The Affair Season 1, Episode 1 recap.

The other day Lainey and I were talking about a friend who said “It’s been x number of years since my last first kiss”. Then we started doing the math on our own. It’s the kind of thing that makes your stomach lurch a bit. Not necessarily in the bad way, just “wow, the passage of time”. I think it would be equally true if you were single counting how long since your last relationship. Just the kind of thing that gives you a bit of an involuntary cringe.

I had so many involuntary cringes watching the show last night. “How many times do you think we’ve had sex?” one character asks another. God, there is no answer to that question – and no reason to ask it – that doesn’t dredge up just all kinds of existential examinings. That is, everyone thinks it. Everyone considers those things.  But saying it out loud, in a show called The Affair? Hard to ignore.

The great thing is that the story is told from two perspectives that have differences.   Lengths of skirt, positions of children. They’re inconsequential, probably, but then again maybe they’re not. It’s been done, of course, the whole his story, her story, and the truth – but because we get to decide the truth, we are very invested. And in my opinion, the show wants us to take sides. I have. I’ve taken a side, and I’m very sure about it, and I’m not sure I like which one I’ve taken.

There are lots of other elements here. Besides Dominic West and Ruth Wilson and the facets of the affair, Maura Tierney is the wife and Joshua Jackson is the husband, and you are so far into the places the story takes you that I promise you will not think about Dawson’s Creek or the fact that she was almost Sarah Braverman and The Wire will not enter your consciousness.

A word, though. This show has children in every frame of it, even in scenes they’re not in. Your emotions are being manipulated all the time by the children and what’s happening to them and what they’re doing and how shocked or delighted or horrified you are by that. I point this out only to say that how you feel about children – or other family members, for that matter – as a part of the story of a relationship is unquestionably going to colour the way you watch the show.

I’m being a little cryptic in case you haven’t seen it, to save some of the conceit of the way the story’s being told, and the dual perspectives, before we get into the nitty gritty. But there’s lots.

Like that Noah, Dominic West, has just written his first book but has to deal with his asshole father-in-law who’s written more than one and pretty much thinks Noah’s is a fluke. Like his daughter, whose excellent annoying face frustrated me until I placed her as Sasha from Bunheads. Like the kind of small-town douche who has just a small scene – the kind of scene that should be a cliché, but is actually played with just the right amount of heft, so that the douche is unfortunately, deliciously completely accurate. In one version of the story, money is mentioned over and over and over again. In another, it’s merely incidental. In one version, death is mentioned like an impossibility. In another, it isn’t.  

I’m excited about this. Not sure why, except that all the twists and turns aren’t really aiming to make us gasp – just to reconsider over and over again. Let’s see if it’s a gimmick or a joy.