He Said, She Said – „The Affair” (2014), a review

March 20, 2015 12:48 pm

“The Affair” got me hooked from the first episode (as it tends to happen with all the series I fall in love with at the proverbial first sight): the structure is excellent; you discover the characters slowly and naturally, and they hook you irrevocably; appearances hide plenty of… stuff; memories torment; the story is not an easily watchable one, while munching on popcorn.

Noah (Dominic West, “The Hour”) is a New York teacher, married since college to Helen (Maura Tierney, “ER”); they have four kids. He wrote a book, but the second one is a slooooow birthing process, so this summer the clan is going to Montauk (Hamptons). They’re going to stay with Helen’s parents – her Ritchie Rich dad is a successful writer that keeps pistoning his son-in-law by insisting that “Everyone has one book in them. Almost nobody has two.” In the coastal town, Noah meets Alison (Ruth Wilson), a waitress that he can’t get out of his mind. She’s married too: to Cole (Joshua Jackson, “Fringe”), who shares a ranch with his brothers. Noah has writer’s block, and suddenly Alison becomes his muse. As for the biblically named man, he ripples the waters of her life (see what I did there?), that had entered a rhythm (not a calm one, but a rhythm nonetheless) after losing her child.

Dominic_West the affair

Then the writers add a whodunit veil over all of this: someone is dead and Alison and Noah are being questioned by a very Colombo-styled detective, at a much later date, about what happened between them. Each one remembers how everything went down and the two versions of that – which the viewer sees in every episode – are slightly different. In his half of the story, Noah struggles with the idea that he’s “a good man”, who never cheated on his wife, and who’s waiting for Alison to validate the fact that doing so now is worth it. And he struggles A LOT! In her half of the story, Noah is the one who makes the first move and she feels guilty and panicky that the bond between them is too much, too fast, too powerful. The details that differ aren’t just proof that people remember things differently and that eye witnesses are not the most trustworthy narrators, but proof that every one of us is the hero of our own story.

A therapist who’s a consultant on the series said that we cheat (although we’re in a happy marriage) not to run away from the person next to us, but to run away from ourselves: to rediscover ourselves through someone else’s eyes. This series makes the viewer sit in the difficult position of understanding that and of not condemning the heroes. When you start to care for them and root for their relationship, then it puts you in the awkward position in which you fidget on your sofa and wonder “What would I have done in her/his place?” Try to answer that…

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