Sunday, December 14, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Affair' - Noah and Alison Both Decide to Make Major Changes to Their Lives in '9'

Showtime's The Affair - Episode 1.09 "9"

A revelation about Whitney makes Noah and Helen realize their troubled marriage is directly affecting their children. Bending under remorse, Alison spirals towards a reckoning.

If Noah and Alison continue living their lives the same way they have been, they are going to die. Death is surrounding them. The flash-forwards are about the death of Scotty. So that threat is always looming. After more family drama, Alison is ready to kill herself again. Noah is furious when he finds out Scotty got Whitney pregnant and sees a man jump off a building. It's all of this angst that leads both them to walk away from their lives. The sole difference is that Cole is still willing to fight for Alison while Helen is upset that Noah has continued to betray her in the most intimate and personal way possible.

Alison recognizes that her life is doomed the longer she stays in Montauk with this family and all the memories they bring up of her son. She and Noah have picked up their affair again. He is her escape. She still loves Cole but he is never there for her until the last possible minute when he does come running after her. Her problem is not with Cole. He went through the same tragedy as her and he wants to be there for her. And yet, she always connects him to this tragedy. She blames herself but Cole is also a symbol that it happened. She is happy with Noah until she realizes that he wants to stash her away like some secret mistress. She also discovers the pregnancy test in the Soloway trash. To her, that cements the idea that Noah is never going to leave Helen. She believes that Noah is having sex with both of them. That means this affair will never be more than that. He is making grand gestures but she doesn't hear them. This spiraling only gets more destructive once she returns home.

Alison sleeps with Oscar. She is so beaten down that she concedes to his pining after her. And yet, that only leads to more pain. She learns that her mother-in-law has been refinancing the ranch for years and it will be essentially worthless once they sell it. The whole family has been planning and now those possibilities are thrown out from underneath them. Mama Lockhart has been passive aggressive about not selling the family ranch. And now, she's just getting aggressive in forcing Alison to relive the night that Gabriel died. After that conversation, she just needs to get out of this place. Cutting herself has been a relief to her before and now it's the only thing she can rely on to deal with this situation. She fully believes that her son is dead because of her. She let him sleep after his near-drowning instead of going to the hospital. She doesn't believe she'll ever be reunited with him. She just believes that she is headed to hell because she killed her son and she cheated with Noah. This world is full of pain and memories. She wanders into the ocean to try and escape. It's a child once again that pulls her back into this world. This place is traumatic for her. And yet, why does she have to stay here? She can start over somewhere else. She'll never forget this pain but she could have the possibility of happiness elsewhere. She makes that decision to leave and to be the person she can lean on herself. And yet, Cole shows up in the end to join and support her. That was not a part of her plan. She was content to leave this world behind. And now, she has this man willing to chase after her.

Conversely, Noah is becoming obsessed with his love for Alison. It is fueling everything that he does. To him, this affair is destroying everything in his life. His daughter is pregnant and the baby daddy is Alison's brother-in-law Scotty. That is fucked up. I really appreciated Max laughing about the whole situation. Noah sees that he has been falling his family - and has been for some time now. The only time that he is happy is when he is with Alison. And yet, that is the exact thing that is pulling this family apart. He can't simply leave to go be with her. He has a family that will end up as collateral damage. His leaving the world that is known to him is vastly different than Alison's. Him moving out sets him onto the path of destruction. He is throwing away all these years of marriage and family just in order to be with the mistress he is in love with.

That is exactly what Noah does. He sees how great Helen is at being a mother to Whitney during this difficult time. He seems to handle the situation all wrong. He doesn't know how to deal with this. All he knows is that he has hurt Scotty. His family is unknown to him right now. The only thing he cares about is being with Alison. He doesn't care that they have sex at the family home. He knows they won't be caught. And yet, Helen's discovery of Alison's underwear is the thing that sends her from anger to frustration. Helen needs Noah out of her house as quickly as possible. To make matters worse, Noah is happy once he leaves his wife and his four children. He gets on the train to go run away with Alison. He has finally done the one thing that she was certain he would never do. The only problem is that he arrives in Montauk to see Alison with her husband. In that moment, Alison has to make a choice. She decides to get on the train. That is the moment that will hurt Noah the most. The fact that his mistress doesn't want to be with him. He uprooted his life to be with her. She is coming up out of her deadly spiral and he is beginning to get sucked into his.

This episode is a wonderfully compelling achievement. The focus is so squarely on the desire to leave the worlds that are problematic for the two leads. Ruth Wilson has been great all season long but this episode may be my favorite of hers to date. Her side of the story is just so personal and it calls for her to spend so much time by herself. She is wandering through life and she needs to be the one to pull herself out of that funk. It's a phenomenal performance. Dominic West has to share more of his side of the story with Maura Tierney. That is understandable because their marriage presents much more complications. Next week is the season finale and I can't wait to see how this mess either tangles or unravels further.

Some more thoughts:
  • "9" was directed by Jeffrey Reiner with teleplay by Melanie Marnich & Kate Robin and story by Dan LeFranc.
  • Well, we got confirmation that Mama Lockhart isn't loosing her memory. She just wants to stop the sale of the family ranch which she believes Cole made a mistake in listing it in the first place.
  • Mama Lockhart really is cruel to Alison. No wonder she wants to die after that aggressive speech about wanting Alison to die instead of Gabriel.
  • Whitney is three months pregnant and her parents didn't know at all. However, she likely didn't either if she just took the pregnancy test.
  • Max had some great advice for Noah and he just didn't want to listen to it.
  • Noah is back in the interrogation room in the future. The detective has a few more questions - this time about Noah's car.