The Affair (Showtime) Episode 2 Review: Truth, Lies and The Party People

The Affair loosened its lips on one tightly guarded secret from the premiere: Alison and Noah are being interrogated due to a hit and run that occurred at some point in the summer after Noah’s in-laws threw a big party. The police suspect the driver was at the party, and it stands to reason their prime suspects are our narrators, both spinning tales to protect themselves. The suspect list? Cole, Bruce (Helen’s father), and Cole’s brother with a penchant for hitting on 16-year-olds. At least, these are the three characters who seem the most likely positioned to be killed. Noah is playing it too cool for it to be a person he truly cared about, while Alison openly admits in both episodes, within her own narrative, that she wishes Cole was dead. Meanwhile, Bruce has numerous people who hate him from his son-in-law to his wife (who Alison claims offered her a grand to pour a drink on him) and he too had an affair that left his family on unstable ground. Finally, Noah notably left out catching Cole’s brother heading upstairs with his daughter when he was recounting the events of the night.

As much fun as it is to dissect the mystery, analyzing the dual narratives of Alison and Noah is what elevates The Affair to greatness. Noah continues to see himself as the hero of the story. He is the man who leaves large tips, who sees disaster coming in the whirlwind that is Alison, a woman he characterizes as “the saddest he has ever seen” even as he continually remembers her as flirtatious, hypersexualized and coy. Ever the writer, he is the stoic everyman who was drawn into a summer affair. Whether he is defending Alison’s honor at Bruce’s party, whisking her away to a private beach or paying 20 dollars for a single jar of her jam, Noah has a serious savior complex.

His truth peeks through in rawer moments. When he chuckles after telling his interrogator that the night he proposed to the rich and beautiful Helen he felt like a man, when he masturbates while remembering the first time he admired Alison’s body from afar and when he openly admits to his wife that he is bored. Noah’s life was not what he wanted, and almost without meaning to he reveals the cracks, the restlessness that drove him to have an affair.

Alison’s truth is harder to pin down. The Alison we see in flashbacks is vastly different than the Alison we see in the future. The earthy woman who sells jam with her pot-smoking sister-in-law and who bikes around The Hamptons, invisible to the tourists who flood in and out each season is replaced by a woman who looks wealthy and calmly calculating. The Alison of the future is candid about the dark place she was in, how close she kept her pain and her fantasies about killing herself, wishing her husband dead and feeling utterly isolated. When she recounts what happens on the beach the night she and Noah exit the party together, she remembers kissing him, pressing her body between his legs. The one thing we know to be true about Alison is that she needed to feel something other the numbness mixed with anger that was engulfing her. That was then, the Alison of the present has a child to protect and everything to lose.

The frustrating part of the story is not getting to see Cole or Helen’s side of things. They are both so much a part of the events that unfolded, but we see them through the eyes of unreliable narrators. Did Helen rattle off an order for a glass of water and a slice of cake before fixing Alison’s bra and commenting on the tightness of her dress? Did she push Noah away when he tried to console her about her father’s mistress crashing her mother’s party or did she let him hold her in his arms?

Cole’s characterization remains more consistent. He appears to be a good man at a loss about how to console his wife. In this hour, he takes on Noah’s oldest son as a ranch hand while telling his brother to stay away from Noah’s underage daughter. However, little troubling details emerge when we look at the details. Cole’s family is having money problems, a plot point that stands out when we look at Alison’s fish delivery to one of several of Cole’s family members. Alison reminds the man Cole wants the door kept locked, suggesting Alison was transporting more than fish in that cooler.

While Alison and Noah continue to remember their courtship differently, episode two brought us to a point where they agreed on one thing: their affair began at that party and somehow the affair is connected to something much darker. Do you have a theory about who was left for dead on the side of the road and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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