Sunday, October 11, 2015

S2, Episode 1


After the end of last season, there was very little this show could have done to make the beginning of S2 at all tolerable to me. Yet, like the proverbial needle in a haystack, The Affair found the only ticket back to Montauk that I would accept: levity. The opener did everything right, in my view: Cole was not on, so I did not fret about him. Allison was seen only briefly, so I did not fume. I'm indifferent to Helen. She received a lot of airtime and I could enjoy it, without feeling emotionally drained. Noah was, well the writers seem to have embraced a growing consensus that he is a selfish loser, rather than the sensitive intellectual Allison appears to see. So, he was put upon for the entire 60 minutes and it was delicious.

If this was a ploy to get us to be more sympathetic to him, it failed for me. The more he suffers, the more satisfied I am. It starts with his agent being disappointed with the new ending to his novel. Of course, I know that the book turns out to be a huge success, so whatever pleasure I get out of his writing being berated is short-lived. I think we're supposed to be pulling for him to prove everyone wrong. I only want to see him fail harder.

The agent, Harry, tells him that the plot with the four brothers is rich. It's like East of Eden. Well, neither Noah nor the audience knows enough about Cole's family to appreciate their dynastic qualities and I don't want to. They seemed like a quartet of small town thugs with Ma Barker at the helm. They came off as "low class" and while I know we need the sharp contrast between the Lockharts and the Butlers, but it shouldn't be Wasps vs. Neanderthals. The Lockharts were undermined last year, because their quaint small town values were just a cover for drug dealers, who would taint the community they supposedly want to preserve. They don't want a bowling alley in their town, but they don't mind using taxis and fish to smuggle cocaine. These aren't people I want to know better and Noah supposedly writing about them in his novel just reminds me how badly Sarah Treem failed to meet her goals in S1. She didn't create the Trasks from East of Eden or the Ewings from Dallas. She created a motley collection of "blue collar" bad guys from whom the fair Allison needed to escape and I resent Joshua Jackson being mired in that pile. But he wasn't in Ep 1, so I didn't have to focus on the waste of his talents and could enjoy the comic turns Dominic was given to play and why not? He's better in those scenes than he is at romance.

Noah's agent tells him he should change the ending to his story, unless he wants to have to give back the advance he got. He hurries back to the brownstone to move his things out. Margaret is there on a mission to berate him. She tells him his things are in the basement and his kids have been sent away. He hired a truck to move his things, but Margaret points him to two suitcases and a mangled set of golf clubs. He says half the stuff in the house is his. She says not until it has been inventories and assessed. Then, Helen can send him his things or just write him a check for what it's worth. Fuming he tries to collect his books. They're paperbacks. They have no monetary value, but Margaret clearly wants to hurt him, more than anything else. He takes a painting from the wall. His father painted it himself, but her daughter is in it, Margaret insists; he must not remove it. He threatens to push her down the stairs to her death and swear it was an accident if she doesn't get out of the way.

Just then Martin opens his door. He was home all of the time! Oops, Margaret shrugs wickedly. Martin isn't feeling well (I think he's the one who killed Scott) and that's why he stayed home. He's been seeing a psychiatrist, which Noah isn't glad to hear, but the kid actually should have been seeing one since last year when he pretended to hang himself as a JOKE. If Noah hadn't covered that stunt up, Scott Lockhart might still be alive.

As he leaves the house, Trevor runs up and is glad to see him. He says Helen told him that Noah was going through a mid-life crisis and would return home when it's over. Noah says that actually, they are getting a divorce. Trevor socks Noah in the face. I laugh, but I don't understand why Treem has Helen and Cole holding onto these jerks. With Helen, it's not even that she just wants to save her family, but she seems to want NOAH, not just the father of her kids. Why?? I don't see anything in his personality that would make any person cling to him after so many betrayals and even before he had an affair, he was still insensitive. Frustrated at the way she was raising the kids, with pent up resentment about it. So, maybe he felt supportive to her, but all along he was unhappy with their life. His feelings were justified and she should have been more responsive maybe, but once he left her, returned because she begged him and then left her again, I cannot understand why she still doesn't want to let him go. And the thing about him is that her parents' criticisms are true. He scoffs at that materialism, but he benefits from it. He's a hypocrite. If she admired him for his idealism when they were young, the years should have shown her that much of it was facade. Maybe he just gave in to her strong will, but even so. Even if she is the one who made him sell out, now that he has done so, what is it that's left about his personality that she doesn't want to lose? No, he's not like the privileged boys she grew up with, but he hangs out with them (Uncle Max).

When we saw Noah's house, I didn't even know where he was staying. I thought it was Allison's house. The commode breaks when he flushes the toilet. He shakes his head in a "what else could go wrong" manner.

