“Marriage means different things to different people.”
“2” does a great job of shading in more of the nuances surrounding each of the characters and the environments they inhabit, and there is a common theme–aside from differing perceptions–that seems to tie everything together nicely: water. The first scene of the pilot was of Noah swimming, and from the opening credits on, I get the idea of two people floating in the middle of a large expanse of water, moving forward and backward and side to side, desperately searching for something around them.
The fluid nature of water ties into the surreal quality of the show as well, and “2” begins to blend Alison’s and Noah’s stories together even more so than the pilot did. Now, all they can do is watch as their families becomes entwined, as Whitney flirts with Scotty and Martin gets a job on Cole’s ranch and Helen puts some of Alison’s jam on a sandwich. They constantly think of each other and run into each other, and the enclosed feel of the island also lends to the seeming inevitability of the blending of their lives. Even Helen brings up affairs, from her joke about finding a pool boy to shower with to her anger over seeing the woman Bruce cheated with to her realization that Alison’s flirting with Noah. Our two main characters simply can’t avoid what happens as a result of their affair.
It’d be way too tiring to point out every difference in the stories every week, but there’s a big one this week that has less to do with a specific moment and more to do with general perceptions of respective familial relationships. Noah’s story, for example, involves a charismatic and loving wife, and he’s enthusiastic about getting flowers for the party because, well, he loves his wife. Alison’s story features a stable relationship between her and Cole, and throughout the episode, we see her husband standing in clear contrast to his demeanor in the pilot. Here, he’s the charismatic one, the one who’s in his element, and we get the sense that while both are subtly making excuses for the affair, they’re also both presenting “nice” versions of their current relationships. With the revelation about the murder investigation–Cole?–this potentially takes on an even greater meaning.
Ultimately, though, even with the differences, Alison and Noah are in pretty similar situations, and that’s why they’re drawn to each other. They’re both struggling financially, for one, and it’s a nice touch that in Noah’s story, Alison seems to help justify Noah’s trouble with writing his second book: she says that he already wrote about all of his life experiences in the first novel, so that’s why he can’t think of anything for the second. That’s always been at the back of his mind, and thus, that can also be applied to his decision to dive into the affair. He is a man who is discontent, who is searching for something new, something to strike down the writer’s block of life, and he finds it in Alison Lockhart.
He tells her about time travel, about parallel universes–Peter Bishop/Fringe alert–about his desire to live two lives. As they sit on the beach, a beach behind a locked gate that represents the Noah-Helen marriage, they kiss, and as they kiss, they both realize that they do want to live those two lives. The problem is: two lives are becoming one.
-$12 vs. $40. Noah buys more in Alison’s story. In addition, it’s also interesting that in Alison’s story, Noah essentially prevents her from making $1000 after he grabs the drink meant for Bruce Butler’s clothing.
-There are also several mentions of class here, which definitely ties into the money idea. Noah believes the murder was an accident, while Alison mentions the vacation houses and ruminates about those who visit on vacation. Noah also points out Helen’s family’s money.
-Both episodes thus far make it clear in each person’s story who views who as the aggressor, but there’s an interesting moment in “2” when Alison says “I want you to kiss me”. In addition, Noah’s the one in his story who asks to go to the beach. So, the two are beginning to recognize their parts in the initiation of the affair, even if they may still be focusing on the other’s behavior.
-Last week, Noah saw what we he thought was the bad side to Cole. This week, Alison’s experience with Helen at the party is anything but pleasant, and she paints herself as more of the victim here.
-Only Alison’s story brings a discussion about the rough sex Noah witnessed in the pilot; in Noah’s, that discussion becomes one of the images he ends up masturbating to.
-Fiona Apple sings the opening credits.
-Noah’s story seeming like a fantasy story of sorts definitely makes sense, considering he’s a writer and that’s what writers do.
Photo credit: Showtime, The Affair