I used to scoff at people who said things like “I’m having so many feelings right now.” Not that it’s impossible to have more than one feeling at once, obviously, life is complicated – but I always thought it was a cop-out. Name them, in number order, and you won’t feel so confused anymore!
...Yeah. I may have underestimated the capacity for things to get complicated at an exponential rate. Or I was just an asshole.
Either of these points, or both, is the focus of this Season 4 trailer for The Affair. I feel complicated even thinking about The Affair, for a few reasons (only one of which is that Elizabeth and Phillip on The Americans are currently dominating the ‘fraught fictional marriage that will surely end poorly’ space in my brain.) Mostly I think it’s because I, like a lot of people, got a headache trying to wrap my head around the fever dream that was Season 3.
I feel guilty saying this, of course. As a television writer, I appreciate that there are risks taken and big leaps made, and the final episode, all about Noah’s French affair partner and the reasons behind her affair, and the moment her life takes a shocking turn, was the kind of dramatic risk I really want to support. Partly because we got to see Noah and Noah’s Pain not be the centre of everything, and also because the point of The Affair has always been the idea that the affair itself has ripple effects on everyone and everything, from Cole’s Luisa to Noah’s troubled daughter Whitney.
I’ve always loved this about the show – particularly, I appreciate how steadily the cast expands, as Noah, Helen, Allison, and Cole try to fix their initial primal hurts and find new people who they’re sure will fix them. And of course, I was delighted to see that some of the new characters this year, set in LA (“No Coast Is Clear” is a great tagline) are people of colour, who have had no place in this show in the past. (Blink and you’ll miss Sanaa Lathan) That feels like a net positive, even if I’m a liiittle bit cynical about why. Still, I have always liked that the show marches relentlessly forward, snaring new people in this nasty web.
In fact, I love this show because it’s the antithesis of the One True Pairing idea – the tendency that fans have to want their favourites/originals, back together. The Affair shows, over and over, why that’s a terrible idea... but that might be the problem, too.
TV characters are supposed to change, and I’m all for people making bad moves – but I don’t know how to reconcile that with the stream-of-consciousness that was last season. All the weird, non-linear Brendan Fraser stuff that we never really understood – and that were maybe complicated by the discomfiting interview with Brendan Fraser in GQ in February – seemed to walk us away from people who were in charge of their bad decisions. Was that still true after last year? Or were we in the plot of a novel that’s gonna sell for a lot and then underperform? Unclear.
But I will keep coming back, like a lover who might know better, because no other show makes me think this way.
What about you? Are you gonna be here watching with me? Or in the year and a half The Affair’s been gone, have you found someone, or something, new?
Attached - Maura Tierney at a couple of events yesterday in New York.