“The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we move on with our lives.”
The season two premiere of The Affair delves into the muddy waters of divorce, taking us into the minds of the characters as they deal with the aftermath of season one’s ugly finish. This year, we’re getting the perspectives of Cole and Helen, and we see the latter’s play out alongside Noah’s in the opening hour. It is, as expected, a beautifully acted episode for Maura Tierney, and she does a nice job of conveying her emotional state as she attempts to move on with her life. Of course, the big question swirling around in her mind is: Can she move on? Sure, there’s Max and his dirty talk, but it’s clear that this whole situation has taken an immense toll on her. Her seemingly perfect–perhaps too perfect–life has been completely upended, and she’s stuck wondering how she could’ve missed the cracks in her earlier years.
Much of the premiere deals with this idea, with Helen looking back and hitting herself in hindsight. People are even asking her if she knew about the affair, and it’s all exacerbating the frustration, the anger, the seeming helplessness. “Helen, you’re too nice,” she’s told. “I know,” she responds, and everything’s written across her face. When the divorce mediator lists off a bunch of characteristics that certainly apply to Noah, Helen answers: “We’re getting a divorce because he had an affair.” “Yeah…symptom, not disease,” the mediator replies. Once again, Tierney does a fabulous job of getting across her character’s realization of something she knew to be true, but avoided truly acknowledging. Now, it’s all in front of her.
Some other interesting things to note here are the differences between the Helen and Noah portions of the episode. One of the big problems people have with the show is that the differences are so clear to the point of unbelievability, but they’re nevertheless interesting to analyze. For example, the mediation scenes are full of this; seat positions are different, with the mediator in the middle during Noah’s part and across the table with Noah during Helen’s. The point is clear: Helen feels like the world is teaming up against her, ganging up as she drifts on, alone and unloved. Other differences we can note include the mediator’s personality and the type of clothing the people are involved are wearing. They may not be the most subtle differences in the world, but they speak volumes about where these characters are at in relation to each other. Noah and Helen may have similar goals for their children and for their divorce, but they each go about it in vastly different ways; that’s where the problems lie.
Ultimately, the premiere asks us what “getting what you want” means. It’s easier said than done–especially in a divorce process–and it will inevitably come with a price. And sometimes, what you thought you wanted all along is something that will only hurt you moving forward. Moving on is not that easy.
-This episode’s actually really funny: the Max sex scene, Helen snapping about Noah’s dick shooting out rainbows, etc.
-I probably will not be able to provide regular coverage this season, seeing as there are way too many shows on Sundays to watch; right now, Homeland and The Leftovers take review priorities, but the former may be switched out with The Affair depending on what I’m feeling (the latter is set in stone). Unfortunately, that for sure means no The Walking Dead, The Last Man on Earth, or Brooklyn Nine-Nine reviews.
Photo credit: Showtime, The Affair