Sunday, October 25, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Affair' - Noah and Helen's Decisions Greatly Impact Their Children's Lives in '204'

Showtime's The Affair - Episode 2.04 "204"

As pressures in Helen's life mount, one innocent mistake leads to outrageous consequences. A court order presents a dire setback for Noah and Alison.

The kids on The Affair have always played like window dressing to paint the picture of Noah's family life before he met Alison. The dynamics within the two marriages are the important things for the show. The kids are simply something that Noah and Helen have to deal with. They affect their marriage in many different ways - especially now that they are getting a divorce. And yet, before this episode nobody could have named all of the Soloway children by name. After this one, it's easier to say that they are Whitney, Martin, Trevor and Stacey. They still exist as characters that Noah and Helen have to deal with. However, the complications of this divorce are doing much more damage on these young individuals than they are on the parents.

This show has always been a strong argument for why people shouldn't have kids. They are horrifying, annoying and moody. They take over their parents' lives completely. It's hard for Noah or Helen to make any decision without it affecting their children. Noah was able to fall in love with Alison last season. That didn't force a whole lot of pain on the kids. But now that the truth is out in the open, it is doing so much harm to these developing human beings. Both Noah and Helen are fighting for full custody of the children. Even though Noah hasn't been there for them over the past year, he still wants to be seen as a good parent. All of that responsibility has fallen onto Helen - who is overdue for her own breakdown. The kids are tossed around from place to place throughout this hour based on the whims of the parents. It's not an adventure either. They are pulled into these traumatic situations that can complicate the relationships between parent and child.

Both Noah and Helen see their first day in divorce court as a loss. It's a much more trivial thing for Helen than it was for Noah. Helen just hates that the judge is seemingly against rich people while Noah is hit with an order not to let Alison anywhere near the children. It's a complicated situation that makes both of them frustrated in the aftermath. That frustration isn't helped by either of their respective romantic partners. Helen and Max aren't on the same page at the moment. She is deep in the complications of the divorce while he is planning this extravagant weeklong getaway for the holidays. Meanwhile, Alison is happy with the apartments she has seen while Noah is angry about the judge's order. They have to face the rest of this horrible day alone with their children in tow for wherever and whatever they want to do.

Helen has offered her children a ton of support. And yet, she is still being influenced a little bit by her mother. She definitely does not want to become her mother. She doesn't want to be broken and alone in her old age just doing something trivial like changing her hair color in order to feel young and important. All Helen wants to do is drink and enjoy a pot lozenge. But that's also incredibly lonely. She feels like she has no one to rely on in this situation. Her mother may identify with what she's going through but is still very opinionated and not representative of the person Helen wants to be. Even Helen's hairdresser doesn't seem as willing to embrace friendship as much as Helen needs. She is paranoid that the rest of the world is just laughing at her while she goes through this difficult experience. The world is out to punish her even though she has done everything right up to this point. She has been there for her children in a way that Noah hasn't. And now, she is still being punished for some reason. That's disheartening to her and pushes her to making choices that snowball into a huge problem. She is late to pick up Martin and Stacey and winds up hitting a car in the process. Her life is out of her control and she winds up in jail. All of this is happening to her because of what Noah did. She wants to blame all of her problems on him. On some level, that is true. He has broken her into the person she is right now. But she was still the driving force behind all of her actions on this day. She is the reason why Stacey is hurt. And now, she will need to deal with those severe consequences.

After the incident, Noah is called to be the responsible parent to three of his children for the first time in a long time. He can't rely on Alison to help him deal with this. He needs to do a better job protecting these kids than Helen did. This is his chance to prove that he is still capable of being a good father. However, he just pulls the children away to whatever he thinks is best. The brownstone where they normally live is a reminder of the life that Helen is living without him. It's him stepping into his old life again. He has nowhere else to go. The cabin where he's writing isn't able to support the family. He tries taking them to his sister's house. And yet, he is hit with a very serious reality check when he arrives. The kids are having more fun onscreen than they ever have before. Trevor and Stacey are enjoying the trampoline while Martin is having fun watching the baseball game with his grandfather. Noah lets his tense relationship with his dad get in the way of his children's happiness. When his sister criticizes what he is doing, he takes the family away to spend the rest of the night in a hotel room. It's a situation where no one is happy. Martin is doubled over with pain in his stomach and Noah has no idea what to do. It's a night that he simply wasn't prepared for. In fact, the only thing that makes it better for him is Alison arriving. This is hardly a good showcase for his skills as a father. He's doing his best because he wants to be in their lives. But he's going to need to come to grips with reality though because right now both he and Helen are causing harm to the children.

Some more thoughts:
  • "204" was written by Anya Epstein and directed by John Dahl.
  • In the future, Noah's lawyer isn't able to get the murder trial taken out of the community where it happened. So now, Noah will have to face justice in a place where it could be difficult to select a jury of his peers with no prior opinion of the case.
  • Helen's divorce lawyer using the word "paramour" over and over again was a very effective way to show just how brutal this trial could be. She noticed it and was just as devastated by the circumstances as Noah was.
  • Even though she can't be anywhere near the kids, Alison may be the only person who might actually know what's going on with Martin. Is it just a psychological problem like Helen and her mother think? Or is something more going on?
  • Helen running down the street with the foil in her hair and the haircut cape still around her was a very amusing yet unsettling image. 
  • Noah's sister is played by Jennifer Esposito and his dad is played by Mark Margolis. They are going to appear again soon, right? They are too familiar of actors to just be one-off guest stars.