Sunday, October 12, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Affair' - Noah Takes His Family Out to Montauk and Meets Alison Who is Struggling With Her Own Crisis in '1'

Showtime's The Affair - Episode 1.01 "1"

Noah has escaped the city to his in-laws' estate in eastern Long Island, joined by his loving wife Helen and their four precocious children. At the same time, local Montauk waitress Alison struggles with her husband, Cole, to move past a recent tragedy. In a chance encounter, Noah and Alison meet and connect.

Contrary to what a portion of Hollywood thinks, I have no interest in watching a show about marital infidelity. I didn't head into Showtime's new drama The Affair with lofty expectations. Dominic West and Ruth Wilson pining after each other from across the room and then fucking like rabbits - while also cheating on their spouses who are played by the wonderful and gorgeous Maura Tiernay and Joshua Jackson - just isn't a show I would enjoy. With all that being said, The Affair has things on its mind and a perspective that adds depth to this story. The framing device of telling things - first from Noah's point-of-view and then Alison's - is extremely effective. It adds a sense of mystery and wonder to the show. This show is being told by these characters in hindsight after an unknown event happens in the future. The details vary in both tellings of the story. In Noah's memory, Alison was the one who initiated their connection while in Alison's he did. It's a very delicate operating system. It's also one that could go wildly off the rails very quickly. But for at least one episode it works wonders.

The show also treats all of its character with care. It's not trying to justify the actions of Noah and Alison simply because their respective marriages aren't working like they used to. Both marriages are still going strong after several years together. Both couples still have vibrant sex lives. Noah and Helen just can never seem to finish the act while Alison and Cole are struggling with connecting in every other aspect of life except sexually. Noah is trying to get all of his kids packed and out the door to spend the summer at his in-laws' house while Alison is struggling in the aftermath of her only child's death. There's nothing outwardly apparent why these two people would be searching for an outside connection. That is fascinating. Neither or them wants this to happen but it does. They have two separate run-ins. But it is awkward. They just see each other. They don't have sex at all in this first episode. The drama is building up to that moment - which greatly helps establish the connections of the series. This isn't just something the show takes lightly. It's a very serious action that will have consequences both physically and emotionally. This is a small town. This won't be the last time that the two of them will run into each other. But now the question becomes how strongly do they want to see each other again?

Moreover, it's fascinating watching how each character remembers how things happens. It doesn't present one person's memories as true and the other's as false. They are both true to the individual. When Noah's youngest daughter was choking, he remembers saving her life while Alison remembers being the savior. When they first see each other in the diner, Noah sees her as well put together - which is likely very much informed of how he has come to see her later on. She sees herself as a bit of a mess - a presentable one but not one that would divert a lot of attention. Just as important as how the two leads see each other is how the two leads see the other's respective families. Alison sees Helen as a beautiful woman but she also sees out of control children who would be more than a handful for any sane person. Conversely, Noah sees Cole as an aggressive and forceful abuser. Noah views himself as being there for Alison during that sexual encounter on the car. We will never likely know whose version of events will ultimately be true and that is perfectly fine. As long as the show can maintain this level of ambiguity and keep the characters separately interesting, I'm on board.

Some more thoughts:
  • "1" was directed by Mark Mylod with teleplay by Sarah Treem and story by Sarah Treem & Hagai Levi.
  • Death is really surrounding this show - especially when it comes to the children. For a second, Noah and the audience think his son has attempted to commit suicide, Noah's daughter starts choking and Alison's child is actually dead. Could all this death simply be foreshadowing to the big event that will happen in the future?
  • There is also a bunhead on this show!
  • John Doman continues to be excellent as the one disappointed figure in a character played by Dominic West's life.
  • I'm not sure how frequently I will cover The Affair this fall. It all depends on how available Showtime makes episodes in advanced. It's definitely a show I'm intrigued by where it could go next.