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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Affair decides to wrap up its tenure with an unnecessary #MeToo storyline

Illustration for article titled The Affair decides to wrap up its tenure with an unnecessary #MeToo storyline
Photo: Paul Sarkis (Showtime)

If The Affair was searching for a way to bring Noah and Helen back together in season five, surely there must have been a better way than this trumped-up #MeToo scandal. It’s so fucked up that I’m actually curious about who the six women are: Zooey, the student teacher; Eden the book publicist; Audrey the student; the poor script supervisor; and who else?


At its heart, The Affair is (supposed to be) a story about perception. Many times, there’s no black or white, just various shades of gray filtered through how one person sees a situation. Helen and Noah can spout off all they want about how there’s no truth in the accusations at all, but that happened to the script supervisor. It was an extremely awful thing to do, and at the time I did wonder how that poor woman was going to get home. Maybe Sasha is paying off Eden and I dozed off midway through Audrey’s burn the men in power manifesto—but as Whitney points out in the heartrending end of the episode, Noah does see women as prey. The first scene in the whole series, he’s still married and checking out a woman at the pool. Basically all the major troubles in his life happened when he fell for Alison and blew up his family.

And yet, from Noah’s perspective, he’s still a good guy. These things couldn’t have happened, because that would wrench his whole opinion of himself. For Helen, she would no longer be able to love someone like that, so it’s easier for her to believe that Sasha orchestrated the whole thing (and to blame herself again! God! No wonder Whitney gets so frustrated with her.)

In Audrey’s mind, her exaggerations of Noah’s behavior are justifiable because it helps her smash the patriarchy (and sell her book). And there’s some sense in what she says, which Whitney immediately latches on to because of Furkat. Especially, the pointed moment when he dismisses the young, beautiful model like an empty takeout container. Furkat, a talented white man just like Noah, holds all the power in the situation. And he is well aware of that fact. Whitney’s too young to realized that she just dodged a bullet by not getting involved in that new gallery. But Furkat’s different perception also underlines Noah’s own refusal to accept anything that doesn’t fit into his own picture of himself: Furkat did hit Whitey in Paris, but refuses to acknowledge it.

Ultimately, I just hate the concept of false #MeToo accusations as a plot point. Many of these women in real life suffered for years because they felt no one would believe them, so painting them as “exaggerating” what happened to them “for attention” (quotes from Helen!) does the whole movement a disservice. Like I said, there must have been a less-painful way to bring Helen and Noah back together than to paint Eden as a money-grubber willing to go on TV and call out both Solloways.

(As an aside, how would this be getting that much play anyway? As Trevor wisely pointed out weeks ago, the night of the awful party, writers are the least important people in Hollywood. Would the downfall of a writer with one almost-movie and one famous novel to his credit, even in a Vanity Fair non-cover story, really be sweeping the news and calling for speculation about his wife and kids?)


Whitney tells Audrey that she doesn’t want to burn all men, tossing a shoutout to the metaphor of the wildfires and Noah’s situation—how things can spread so quickly and destructively without your control. And that of course is why devoted Colin shows up at the end of the episode as proof that not all men are bad, that he really just wants the green card to be near Whitney, that his painstaking portrait is of course a spot-on image of her. He even takes her siblings out for ice cream.

Helen says “It should’t be this hard to tell the truth,” and it shouldn’t be. But The Affair’s version of the truth has always been murky thanks to the multiple perceptions. It’s straight-up annoying that neither Helen or Noah acknowledge that there is some truth to the story. It’s also annoying that Whitney decides to believe all the women straight out, even after Audrey admitted she was pissed because Noah didn’t want to sleep with her. (Pro tip: Maybe don’t let a bitter guy right out of prison teach impressionable young minds? Just throwing that out there.)


The Affair also seems to want to attempt to get to ultimate honesty, but it plays its hand in an over-the-top way here: The triumphant music as Helen and the kids speed away from Sasha’s house. Never mind the fact that all the inroads that Whitney and Noah have just made in Montauk appear to be completely obliterated. Helen’s sympathies reside with Noah, they always have. He’s going to throw that “I went to prison for you” thing in her face until the day she dies, but the two are inexorably bound together, as this episode makes exceedingly obvious.

The episode ends with perplexed Whitney looking at the portrait—Colin’s version of her—trying to figure out the beautiful, strong way that he sees her, because that’s not the way she sees herself. I appreciate when The Affair returns to its perceptions of how we view each other and the way other people view us. But a #MeToo storyline remains a problematic element to enter into that equation.


Stray observations

  • Yay, Priya gets the baby, perfect. They actually really do look alike.
  • A commenter said The Affair should be named The Coincidence a few weeks ago, and I absolutely thought of that when Audrey Nelson just happened to wind up on Whitney’s flight. I’m surprised they weren’t automatically seated next to each other. See also: Furkat calling Whitney right when her flight got delayed.
  • Anyone checking on Martin?
  • Sarah Ramos, you’ll always be Parenthood’s Haddie to me.
  • Next week: Noah and Helen go on a hike to celebrate The Affair’s penultimate episode.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.