Sunday, October 19, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Affair' - Noah and Alison Get Ready for a Summer Party at the Butler Estate But End Up on the Beach Again in '2'

Showtime's The Affair - Episode 1.02 "2"

As the Butler estate readies for the annual summer party, Noah can't escape the allure of the mysterious Alison. She, meanwhile, bends under the emotional debt owned to her mother-in-law. As external aspects of their lives weave together, the two are forced to consider an inevitability.

I continue to love the structure of The Affair. Telling this story from the separate perspectives of both leads is captivating and engaging. It's so much more than simply seeing how their two stories differ. They both see things and remember things differently. But it's much larger than one character doing something in one person's perspective and then the same character doing the complete opposite of that in the other. The two of them are much more aware and nuanced in their own versions of this world. When it's Noah's time to share the story, Alison is more forceful and flirty - and vice versa in Alison's story where Noah is kind of a dick at times.

This is a small town atmosphere. So not only will Noah and Alison keep running into each other, but the other aspects of their lives will as well. This place is where Helen grew up. So she knows about the Lockhart ranch and the matriarch of the family who had four sons. Noah and Helen's youngest daughter wants to learn how to ride and their eldest son gets a job working with Cole on the ranch. And then, the bunhead daughter (it's apparent I have no clue what the children's names are, right?) is flirting with Scotty. That latest development intrigues me because Noah had no recollection of seeing them together briefly on the night of the party. According to Alison, he saw them and was aware of the situation and that could become much more important later on in the story.

As we find out in the flash-forwards with the detective, Noah and Alison are being interviewed because someone (we still don't know who) was murdered after being hit by a car. Noah was under the impression that it was all just an accident. His sharing of the story with Alison doesn't seem relevant to him. But with her, she has shared an alibi and has her own theories on what happened to the person in question. She loved him so it must be someone from her side of the narrative. Right now, I'm speculating that it'll either be Cole or Scotty. Both are getting better connected to the important people of the story. Cole is the spouse of one of the people having an affair and that could be reason and motive - thus explaining why they are being interviewed. Then with Scotty, he could slowly be building a relationship with the bunhead daughter and that could upset any number of people in her family - especially if they can later claim they had no knowledge of their clandestine romance (which would be untrue according to Alison). Of course, all this is just speculation right now. But that mystery is part of what's fascinating about this show.

The Affair is clearly building towards something. In the present day retelling, the Noah and Alison relationship is all rising action. They had that connection upon first seeing each other in the first episode. And now, they can't help themselves from thinking about the other person all the time. Couple that with bumping into each other a handful of more times and something was bound to happen.

It's important to note that both have made some effort to see the other. Alison initially declined the gig to waitress at the Butler family party. She changed her mind later after her talk with her mother-in-law (played by Mare Winningham). The Lockhart family all looked to her for the strength to carry on following the death of her child. They are allowed to be emotional - but they have also had time to move on now. Like last week showed, Alison is still dealing with that tragedy. The party is a great way for her to escape all of that. To be somewhere where the people don't know what she's been thrown and see her through that lens. People still do - because it was a part of the news and this is a small town after all. But Noah doesn't and that is refreshing to her.

With Noah then, he has escaped the city in order to work on his second novel. Everyone is looking at him with big ambitions. His father-in-law is forcing him to pitch to a new editor at the party. Helen proclaims that the new novel will be a bit more commercial. All of this is being said and Noah doesn't have a single idea about what to write about. Everyone is expecting him to emerge from this summer with a great novel. He's also here to be with his family. Noticing Alison is escapism for him. He doesn't have to be anything that he is in his life with his family. He can't agree with his father-in-law that all the waitresses should be flirting at the party. He leaves the event in order to be with Alison on the beach. He still loves Helen. And yet, he's slowly slipping away from that life - him forgetting her birthday was a bit too on-the-nose. Noah and Alison share their first kiss. Neither of them expected this to happen. And yet, it's something that they are both willing to let happen now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "2" was written by Sarah Treem and directed by Jeffrey Reiner.
  • It's interesting that Noah and Alison don't have any families of their own but their spouses each come from people with strong roots in this community.
  • Also noteworthy, Helen's father had an affair once with a piano teacher - who also happens to be at the party. I liked this plot better when it included Helen's mother trying to get Alison to spill a drink on him - and it doesn't quite work.
  • Bunhead daughter is a dancer on this show as well. They can't just say that and then not show her perform sometime this season, right?
  • But bunhead daughter also has a bad influence friend. She was expelled from school and did a stint in rehab. That's already pretty irksome.
  • Alison made it a point to say that one of the Lockhart brothers doesn't always lock the door in the office. That will be important later on I'm sure.
  • Noah and Alison have different views on marriage and the show is making it a point to say that no one in this universe has a good marriage.