Row, Row, Row Your Boat
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Affair’s second season comes to a fairly dramatic end, with the promised reveal of Scotty’s killer coming to light and in a much more twisted fashion than expected. The murder mystery of Scotty has been swirling around since the pilot, even if Scotty wasn’t confirmed as the victim until later. The greatest masterstroke of The Affair in regards to the aspect of the show that seemed to be the greatest drawback at times was revealing, one by one, a plethora of characters that may have killed Scotty and with valid reasons to do so. Cole could have killed him because he was blackmailing him over the Lobster Roll. Alison may have killed him because he knew about Joanie’s parentage. Noah may have killed him after all, by accident as he was imagining Alison on the road instead. Helen may have killed him because of Scotty’s possible pursuit of Whitney. Even Whitney herself was a possible suspect in this murderous mystery. Noah could even have been covering for someone else for whatever reason. Not in a million years would I have suspected that Scotty’s accident (it essentially was an accident and nothing more, which is a bit surprising in and of itself) was the result of Alison pushing him away in self-defense, unknowingly right into the path of Helen and Noah’s car. It’s a thunderous moment in the show’s marker but it’s one that I respect. The reveal was just enough to not stretch the audience’s expectations around the mystery but also leaves just enough questions to give the show’s third season the necessary room to breathe.
It is an inherent irony that the union of Cole and Luisa on the gorgeous shores of Montauk gives birth to an event of death, not that anyone would necessarily be mourning Scotty anytime soon. His rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” was absolutely brilliant, reveling in the song’s metaphor of a a story revolving around a dysfunctional family. Certainly nearly everyone at that juncture was dysfunctional in their own right (the Lockharts for once were not by themselves in this conversation), except for the blissfully unaware couple standing right in front. To add irony to injury, the song perfectly encapsulates Scotty himself, whose first appearance chronologically is at complete odds with his final. His first appearance in front of Alison was after three months of sobriety, dressed sharply in a suit with all the buoyant energy of a man ready to step into the new world. Yet he wasn’t. He simply expected to walk in and garner a chunk of Cole and Alison’s business and upon that rejection, he quickly picks up another glass and bottle, ready to devour himself down the rabbit hole. Alison during the song fesses the truth of Joanie’s parent to a stunned Noah and then runs off into the tumultuous night. A terror runs across her face, a terror that she may have just upended the only family she had left, a family that was the closest she could have garnered to the one Cole and Luisa found themselves in the midst of.
Noah has always, above everything else, wanted static change that exists within the vacuum of his own desires. When he first met Helen, she was the carefree girl she became once more here and he slipped right back into when he had first met her. With Alison, he had become ensnared by her darkness and now that the darkness had become penetrated by the light, that sense of darkened stability had faded away. Noah erupts on Alison in his perspective upon learning that she wasn’t sure of Joanie’s parentage and part of that is difficult to fault him for. Alison should have told him the moment she doubted the father of her child, but at the same time the matter has to be looked at from Alison’s perspective. It’s something that simply doesn’t have much of a “this is the right time to say it” ring to it, but hiding it only made it worse. Noah continues his tirade, making one good point and then, true to form, derailing it completely. He understandably wanted his and Alison’s relationship to legitimately become something worth all the pain and suffering their affair had resulted in, but even there he lacks perspective of his own mistakes. No one can fault Noah’s anger and feelings of betrayal at Joanie, but they would be far more authentic if he had confessed his own sins. “I came to close to cheating but I didn’t” is inherently a lie. His treatment of Alison has been ghastly for the most part, in spite of his year trying to make it up afterwards. He got lost in the whirlwind of hedonism following the success of The Descent and forgot about the duties he had towards Alison and now that Alison is experiencing some modicum of respect within her own professional life, Noah feels a bit suffocated.
The Affair’s central coupling is over as it had begun, encapsulated by “April Come She Will” playing as a terrified Alison and Noah dance together. Simon & Garfunkel’s memorable tune about a romance whose burning passion has whispered away in the winds of autumn applies very much to Noah & Alison, who are brought together in the most terrifying of circumstances by what feels more like mutual terror than love. The circumstances surrounding Scotty’s death were murky from the beginning, however, and everyone’s subsequent actions made it much more so. Scotty trying to rape Alison was a terrifying moment, his last act of desperation in which he could try and control something. Alison pushing him onto the darkened path was an act of self-defense and nothing more. Noah driving drunk complicates things considerably, but him switching the controls to Helen as he’s inebriated and is being hit with a plethora of flashbacks makes it that much worse. It’s a horrifying moment but it is not a murder, it’s an accident. The court case’s structure this episode makes little sense and even more so does Noah’s abrupt confession before Detective Jeffries takes the stage to present potential evidence against Alison (which he found in the most absurdly convenient way possible). Noah’s confession will no doubt garner him a legion of fans, but it is above everything else the fulfillment of his desire to be a great man. Noah’s confession is akin to a man ripping his shirt off and standing as a hallmark of masculinity in front of the two women he loves, saving them with his brave self-sacrifice. It’s toxic masculinity and any emotional desire he has to protect Alison and Helen is drowned within it. It just so happens that in a move inane by any logic, Noah just may have ended up drowning himself.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The shot lone boat at the side of the road was a neat bit of foreshadowing
+France is on the table
+Margaret’s Christmas gifts are bottles of Xanax, right?
+“Can I tell you something awful?”
“I never even wanted Joanie.”
+Noah thinking Alison trapped him with his pregnancy after he raped her.
+“I always think about it, Helen.”
+“I have no fucking clue.” Preach it, Helen.
+“It does seem to be a never-ending shit show, doesn’t it?”
+“I like the work.”
+Alison’s heart to heart with Cole, where she could have told him the truth but instead tells him to grab the chance with Luisa and never let it go, is a beautiful sequence.
+Everyone acted their hearts out this episode, but the MVP of scenes was Noah and Alison’s slow, terrified dance takes the cake.
Episode Title: 212
Alternative Title: In the Fog
Written by: Sarah Treem
Directed by: Jeffrey Reiner
Image Courtesy: Showtime