A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
I cannot comprehend Noah Solloway. A seeming motif of my Affair reviews has become the reality of complexity within The Affair and it is without a doubt the aspect of the series I admire more than anything. That the audience can find aspects of each character to latch onto even when there’s a significant amount of conflict between them is a testament to the series’s writing acumen. Yet there’s little arguing that Noah is by far the nadir of the show’s main sympathies. There were moments, especially in his interactions with Bruce and Margaret, that you felt something resembling sympathy but it rarely went beyond that. He often becomes a squandering, squabbling little child that sees little of the world around him until it hit him squarely in the face. And tonight he became a rapist. There was nothing that suggested by any means that Alison was consenting to Noah taking her against the tree. There was simply a resignation to the whole sequence that felt maddening in its moroseness. Within the narrative constructs of Noah’s point of view, he has always seen Alison in the most positive of lights, the most glowing of radiances. If that seems a bit overwrought, Noah’s perspective has always enshrined Alison as some sort of goddess that awakened his sexuality and everything that was missing from his life. Alison’s perspective has notably been enshrined in the complete opposite, where Noah’s been the aggressive one. She saw him as an anchor who wouldn’t keep on dragging her down with the past.
Noah of course wouldn’t see his actions as rape but rough sex fueled by an aggressive victimization of his own self, a victimization cloaked in pity. The disturbing sequence harkens back to the brilliant pilot, where Noah saw a similar framing of Alison and Cole in their driveway. At that moment, his visage was clearly expressing a bemusement with the proceedings. But more so than bemusement, there was disgust within his eyes. There’s an extremely dark poignancy in Noah taking the place from which he had seen Cole, placing him within a situation he had found inexcusable but from that very inexcusable position itself. It is after the rape that Alison tells him that she is pregnant (speculate away as to whose child it is, Cole’s or Noah’s). Noah is a man, as Athena reads him, who above all else has a primal fear of abandonment. Athena can be fairly irritating and frankly in large part that’s not because of her stern belief in homeopathy (just to make it clear) but because of how she abandoned her daughter at a juncture where she truly could have been of great assistance to her. But she has a real knack for reading other people and that leads to the most pertinent reading of Noah yet, outside the one from Helen’s confirmation to Alison. Noah never wants to lose anything, lest the risk that exists in those circumstances come to light as tenable consequences. He found something or someone in a certain fashion and he never wants that to change, for what he found originally could perhaps be lost. He fell in love, as Athena notes, with the darkness that Alison was exuding through her depression. That depression was what he had anchored himself to and now that he had found an Alison who had stepped into the light as Athena puts it, he feels as if he is losing control over her.
Rape is not about sex. It’s about control, establishing a sense of ownership through brute force. Noah’s rape of Alison was him espousing what Athena had told him during his Reiki session: that he should let the darkness in because it was constricting him. Athena’s meaning, of course, was hardly that Noah let the darkness flow through him and expel it in such a reprehensible manner. Nor was it that Noah finally espouse the moments within his novel that Harry had so ardently pushed him towards. The teal-cloaked scenes flashing through Noah’s mind are revealed in their entirety here. Noah is driving down a dark, seemingly empty road, his mind perturbed and ensnared by something or another. His lights shine upon a glowing woman standing middle in the road, her visage eerily light in the darkness. It’s Alison, turning around and smiling at the car before Noah drives straight forward with full intention and murders her in cold blood. The ending to his novel is complete. What the ending means for his future with Alison are not set in stone, although I certainly have a hard time believing she’s going to take the whole “she was a whore” thing combined with “my lover killed me at the end of his novel” well. In this hour, her having sex with Cole was indirectly confirmed (there were some doubts apparently last week). That episode gave her the realization that she uses sex as a way to feel something, some sensation without giving way to any emotional connections. When Noah arrives at the yoga retreat where she’s at with Athena, she hasn’t had sex for six weeks and that absence gives her the most freedom she’s had in a fairly long time to just explore and find herself. She’s at peace with being herself and then it’s brutally robbed.
Helen came to the most honest position herself when she realized the mistakes that she herself had made throughout her life. Everything comes crashing together the moment that Martin is rushed to the hospital. As is fairly unsurprising to no one, Martin was not suffering from, what Margaret would call it, “my father is an ***hat” syndrome. He was rushed into an emergency surgery, after which he is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Helen is shaken to the very core by the realization that she had almost seen her own child die from something that could have been so easily prevented and Margaret becomes the target of her wrath. Helen’s entire life, from the moment she was conceived to that moment as the mother of a child who had almost died, was dominated completely by Bruce and Margaret. That scene in the mediation lawyer where she first gets the phone call about Martin’s admission in the hospital began as a discussion over Helen’s custody battle but slowly devolved into a battle between Bruce and Margaret over their marriage that had been doomed for decades. As Helen screams at Margaret, every moment of her life was completely dominated by what they wanted for herself and not what she desired for her own life. Her choosing Noah to marry was because she loved him, but at every moment her parents chipped away at that with their overpowering sense of privilege making them devoid of basic humanity. But she holds herself accountable for listening to her mother, for allowing that privilege to become so imbued within her existence that it completely hollowed out. Helen’s strength in that moment almost collapses entirely a moment later, as that hollowness comes forward and she realizes how isolated and alone she truly feels. At least in that moment is Whitney, who displays the most kindness I’ve ever seen from her so far. She embraced her mother and in that moment became a pillar of support, letting the lightness through instead of the darkness.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“The mind and the gut are connected.” Margaret, you’re not a physician.
+“Martin, you can tell your father you hate him.”
“I hate everyone.” Martin, you rock.
+“You’ve heard of ethics, haven’t you, Bruce?”
+“I don’t fucking care what you think!”
+“You wanted my marriage to fail.”
+Maura Tierney and Kathleen Chalfant for Emmys, please.
+$100K? That’s generous of you, Helen. Perhaps too generous?
+“Welcome home, Martin!” What a wonderful, heartwarming moment in a fairly morose show.
+“If she died, it would have been a good story.” Sweet foreshadowing.
+“I read your book, Noah. … The whole thing is sex scenes. … Isn’t that the ending Harry wants you to change?”
+“I’m the asshole in the book.The story’s not even about you. It’s about me.” Of course it is, Noah.
+“Well, I like it here.”
+“You fell in love with her darkness. Now that she’s stepped into the light, you feel as if you’re losing your hold on her.”
+“It will expose you as a fraud.”
Episode Title: 206
Alternate Title: Let the Darkness In
Written by: Abe Sylvia
Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Image Courtesy: The Affair @ YouTube