Sunday, December 18, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Affair' - Alison Spends the Day with Noah on Block Island Once More in '305'

Showtime's The Affair - Episode 3.05 "305"

Alison is motivated to spend a memorable day with Noah on Block Island for an unusual reason. Noah is left wistful by their profound connection, until the problems from which he was escaping return with a shocking force.

Noah and Alison's affair is the relationship that started every story on The Affair across three seasons now. It's a core relationship. This episode is the first time they actually spend time with each other this season. They've become estranged. They've lived separate lives from each other. Noah has been struggling with life following his release from prison while Alison has been trying to regain custody of her daughter, Joanie. They've been on separate paths. The past is still important to both of them. Their influences have been felt in the storytelling. But this is the first episode of the season that focuses exclusively on them and their relationship. Plus, it plays into the trend this season of each character seeing themselves as a complicated, barely keeping it together individual while the rest of the world is completely fine. In Alison's side of the story, she's the one being tempted with darkness yet again while Noah is completely reckless and careful despite recently being stabbed. In Noah's story, he's completely paranoid that Gunther is still hunting him down while Alison is just there to listen to his tragic life. It's been an interesting way to tell stories this season. Of course, this element has always been a part of the show. It was that way from the very beginning. But this season seems to be amplifying that a bit more to show how tragic and internal so many of these conflicts and emotions really are for the characters. It does lead to a slow and somewhat sporadic season. But it's effective nonetheless.

Alison and Cole have wanted nothing to do with Noah this season so far. They've been trying to move on with their lives in Montauk. They are now far removed from Noah. They haven't seen him in years. The past is still very painful for both of them. But their current stories have been about different things. They've been struggling to navigate the custody arrangement now that Alison is back in town. Alison left and changed all of their lives. Now, she's trying to prove that she's doing better. She wants to believe she's no longer making the same reckless mistakes as she did in the past. Of course, it's clear she is still surrounded by so much darkness with the potential to ruin everything she has worked so hard for. She slept with Cole. And now, she spends more than a day with Noah. Those aren't healthy decisions. She has grown and matured a lot because of the treatment she got. She's still a very fragile and dark character. But she's able to tell Cole that the sex meant nothing and it won't change anything between them. She's the one who knows what the affair with Noah really was. They tricked themselves into believing it was love. But it was never actually love. It was Noah being bored by Helen, his kids and his life in the city. He wanted something different and exciting. For Alison, it was a need to escape because her past self had died but kept lingering around in the same world. Things had to change for her. That change forced all of this story into motion. And now, Noah and Alison are back to the same places they were at the start of their relationship. They've changed so much since then. But things are just as intense and unpredictable as they've always been between the two of them.

Of course, the show has to create a reason for Alison to spend so much time with Noah. He claims he won't sign the divorce papers unless she goes to Block Island with him. He comes across as such a dick in Alison's side of the story. It's cruel and annoying how he figures he can just walk into her life again hoping to recreate their love. It's weird and stressful. It's tense because the audience hopes Alison doesn't cave into her dark impulses and sleep with him again. She has grown so much but she needs to stand strong against this temptation. Noah isn't good for her. But he also knows the truth about her role in Scotty's death. Up until this point, it was unclear if he knew. His grand court confession seemed like a way to protect Helen. But now, he's using this knowledge of Alison's involvement to get her to do what he wants. It's manipulative and horrifying. He's seen as the kind of man who just does whatever he wants no matter what the consequences may be. Alison needs to worry about the consequences. She has so much to lose. Alison sees Noah as having nothing left of value. That's what allows him to be this reckless. She's careful about herself so much of the time. But she does give into the temptation in several ways. It's not a story that ultimately builds to the two of them having sex again - at least not from Alison's perspective. It's a story about giving Noah what he wants so that he'll ultimately sign the divorce papers. Trespassing and jumping into a hot tub wasn't enough. So she had to allow him to believe their relationship was about love and not the toxic dynamic she now sees it as. All of this is fine and meticulous work that shows that Alison has matured so much even though she's constantly afraid that she'll make the wrong decision at any given moment.

