Corruption of Perfect Love
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
“Pure love cannot sustain in an imperfect world.”
Winter is approaching Montauk and the chilling air is spreading quite a bit, permeating through every relationship with a sense of incredible unease. While Noah at the beginning is certainly giving William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet more critical praise than perhaps it deserves. But while Noah’s English class certain seems to be among the more interesting television classroom scenes of recent time, it is an ambivalent sort of calm that in some ways spells the entire thesis of this show. But when Noah talks about the purity of love and how it’s at inherent risk in a world such as this one, what exactly is he referring to? What love and between whom? Most senses would indicate the affair between him and Alison, which is a bit rich of him considering how all of that went down in the first place. The scene shifts and we see him having a nice, ambivalent dinner with Helen and just for a second it seems like everything is relatively okay in their world.
What I love about The Affair is how it refuses to drag everything out (I’ll revisit that if this particular affair drags on for a second season) and certainly a bit of that has to do with its ten episode order. But in its espousal of not dragging things out, the show has shed a much more mature light on marriage than perhaps any television show I’ve ever seen. At that dinner it seems that Noah’s marriage is back on solid ground as Helen gushes about her store being featured on the front page of the Sunday style section of The New York Times, which is a big deal if you live in the Big Apple. Noah brings out a present seemingly in celebration, but he calls it a gift for Helen “sticking it out”. Note to every couple in friction: never use that phrase. Immediately the softness and warmth in the conversation goes away into the wind. Noah’s life is as ethereal as the flickering light of candle on the table. Max is having issues, Whitney’s bulimic, and the marriage as expected is on absolutely shaky ground.
Perhaps the most illuminating scene in the entire hour was when Noah and Helen went to their therapy session. The adage of women largely being more emotional is a ridiculous one, but more often than not its taken to even further lengths to argue that women are incapable of making decisions without emotion involved. Of course Helen married Noah because she was in love, a foolish mistake a young woman who wasn’t thinking practically. But no, it’s the complete opposite. Yes, Helen was in love with Noah and he adored her so much when they were young. But more than that, he represented stability. She already had a rich father who was an asshole and cheated on her mother. She was so, so sure that Noah would be the exact opposite. He would be a bulwark against the outrageousness her father provided and she would have the calm, quiet family she had always wanted. Maura Tierney plays that moment beautifully, of a woman who had expected so much and made a choice that now has been thrown back in her face with so much unjust irony. Nor does the episode judge her when she says that she could have had anyone and she chose the quiet, calm man who adored her.
Alison’s marriage seems to be going a lot smoother at first glance. The family dynamic is back on track, her relationship with Cole seems a lot warmer, and the pregnancy attempts are still continuing over from the previous episode. But that bitter Montauk winter is seeping into their relationship, the frostiness most evident when Alison’s grandmother comes into the picture. Alison clearly wants to go there alone and when she’s back, Cole seems preoccupied with the sale of the ranch over Alison. To be fair, Alison did say that her grandmother was there but that momentary coldness was remarkably visible. The hospital sequences were cringe-inducing, but in a good way. Alison, despite Athena’s repeated attempts, isn’t able to sign a D & R (Do Not Resuscitate) order on her grandmother. She wants to move in so many ways but there are certain things that she simply can’t let go of, her grandmother a bit of Noah (who comforts her in the hospital), and the box of Gabriel’s belongings. She’s at an uncomfortable crossroads, sort of stuck in between two worlds.
This episode also serves a massive function in humanizing Bruce. He had his own Allison, whom he abandoned because he saw his life and how his children would pay the price for his dalliances. But he remembers her, ever fucking day and that passion he was able to channel into his own book, the only one he’s ever written that was shortlisted for the Pulitzer. As the episode comes to a close, we see that perhaps Noah’s passion for Allison has been channeled into his second book, called The Descent, which has become a critical darling and has even garnered an adaptation. As Noah reads his book at a public signing, the detective stands mysteriously in the background, noting how closely Noah’s description in the book matches the real life location of The End, a place where Noah vehemently denies ever going. He shifts locations, keeping a tab on Allison as the community gathers at Scotty’s funeral. She’s apparently all alone. As the episode comes to a close, the detective comes back to The End, discovering that Salloway had indeed made a reservation that was canceled. Discoveries, indeed.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+I love how Noah’s version of Alice is still more scantily clothed
+The line about “Burying St. Joseph in the yard” to start a bidding war was hilarious
+Cherry deliberately trying to sabotage the property
+Alison being hesitant about meeting Noah
+Helen’s disdain for her parents is oddly delightful
Alternative Title: Burying the Bulwark
Written By: Dan LeFrank & Melanie Marnich
Directed By: Ryan Fleck
Image Courtesy: Hitfix