The Affair (Showtime) Episode 4 Review

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After three episodes of watching Alison and Noah tell their separate stories, the series’ fourth outing was much more straightforward. Memory becomes far less fallible when two people recount an entire day spent together. In fact the episode did not follow its usual format. When we switched to Alison’s point of view we did not rewind the day and start over, we simply continued where Noah’s recollections left off. The results were fascinating as they marked a turning point for the series. We are now moving away from a time when Alison and Noah lived separate lives and into a period where they became the keepers of each other’s secrets.

Alison and Noah’s day away from Montauk allowed them to experience each other on a more intimate, less clandestine level. If their infatuation with one another was born out of boredom and anger, their relationship actually began on firmer ground. They were honest with each other and with us because their time on the island was only about discovery.

Noah divulged his short sexual history and was straightforward when he told Alison he would not leave his wife for her. In turn, Alison urged him not to look to her as a free spirit who would save him. For the first time, their visions of one another matched up. Where it often seemed Alison exhibited a lightness in Noah’s eyes and a darkness in her own, Noah himself acknowledged that he could see she was miserable. Likewise, Noah no longer seemed to be either overtly heroic or emasculated during their outing– he just seemed like a man who needed an escape from a reality where he felt inherently trapped. Noah was torn and unsure why he was risking his marriage, but he did it all the same because like Alison, he needed to feel something other than numb.

I can see why both Alison and Noah chose each other now. The chemistry between the two characters is brilliant, especially when we don’t have to mine their actions for clues about murder. Even though their affair can and will hurt so many people, the series went a long way this week in making us sympathize with both characters. From Noah’s frustration when Alison pulled away from him after he found the scars on her legs to the revelation that being with her has awoken his muse, Noah no longer felt like he was over-embellishing. He did not idealize their stolen day. It was a messy dance as they contemplated the implications of what they were doing and balanced them against how good it felt to kiss in public, to learn a new person from the start, to hide away in a hotel for an afternoon of sex with someone completely new and then later to run away after hiding the damage of their afternoon in someone else’s room.

Most intriguingly, Alison’s true personality seemed to reveal itself. Where it often feels like Noah oversexualizes her in his memories, it is more likely that her mood shifts dramatically due to depression. Sometimes she is smiling, telling tales about Montauk and the surrounding islands and other times she drops the facade, allowing the cold grief and anger over the loss of her son to creep through. When she told Noah how much she hates waking up to see the angel Gabriel tattooed on Cole’s back each morning, how much it shatters her day after day, the moment felt brutally real. Alison played her hand in many ways this week. When she fled the interrogation room for a cigarette break, it felt as if she had gone too far and she knew it. Either the recollection disturbed her or she realized she had revealed too much about the emotional state she was in during her time with Noah.

Whatever happens next, The Affair has established a solid foundation on which to build these two character’s actions from this point forward. Whatever they are to each other in the present, whatever happened on that road, we know why they came together and how they made each other feel in the beginning. Deceptiveness courses through the veins of The Affair, but for one day Alison and Noah were honest about the need they fulfilled in each other.

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