I’m back on “The Affair.” I swore it off, after last season’s prison-guard business, which gave us the worst of Noah, the worst of Brendan Fraser‘s comeback, and the worst kind of mind-games plot resolution in the TV handbook. We know Noah — and everyone — is self-deluded; we didn’t need a facile story about jail and a stabbing to drive that home. The show turned into a bad crime psychodrama, with that oddball Irene Jacob plot to make it all more incongruous.
Prior to that point, the Showtime series had generally stayed grounded in emotional realism, and its kaleidoscope of points of view and time frames added a strong message about the inescapable nature of subjectivity. The writers effectively drove home again and again the idea that we see our experiences through our own prism of emotions, we each remember different things from the same situations.
This season, the show appears to be back on the divergent subjectivities theme, which is where it belongs, where it is best. The story line involving Maura Tierney’s Helen and Vik is fascinating, as it follows him into illness, despair, and jealousy, and Cole’s deep attachment to Alison has been handled intelligently. The titular affair is still emitting ripples.
Tierney continues to give the show its most faceted performance; it’s easy to love her, and then dislike her, and then love her all over again in the course of an episode. And Omar Metwally is interestingly complex as Vik, a savior as well as a victim. To me, Ruth Wilson continues to seem out of place as a Montauk townie, but that miscasting is old news. I’ve gotten used to her.