A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The twelfth installment of The Affair is in many ways a continuation of the eleventh, covering the perspectives of Alison and Cole as the premiere covered Noah and Helen’s. I still maintain that Noah is the worst person out of the four, but once again The Affair’s decision to divide its dual perspectives further in half is paying great dividends on a character level. More so than before, the show is content in ruminating what each character views, what each character believes. In the original run of the show, the audience fell into the idea that the truth was hidden amidst the two perspectives, that the kernels of truth were there and one simply had to sift through it all to find out what truly happened. By the end of this episode, for better or for worse, that simply isn’t the case. Not to say the realities of everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen (the timelines can be a bit off) can’t be discerned after everything, but it simply becomes much more difficult to do so. As with Helen and Noah in mediation last week, it was less about the absolute truth than it was about what the characters wanted to perceive. In other words, they’re not remembering the reality of what occurred necessarily, they’re remembering the occurrences in the terms of what they wanted to believe, what they needed to feel.
The emotional construction and deconstruction that is inherently dubious can be quite difficult to master completely and co-creator Sarah Treem has noted that the show won’t completely pay off until season three or so. That is fine, but this balancing act is a fairly tricky one to pull off and it’s going to become more difficult to do so as the narrative continues to unspool. Harkening back to that awful split of the gun incident last season, that sequence works even less in hindsight because that duality of perspectives was treated inherently like a gimmick, a “gotcha!” moment that didn’t service the story or the characters in any meaningful way. Whitney’s outburst last week made it clear that one perspective was accurate, which may be one of the few instances of true narrative clarity in the series. The sequence of Alison and Cole meeting at Noah’s literary retreat was in many ways just as different as that of the gun scene but it felt more honest here, directed, written, and performed with the characters in mind rather than the shock value of the plot. Alison feels strangely a bit adrift, as if regretting her decision to arrive at the juncture where she currently is. Cole feels as if he needed something, some semblance of a reality where he finally got a signal to move on.
Alison’s reminiscence feels like the metaphorical equivalent of a writer, someone who wishes to take the empty, muddled pages of their lives and write in something concrete; something they know, they feel, and have some modicum of control over. “Who I am to you,” are the most prescient words for her in the hour, words that she speaks to Noah in an effort to want some semblance of concrete reality from him; the reality of how his children actually would view her. She roams the home, opening Noah’s manuscript to notice that he had dedicated his book to her. Suddenly she stops herself and rearranges the pages, sticking to Noah’s request that she not read any of the material until he himself felt that it was good and worth reading. Alison clearly feels adrift at sea, her existence sort of like a boat that was traveling along unimpeded towards some unknown direction, with nary a shore in sight. Going into town, Alison asks a waitress how much she makes, interested perhaps in doing something else with her day instead of waiting about at home and cooking. She gets employed with the individuals whose home they’re living in, something an irate Noah clearly sees a marker of emasculation. Perhaps that’s why Alison saw her meeting with Cole with a heightened degree of Cole’s aggressiveness. She’s trying to justify to herself the choices she has made.
Cole is derelict, to put it mildly. Having lost the ranch, he now operates a taxi service for what seems like hours on end. That does about as much good as anyone would expect, with Cole almost backing up on a child who ran behind his taxi and driving firmly into the opposing lane, where he was about an inch from wrecking himself. He picks up, surprisingly enough, Bruce, who remains as much of an arrogant asshat as he was before. He bemoans Noah leaving his daughter, which is an understandable point of view of a father, noting how Noah was destined to fail. In the same breath, he callously mentions that he rekindled with an old flame of his and, in what is surely an odd sort of inspiration, decided to leave his wife. Cole displays a quiet, understated reaction to a tidbit that is surprisingly not from Noah or Helen’s perspective (I love that bit of narrative cross-over, great writing there). Having nearly two potential car fatalities over the course of a single piece of time, Cole begins to realize that he needed something to signal that he ought to move on. For that purpose, he drives off to deliver Alison’s remaining belongings. She’s much warmer in his memory, much kinder and wearing a turtleneck to symbolize that warmth. She makes him tea and eggs considering that he looks like he hasn’t had a proper meal in about a century, and the two garner the cleanest sort of break they could both hope for. What it means for the two of them as they stand together, listening to the charges placed against Noah, remains to be seen.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The shots of the forest and then the fisherman through the fog were gorgeous
+“It’s horrible to love a writer. All their secret worlds, their fantasies.”
+“The house, it’s like a marriage. You got to be in it for the long haul if you want to see it come together.”
+“Does that taste fishy?”
“Well, it’s a fish…”
+The inevitable hoopla over Alison’s property
+“You should have said no.” Noah, you’re a dick.
+Alison lying about Yvonne and the plumber, erasing Cole from the conversation
+Alison with a baby
+“This will work out exactly as it should.”
+“The way the ocean changes… like a moody woman.”
+“You can never go back.”
+“Some people are just destined to fail.” Bruce, you’re such an asshole.
“Scotty, I’m going to give you three seconds to get out of the front of this car and then I’m going to run you the fuck down.” Narrative wink from the writers?
+Yes, random taxi woman, Cole is masculine. Way to be subtle there.
+The silent gun motion from Cole to a distant Noah
+Cole is wearing a wedding ring in the present day
Episode Title: 202
Alternate Title: To Love a Writer
Written by: Sarah Treem
Directed by: Jeffrey Reiner
Image Courtesy: Showtime