Sunday, December 7, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Affair' - Noah Shows Compassion to Alison When Another Tragedy Strikes Her Family in '8'

Showtime's The Affair - Episode 1.08 "8"

Distracted by her burgeoning small business, Helen tasks Noah with representing the family at a literary away ceremony for her father. A chance encounter with Alison and her grandmother leads to an uncomfortable truth.

One of the best things The Affair has done this season has been to move past the initial affair between Noah and Alison. It's a dynamic that was compelling largely because of the structure of the show. And yet, the two individual marriages became vastly more interesting once they were forced to deal with the aftermath of this indiscretion. Now both marriages are forced to move forward. Do Noah and Alison deserve forgiveness? Or will this mistake define each marriage from now into the foreseeable future? Or was it even a mistake at all? The hour starts with Noah starting a discussion with his high school students about Romeo and Juliet. As he explains, the tragic ending occurs because "pure love cannot sustain in an imperfect world." And all of this could be read as a statement of sorts for his relationship with Alison. As the end of the hour shows, they love each other. And yet, they both go back to their respective lives after this brief encounter in Montauk during the holidays.

Honestly, Noah and Alison don't need the other fucking up their lives anymore. Alison and Cole have finally been able to talk about their issues and are now happy and trying to get pregnant again. Noah and Helen are still adrift but are actively seeking help through therapy. Why then do Noah and Alison decide to spend more time than is necessary with other once they run into each other again at Bruce Butler's award ceremony? For both of them, they have been trying to explain why they felt the need to cheat with each other. There is something pulling them towards each other. And yet, it's not abundantly clear why. Noah loves Helen and Alison loves Cole. And now, Noah loves Alison and Alison loves Noah. It's growing increasingly complicated although it's not becoming that much clearer.

And yet, Noah and Alison's live were always going to be this interconnected. The audience knew that at the start of the season because of the investigation in the future. Not a ton of progress has happened with that plot point except in the detective's growing suspicion of both Noah and Alison. There is always going to be this push and pull towards each other in the Noah and Alison dynamic. And yet, the future scenes still seem very distant. Noah's new book has already been published, become a massive hit and is being turned into a movie. All of that takes time. However, the show has shown a willingness to jump ahead in time. The last episode was the conclusion of summer and this episode features snow and Christmas lights. Noah and Alison have had the opportunity to go back to their normal lives. They've had time apart and that only makes it more meaningful once they see each other again. However, it's only been an episode since the audience has last seen them together.

For Noah, he wants to be the family man he once was. He knows the expectations Helen puts on him and how she perceives him. He wants to live up to those expectations. And yet, it's very telling that Helen has very high standards for everything in her life. The weight of them obviously is weighing down hard on not only Noah but their kids as well. Whitney might be bulimic now and Trevor's grades are slipping (a B- in Algebra requires a lecture from Noah). In therapy, he needs to rationalize the affair as a desire to make a mistake. Helen's parents are horrible people but they allowed her to have a great life. She has high expectations for everyone in her life. That pressure has gotten to Noah. It doesn't excuse him for having an affair. And yet, it's always a lot of pressure in one singular direction that was bound to burst eventually. Helen just wants a happy life with a great man and to be the envy of her friends. She may get that in the future. Noah becomes a success as a writer. And yet, he needed his experiences with Alison in order to write that book. The emotions he felt with Alison fueled his writing. Alison was his muse and his accepting its ending is want pulls this great book out of him. That is tragic but very much a part of the imperfect world the couples of this world live in.

But Noah lends a lot of compassion throughout this episode to multiple characters. He hates his father-in-law. And yet, he is there for him at the award ceremony and is able to help him up when his body is starting to betray him. The mistakes of parents are very much on display throughout this episode too. Noah's affair was a mistake and is having an effect on his life with his family. And yet, he's there for Alison at a time when she desperately needs someone to guide her along. Her grandmother is dying and she needs to accept that. Alison's mother, Athena, returns to town. Athena is crazy but also right when it comes to letting her own mother die. Alison is holding on to her grandmother because she has been responsible for her. Athena has been off having her own adventures without a care in the world. Alison has been left to make all the hard decisions. From Noah's point-of-view, it's simply waking Alison up so she can lie with her grandmother in her last moments. But in Alison's, the situation is more complicated. Cole is preoccupied with the appraisal of the family ranch and the possibility that his mother's memory is slipping. If it's what Alison wants, he'll agree. She's against the DNR and Cole isn't there to support her. And yet, she doesn't make the effort to invite him either. She basically tells him not to come. He wasn't given the opportunity to be there and Noah was. She didn't know she needed someone there to help her come to terms with her grandmother dying until Noah showed up again. He took a weight off her shoulders. It's sad but it is also an act of compassion. He guides her to acceptance and for the first time she is able to hold Gabriel's toys and have a good cry accepting his death. That was because of Noah. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "8" was written by Dan LeFranc & Melanie Marnich and directed by Ryan Fleck.
  • The Lockhart ranch is falling apart and all the rest of the family can think of is how they'll spend their share of the money once it's sold. That won't happen if the mom keeps letting the water run and thus breaking a hole into the dining room ceiling.
  • Was it just forgetfulness by Mama Lockhart? Or is she actually developing some kind of dementia?
  • What is the importance of The End to the future investigation? The detective is spending so much time and energy developing a connection between that and Noah.
  • Athena doesn't even want to stay in town to help plan a funeral for her mother. That basically cements her as a character whose sole purpose is to build up sympathy for Alison.
  • Scotty has been driving to the city a lot lately. Is that because he is continuing a relationship with Whitney?
  • Although they didn't share any scenes, the episode had a Fringe reunion with Joshua Jackson and Blair Brown (as the Soloways' new therapist).