And then, everything becomes quite murky when it's time to tell Noah's side of the story. The story doesn't repeat the plot beats present in Alison's story. It instead picks up with him waking up in the middle of the night at the inn they are staying in. His paranoia and fear for his life is present at all times. The show is continuing to show the audience why he should be so afraid of Gunther. He's a prison guard who bends the rules in order to have power. He enjoys flaunting that to Noah. It gets to the point of psychological warfare as Gunther slowly chips away at Noah's psyche. It's not subtle work at all. Gunther remains a pretty one-dimensional character meant to unnerve the audience. It gives Noah a new threat to his life. It shows that he too has changed because of this time jump. He's trying to move forward with his life but doesn't know how. He took responsibility for Scotty's death in order to protect Helen and Alison. He punished himself. Prison was a lot tougher than he thought it would be. And now, he's still being tortured because of it. He doesn't feel any safer in the outside world than the prison he just left behind. He sees Gunther around any corner just waiting to strike again. Gunther isn't a major part of the story. Noah's paranoia is. In the premiere when Noah was attacked, it was unclear if that really happened. Now, it's clear that it did. But that question appears once again. Noah appears to be driven off the road by Gunther in Montauk. He gets in an accident that could complicate his life further. But it's unclear if Gunther is really there or if the torture is all in Noah's head.

However, the bulk of Noah's story is just spent on him detailing his mother's death to Alison. It's a way to distract himself from the fear that Gunther has somehow followed him all the way to Block Island. Noah is a mess in his perspective. He sees Alison as a woman who largely has it together even though she is fighting for shared custody of Joanie. That's a life she built without Noah. She's in this mess with Cole instead of him. Their marriage is over despite Noah doing the right thing in protecting her. He doesn't see her as grateful or willing to try to keep their love alive. Instead, he just sees someone he can talk to. It's a powerful monologue. He goes into the emotional details of caring for his mother and ultimately helping her kill herself so he could go to college. It's a relief for him to finally share this story to someone he loves. It's a release that ultimately leads to the two of them sleeping together again. Now, it's easy to understand how that happens from Noah's perspective. But why in the world would Alison sleep with him again? Her story really wasn't building to that moment. She was determined not to do that. So, does it happen in her side of the story too? It's unclear. For Noah, that's the moment where he is able to say goodbye to this life. He signs the divorce papers like he said he would. But then, his life takes one more tragic turn that could leave him stranded in Montauk.

Some more thoughts:
  • "305" was written by Sharr White and directed by Jeffrey Reiner.
  • No matter whose perspective it is, everyone is noticing that Noah is taking a lot of pills to deal with his pain. So, that's obvious building to something later on this season. Will he become addicted to painkillers? Or will he suffer an overdose? He seems destined to be chaotic and destructive this season.
  • Alison knows that Cole shouldn't know Noah is there. And yet, Noah lingers around anyway. That just makes him so arrogant. He doesn't care what Cole does or thinks. He just cares about Alison coming with him to Block Island to rekindle their love.
  • The timing of Alison visiting Noah in prison doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. She has claimed they've been estranged for over a year. But in this scene, it's just a few months from him being released and she's already trying to build trust with Cole again in Montauk.
  • That accident means Noah won't be able to secretly be in Montauk. People in town will know that he's there. Their reactions should be interesting. Will anyone be willing to help him? Or will people in the Lockhart family try to hurt him like they've promised to do?
  • Noah wrecking Juliette's car probably means she'll be coming to Montauk sometime soon. She'll be able to meet the rest of the characters and offer her own opinions of all of them. That could be a lot of fun. 
  • Is Gunther becoming too likely a suspect in Noah's attempted murder? He's the clear suspect to Noah. To him, Gunther is the only man who would do this because he's been the one hurting him for the past three years. But plenty of people outside prison could want Noah dead as well. It's probably setting up some big reveal for later on the season.