The concept of choice seems to be a prevalent one as we come to the end of the first season of The Affair. After all, choices made by Noah Solloway and Alison Lockhart at the beginning of the series were exactly what set into motion the downward spiral of events that brought us here. Those choices led to an affair, to disintegration of families, and to attempts to move on to new lives, and the image of Cole pointing a gun at Noah is a culmination of those myriad choices. The show asks us: What is it that causes someone to make a choice like Noah and Alison did? What happens as a result of those choices?
Well, it seems like now, Noah and Alison are embracing an “It’s my life” philosophy in the midst of the fallout of the affair. At the beginning of the episode, we see Noah having sex with pretty much any woman he sees, and at the beginning of Alison’s part, we see her reminiscing about Noah as she has a drink with her friend Phoebe. Both are choosing to move on, to move past their respective spouses, and it’s perhaps best summed up by the exchange between Noah and his publisher, Harry:
Harry: You’re a single man. It sounds wonderful…nobody checking up on you…you miss your wife?
Noah: Not yet.
As for Alison, she states that she feels as if the two of them are circling back to one specific moment, and she responds to Phoebe’s thoughts on loneliness with: “Is it worse than being lonely your whole marriage?” It seems like she’s coming to grips with the fact that she thoroughly wanted the affair, that the dissolution of her marriage was something that she chose to happen, and both her and Noah are moving on.
Cole and Helen also realize that the two are moving on, and that’s a knife straight to their guts. In the latter’s monologue–which I transcribed below–we see how little say she had in the matter, how devoid of choice she was in comparison to her husband. She hates her husband, but needs him all the same, and it’s extremely tough to watch her have to go through all that. It’s also tough to watch with Cole, as Joshua Jackson acts the hell out of the scene in which he pulls a gun on Noah, the pain all out in the open as he not only points the gun at Noah, but also at his own wife and then at himself. It’s easy to see why: this is coming after Alison asserts her desire to choose for herself, after she tells him that “doesn’t know how to fix something that’s broken”, after she responds to his “People survive and heal together!” with a chilly “I don’t wan’t to”. “I want to forget about you,” she says, and then she asks him why he wasn’t watching Gabriel when he drowned. She’s the only thing Cole cares about in this world, but Alison is past that; she even offers to give him the house so that he can love something.
It’s extremely cold from her, and we even start to see others act the same way toward Noah and Alison. Martin refuses to hug Noah as he’s leaving, and Whitney goes on a rant about how he’s a sociopath and a hypocrite; this is paralleled with Mary Kate later saying to Alison: “Alison, you walked out on your family. Now, you’re back in town, and you wanna just pick up where you left off? It doesn’t work that way.” It’s clear that chilly receptions and emotional distance will soon become the norm here, even amongst the kids.
The most apt line in this episode, however, is probably Cherry’s “Many people in this room have done terrible things. Let’s forgive each other and say goodbye.” The problem with this, though, is that it’s becoming impossible to solve the situation that simply. Some people want to move on, some don’t, and some are still doing terrible things, and we’re here to watch as it all unfolds. In order to get Cole to lower his gun, Alison mentions the idea of happiness, but we know that happiness between them went out the window a while back.
In the end, those two choices at the beginning of it all still leave an indelible mark on the fabric of the Affair universe, and nothing can change that.
SEASON GRADE: B+
-Maura Tierney has been absolutely stellar this year. Her monologue in their bedroom is heartbreaking: “You used to like me because of how I am…I thought you chose me for the way I am. You wanted a certain life and I gave that to you…You never gave me a chance. You never said, ‘I’m different now. I want something else.’ You just took it all away. But I can change.”
-I find the whole Jeffries wire/Noah stuff hilarious, because McNulty.
– “Maybe we should just…let it go. She knew what she was doing.” Noah, speaking about Whitney here, once again brings up the theme of choice.
-Great scene between Athena/Dennis and Alison. Especially nice to see at least one relationship improving, at least some people being supporting and loving.
-No Oscar here.
– “I was so afraid of marrying my father that I married my mother.”
-So, I had the same two questions Alan Sepinwall had: 1) What’s up with the differences in the “Cole has a gun” scenes?, and 2) Why is it that the moment Alison tells Phoebe about was only shown from Noah’s perspective? Head on over to his site to read an email response from Sarah Treem:
I guess…I don’t know how to feel about that explanation. The show’s a bit of a mess right now, but man, it is a compelling mess.
-The opening montage is set to The Animals’s “It’s My Life”. The lyrics, of course, apply perfectly to the episode.
– “Why? He’s so old, and your husband is so hot.”
-Geoffrey Owens–Elvin from The Cosby Show–plays Victor.
-Fitting that Noah can only write as he’s essentially in a prison (more specifically, one of New York’s former “rubber rooms”).
– “We’re all just circling back to that moment.” “You never can because it wasn’t real.” Several layers here: we can look at “real” as in “it was just a construct of your memory”. We can also look at “real” as “true”, something brought up earlier in the season with “true love”.
-We see that Noah and Alison end up together, but the episode ends with a cliffhanger in which Jeffries arrests Noah. We’ll see where that goes.
-That does it for Polar Bears Watch TV episodic reviews for 2014. It’s been a great year. I’ll see you in the new Showtime year with Shameless–if you haven’t seen it, give it a try–and I’ll see you (presumably) next fall for season 2 of The Affair. Predictions? Final thoughts? What do you want to see in the next season? (Personally, I want other POVs).
Comment below! Have a great holiday season.
Photo credit: Showtime, The Affair