The Affair Season 3 Episodes 9-10 finale recap

So here we are…in Paris.
Now we know what we know. 

‘Do you think you’re some kind of expert on affairs’, Juliette wants to know, and at the end of three seasons, well, do you?

I have been skeptical about this season, and the degree of airtime that we’ve devoted to Juliette, in a way that I didn’t think made sense. It still doesn’t, where the four-cornered story of Noah and Helen and Alison and Cole is concerned. The idea of how these people ricochet off into the world has been the core strength of the first two seasons, though I believed, and believe, that The Affair has a real core priority in making us care about people we didn’t used to care about. Oscar, Luisa, Vic (maybe) – these are people who start to have real traits and importances.

So perhaps it’s not a surprise that even though I was skeptical about Juliette, and wanted to focus on those giant revelations from Episode 9 which could easily have been the finale (when did Helen’s parents get out of the panic room? why does a panic room have an outside lock? when did Stacy get to be 11?), I really enjoyed the French film with interludes that was Noah thinking he was in ‘real Paris’. And, true to form, the show makes me care, in about 10 minutes, about Etienne and Sabine very deeply. I could find out about them, if I were watching this show, if it were a Ryan-Murphy-style new take on the series.

I could buy that it was an exploration of all the ways people have affairs. Of all the ways for us to understand that maybe, in this universe, or maybe in real life, any two people are not enough for one another—or that you’re supposed to keep looking, keep ‘consuming’ people, in an endless string, rather than a full stop. 

That is, for Whitney, Furkat (!!) is just a bad decision along the way, we know this. But in going to Juliette’s life, we start to imagine it as a constellation (or that ‘everyone you’ve ever slept with’ exercise in high school), of all the ways the Affair – and the purported good things that can come out of it – can ripple-effect. 

Or, put another way, Noah Solloway’s dick has resonance across the globe. Shudder.

The problem here is that it doesn’t give us enough time to deal with the MAMMOTH amount of information we were given in the previous episode, which you kind of want to be able to chew on for awhile.

If I were leading a reading group at the end of a book, I would do this question:

How does the following quote, spoken by Helen’s mother, speak to Helen’s life and choices?

“You’re a good person, Helen, despite your upbringing, and none of it – none of it – is your fault.”

We’ve talked before about how Helen is very much like Noah. They are two sides of the same coin. They both go back to picking the same scabs over and over again, even when they should let them heal. This is why we know that Whitney hits a nerve when she screams that Helen still loves Noah; this is why Helen bristles every time people say he’s a degenerate criminal. She does, not just out of habit, still love him, but because they are The Same, and she’s the one who’s gotten away with murder, more-or-less literally.

Until she meets Allison in the bar, which is kind of a scene of absolution, but more importantly, to me, is the longest we’ve ever heard Allison speak, uninterrupted, in the entire series. It was so refreshing, and she brings up Gabriel without a long, tortured pause, and she’s articulate, and—suddenly I wondered if the change was  because we so rarely see Allison through another woman’s eyes? In fact – is the male gaze the source of all Allison’s problems? 

Stay with me here – Allison is fairly self-loathing, but she gets some self-esteem back from her female lawyer, from her female nurse who asks her to come in to speak to the patient… and from Luisa, who thinks Allison should be given shared custody of Joannie.

It’s Noah and Cole who seem to blame all of their problems on Allison’s sexuality, like a buoy they can’t shove down.

And it’s gifts like those, in the form of shifting perspectives, that are the point of this show. I would watch another one all about Juliette and the bitches she meets on the street, but we’re not there yet, and it feels like we’re not yet finished with the final chapter of these people – how they see themselves.

Or maybe they are, given that we know what we can now assume to be Noah’s biggest secret – or secrets. First that he helped his mother die – or thought he was helping to do what she wanted, which explains everything. His dad’s resentment, Nina’s….Nina-ness, and probably his gasping desperate insecurity, although Helen’s parents didn’t help in that regard (oh, and everyone, male or female, slips the card when guests aren’t looking, Helen’s parents! Have a higher standard!).

Second, that he had a big enough psychotic break to blame Brendan Fraser, in a role that I still am tossing around in my head, for stabbing his own self in the neck. The season has been deliberately timeline-fuzzy, so I don’t know where we are now that we know. By the time Noah gets to Paris, is he really better? Is he really able to devote himself so selflessly to his daughter?

Then again, if the answer is yes, why would we watch? The show has been given the green light for Season 4, and who else am I going to obsess over these people with but you? See you next year.