The Affair made its much-anticipated return Sunday night showcasing strong performances, and an intriguing storyline focused on how individuals heal.
What’s made this series a staple of programming for Showtime is how keenly the writers are aware of perspective. Since the beginning, each episode has been divided into two parts, each from the male and female perspective.
Rather than delve into some trope ridden territory (I mean it’s not exactly unique for a TV show to have tension resulting from some infidelity), The Affair keeps the focus on how we as individuals interpret specific events. What one person might think is flirting, another might see as being kind to someone. The same can be said about the aftermath of going through a life-changing event such as a divorce. Each person can easily interpret themselves as being the victim, especially when children are involved. It appears that in the new season we are focusing on whether people can change or are they doomed to repeat previous transgressions.
In the first episode, our focus is squarely on Noah (Dominic West), his ex-wife Helen (Maura Tierney), and her boyfriend Vic (Omar Metwally). Helen moved to Los Angeles with Vic and the kids for a fresh start. Vic has received a promotion and is one of the most respected surgeons at the LA-based hospital where he works. Helen is trying to adjust to this new lifestyle and is trying to put the past behind him. However, sometimes the past refuses to go away. Noah has moved out to Los Angeles and is working at a private school so he can be closer to his children. Can these three peacefully co-exist?
Hagai Levi and Sarah Treem’s ability to construct a narrative that’s equal parts realistic and compelling is one of the big reasons for The Affair’s longevity. Instead of steering this show towards moments which were irrational, Sunday’s show was rooted in the emotions associated with the significant changes in these characters lives. Noah’s interaction with Helen (seen from both perspectives) in the parking lot after their son’s open house was a wonderfully crafted moment dripping with elements of authenticity.
The same could be said about what took place at the Mexican restaurant. Yes, any show called The Affair has to have a fair share of “steamy” moments, but Treem and Levi have not forgotten that these moments have emotional origins (whether it’s lust, pain, or even suffering).
The performance which stood out to me was the one given by Tierney. She made ample use of her facial expressions and even an occasional gaze to enhance a sense of instability that plagues her. At times, she also envisions earthquakes (which aren’t occurring). Helen, in many ways, has PTSD due to what has happened in recent years. It indeed emphasizes the stress these moments can have and the lingering impact they have.
Overall, The Affair got off to a great start and left us with a bit of cliffhanger. Not only am I excited to see where the show is headed in season 4, but fans should also start to get a glimpse into where Cole (Joshua Jackson) and Alison’s (Ruth Wilson) stand after what took place last season.