Noah heads to a family law mediation and meets up with Helen. In his version the lawyer is nice and tries to help them reach compromise, but Helen is antagonistic. She doesn't anything from him and makes it clear that she doesn't think he possesses anything worth giving. The house is hers. Her parents lent them the money for the down payment. The store is hers. Noah says he doesn't want any of it. He just wants joint custody of the kids. She says that he doesn't even have a place to put them. He says that after his book is published he can get a bigger place, for all of them. Oh, he can afford a four bedroom place? Helen is amused that he thinks his 2nd book will have that kind of success. He tells her that the advance he got was for $400,000. That silences and surprises her. Congratulations. But no, she still isn't making any claim to it, she tells the mediator.

Outside, they quibble about whether they should look for a new mediator. He blames her for not seeing the kids. She says that they don't want to see him. Will she convince Whitney to talk to him. She indicates she will. What about Martin? Well, she says, he has a stomach ache. It's probably stress (stress from killing Scott). Noah says that Martin doesn't tell him he's having problems. He doesn't actually believe that Martin is and that's carried over from S2. Helen wants to know, is he living with Allison? He avoids answering. She says that he doesn't want Allison anywhere near her kids. He tells her that she's an a------ and that she can't always get what she wants. She remarks that he's unbelievably selfish (true story) and wonders how she went so long without noticing that.

Back at the cabin, Allison is cooking a gourmet meal. She spent the day walking in the small town (eye roll) and enjoyed it. They're smiling. He asks her to dance. She says there is no music. He says the chirping birds are their music (gag). Afterwards, he sits at the end of the pier in a chair and takes his small, peaceful surroundings in.

In the present day, he's in jail. The investigator tells him it's a small town and a local boy was killed. Plus, the judge lost his own wife to a hit and run driver. Noah's chances aren't good and maybe he should take a plea. Noah is mostly silent. I think he's covering for Martin.


Next we get Helen's view and when we're at the 45 minute mark, I realize that we won't get Cole and Allison tonight. I find myself searching to see if the second episode is available yet. I actually want more. That's rather shocking, especially since I dread seeing Cole mope around and beg to have a part in Allison's life. Still, I have to admit the show has been engrossing. I was more than ready for another 60 minutes.

Helen is having sex with Max and he's doing an excited play-by-play, "I'm filling you up. Can you feel it." Yes, I feel it a bored Helen deadpans, clearly astounded by the Marv Alpert enthusiasm. When he's finally finished, I know that she's just dying for him to get off of her, but he takes his time. He gets a phone call and is playing with her leg, raising it up in the air as he talks. Afterwards, he enthuses about her perfect breasts and orders breakfast, clearly anxious to begin their couplehood. She has other things to do, has to attend an event with her mother and doesn't want to appear in public alone with everyone asking where Noah is. Max says to skip it. She can't.

She goes to the mediation. Noah is late and arrives in a player's leather jacket (in his version he wore a suit). The mediator is surly and wants to hurry them along so he can make more money. She's polite and passive. He's the one that's smirking at the idea of her store being worth anything of value.

She has an e-cigarette and slips some pot into it. Smokes on a park bench.

At home, Whitney is going to write about how Cole pointed a gun at her (ugh) for her book report. Margaret says that if she does, Margaret won't pay her tuition anymore. Margaret is trying to cook them dinner. Trevor is crying because his dad told him they're getting a divorce. Margaret says she wants Helen to stop wasting her time doing things the nice way and sue Noah for divorce. Helen says she is sure he will come home eventually. They've been together 25 years.

At dinner, Helen tries to talk to the kids and share family time. She points out that Margaret never could cook. So, they have to suffer through the meal. She tries to bring up their spirits. She goes to meet her mother at a social function and is surprised that Max is there. It keeps her from being alone and having to ward off the Noah questions. At their table with 3-6 others, Max enthuses about what a catch she was in college, how beautiful, how he was devastated when she went for Noah. Helen enjoys the attention and does begin to sparkle, tells jokes of her own. Her mother is beaming at how Max is impressing their friends. Helen doesn't demur when Max suggests that they are a couple now. Margaret says she doesn't know what Helen saw in Noah anyway. She says she and Max and Noah were inseparable and they were all sleeping together. Helen says that's not true. Max slips her a brownie with pot in it for a treat later. When they get home, Margaret leaves them to say goodnight alone, but not before lying about her age (changes it from 70 to 63 or so). Max comments that she must have had Helen when she was 18. She kisses Max more enthusiastic about him than she was this morning. Yes, he's a boor, but she sees he does care for and value her at heart and she appreciates it. When he's gone she sits on the stoop and smokes some more pot. At night she's in her bed alone and looks up at the wall, eyeing the empty clean spot that Noah left behind when he took his father's picture.

In the present day, Helen shows up at the prison. The detective has somehow become Noah's BFF. He tells him his lawyer is on his way. Noah says that he can't afford a high-priced lawyer (so his book wasn't all THAT successful, I guess). A demure and sorrowful looking Helen shows up and says that she is paying for the lawyer.

I enjoyed this episode, which doesn't mean the show is improving. It was good because it was light and relatively meaningless. It can't be like this all of the time and the producers have yet to prove they can handle the deeper subject matter they want to juggle without dropping all of the balls. Again.

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