The Affair is such an amazing, internal show, that this season two finale feels plot-driven more than anything. But after twentysome episodes, it was about time for The Affair to tell us who killed Scott Lockhart. Although in the end, the reveal was more like, who didn’t kill him? All those furtive glances and secret meetings in the stark, courtroom reality make more sense now that we know that Noah, Alison, and Helen are all guilty of conspiring to keep the true story of Scotty’s death under wraps.
A lot of buildup comes into play to pull this off. First, there’s yet another scene of Scotty going off the rails so that we can barely even be sorry that he’s dead (although, that was one hell of a “House Of The Rising Sun” cover, a song that also hints at a tortured family saga, of which the Lockharts surely qualify). At the opposite end of the spectrum, even more importantly, there is redemption for Noah, who we have seen turn into one of the most heinous characters ever to head a TV series. At one point, maybe last year, perhaps we were supposed to pull for him, but success has turned into such an conceited tool, that it became difficult to remember why we were supposed to root for him in the first place. (Although his sidling up to Whitney in the hot tub will forever go down as one of TV’s simultaneously horrifying and hilarious moments.)
So it would take a lot to redeem this character. And did we get that with this episode, since Noah, in his twisted, chivalrous way, is trying to protect both of his wives? Alison was only defending herself against a drunken, lecherous Scotty, and Helen knew she wasn’t supposed to be driving. Does Noah deserve to take the blame for everything that’s happened, since it seems like a lot of it was all his fault to begin with?
We don’t see Helen’s perspective this episode, but maybe that’s what she was thinking. One DUI under her belt, she would go straight to jail if it was discovered that she was the one driving. Plus, Noah forced her to drive. And then distracted her. It’s maddening like so many Affair plot holes: We know that Montauk has plenty of taxi services; we’ve even seen a Lockhart drive a cab. So why in the world wouldn’t two wasted people just call a car?
Also, if Max is so in love with Helen, why wouldn’t Noah bring him in on this, so as to avoid that damaging testimony of last week? Maybe he didn’t know Max was on the witness list or something, but that seems like an easy hole to fill up.
But going back to Max, in a poignant scene last week designed to make me forget that Josh Stamberg ever played the boss on Drop Dead Diva, Max calls out Noah for having everything handed to him. Max tries and tries to get people (Helen) to love him, and with Noah, it’s just effortless. Interestingly, Scotty calls out Alison this episode for something similar, as it seems like the Alisons and Noahs of the world just walk away with everything, while the Maxes and Scottys get nothing. But anyone can make their own life derail, as Noah did when he started out on this affair with Alison, or Alison with her deception about Joanie’s father. Noah thought, as points out in his noble speech in his perspective, that in the interest of true love, all the hurt and pain he and Alison would be causing would be worth it in the long run. But what if it’s not true love? What if their future marriage is less about love and more about the notion that a husband and wife can’t testify against each other?
The paternity of Joanie adds a soapy wrinkle to The Affair proceedings: However much Cole seems to glare at Alison during the “House Of The Rising Sun” number, a courtroom meeting from earlier in the season indicates that he still doesn’t know he has another child. But Alison’s despair as she watches more of Luisa’s relatives pour into the wedding picture hints that she has so little family now, she was desperate to keep the small one she has intact. But Noah, apparently, can easily turn off the paternal affection he has for the child he once took videos of, in the most cold-hearted way possible. He won’t tell the truth about Helen in court because “She’s the mother of my children,” he says to Alison, knowing full well that she has not been fortunate enough to give birth to another member of the Solloway clan. But he still can’t throw Alison under the bus, so his final moment of confession saves both of these women, and tosses the confirmed season three up in the frickin’ air.
I love the character of Alison because we all know someone like her, who on the surface appears devious and calculating, but from her own perspective, she’s just doing the best she can. There would never, ever be a good time to tell Noah and Cole the truth about who Joanie’s father is. Similarly, she likely misled Noah about dropping out of school due to not being able to face her own failure, not out of downright deception. But this lack of trust that breaks them—even though they both started from a place of lack of trust—leads Noah to speculate on all the times he could have cheated on Alison, but didn’t (and really, that’s only through the slimmest of margins, if Noah was being honest with himself, which, knowing him, he probably was not). Then the death of Scotty draws them back together: It’s not a question of wanting to trust each other, as their very survival depends on them having to trust each other. Alison can’t send the mother of Noah’s kids away either, and so may pay the price. For a moment, it looks like the ultimate diss from those stupid tourists who mess up Montauk for the locals: We’ll even make you take the rap when our first wife mows down somebody, even though you accidentally pushed him in front of the car! And then Noah stands up, and all bets are off.
So now, the plot thickens, and I have to say I like this incident-heavy turn of events less than when Dominic West delivers an amazing, soul-revealing monologue like he did from the analyst’s couch a few weeks ago, or seeing what Helen gets up to when she’s alone in the house. Now we have a convoluted murder case, which likely could have been cleared up pretty quickly the night of, with everyone involved. But the theme that infiltrated all of season one returns, as Alison tells Noah: “You have to choose.” He had a hard time doing so then—and, as he tells Helen on the beach, his second thoughts continue. Judging from his performance in the courtroom, he still can’t pick between the two of them, choosing to sacrifice himself instead.
- Love how Colin Donnell as Scotty could go from benign to menacing in an actual heartbeat. Won’t really miss the character, but will miss this performance.
- “April Comes She Will” was the perfect song to end on, for the seemingly stuck-in-’90s-fashion wedding band to the Simon & Garfunkel version over the credits. The song refers to a short-lived romance that burns brightly only over the summer, ending with “September, I’ll remember / A love once new has now grown cold.” Alison and Noah never really got back the intensity of that first adulterous summer, even as the ramifications linger on, years later.
- Overall I loved season two maybe even more than season one. Yes, there was one episode that went entirely off the rails (Cole hearing Alison’s labor screams in the surf was a bit much), but Cole and Helen added so much depth to the Noah-Alison perspectives. Sometimes I’m sorry that the murder mystery is even in there, gumming up the works, when mostly I want to see how Noah and Alison are going to unravel a conversation in a different way again. So even if season three winds up with Noah’s perspectives from the slammer (which I doubt), I will still be turning in.
- Due to Showtime’s lack of screener for this finale, I am subbing for the traveling Carrie Raisler. Like all of us, I looked forward to her reviews every week, which added so much enjoyment to the examination of this show.