“7” was an important episode for many reasons, the most important being that it had to prove the show could survive a (possibly temporary) dissolution of the affair between Noah and Alison. After they decided to end things last week, it was clear that their lack of discretion meant that everyone in their lives would find out, including their spouses.
The one constant about The Affair from episode to episode is the ambition of the storytelling. Now that Detective Jeffries ended his interrogations of Noah and Alison, the episode focused exclusively on the past. Even in an episode as comparatively flat as this one, it is still bristling with tension.