The Affair, Season 2, Episode 11: “211″
Written by Abe Sylvia and Sharr White
Directed by Michael Slovis
The Affair, Season 2, Episode 12: “212″
Written by Sarah Treem
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Airs Sundays at 10 pm ET on Showtime
Alison’s discomfort at her life outside of Montauk has been a looming spectre over the second season of The Affair, alongside Scotty’s death, which has cast its shadow over both seasons of the show to date. Both issues see a resolution in the final two episodes of the season, as Alison makes a key move in establishing her independence while the events leading up to Scotty’s death are brought to light in an entertaining finish.
Noah’s storyline over the past two episodes has gone a long way towards making the character a compelling figure for the season. Noah’s betrayal, and his reaction to Alison first dropping out, then buying the Lobster Roll, and finally dropping the bombshell about Joanie’s parentage, provides an interesting contrast to his discussion with the marriage counsellor. Noah’s feelings of entrapment, first visualised in his ending to The Descent, were made clear in that meeting, so to see him react when the shoe is on the other foot and he’s the one who’s discovering that he’s been cheated on, provides an intriguing insight into his character. The fact that discovering Joanie’s biological parentage drives him back to Helen, much like reading The Descent drove Alison back to Cole, indicates more strongly than anything else that Noah and Alison are similar to each other in many ways. With his lawyer pointing the finger of blame at Alison, however, Noah’s decision to take the blame instead is very intriguing. Noah’s protection of Helen throughout getting arrested and being put on trial, and his willingness to cover up her crime right from the beginning, may be indicative of some degree of honour, or it may be due to not caring whether or not Scotty is dead or his killer is brought to justice. The latter is an even stronger possibility in light of not having seen Whitney for more than a year at this point, as Noah has shifted the blame on to others for his own shortcomings before. In that instance, however, he should be unconcerned with Alison taking the blame. If, however, Noah is interested in ensuring Helen doesn’t go to jail, either due to a loyalty to his children or to her, then he had two options; either let Alison take the blame, or take the blame himself. Given his tendency to blame others for his own issues, choosing the latter option, especially given how he reacts to the news of Joanie not being his biological child, represents a real change.
Alison’s story has been equally compelling. In many ways, her return to Montauk was telegraphed by her discomfort in Cold Springs and New York City, especially following the publication of The Descent, where she was little more than Noah’s Plus one, unable to forge an identity of her own. Montauk is the one place where people know her independent of Noah, and where the opinion of her isn’t clouded by the way she’s portrayed in The Descent, an issue that Alison ran into even before the book was published. The way her relationship with Cole has developed in the wake of the dissolution of their marriage has also been interesting to watch. From Alison’s perspective, her encounter with Cole early in the season, when she was still in Cold Springs, was an intimidating one, but her recent relations with Cole, especially after his engagement with Luisa, have been much more mellow, and closer to how Cole viewed their encounter. With the two now business partners, and Joanie confirmed as Cole’s child, Alison’s gravitation back to the familiar is now complete, and how this affects things going forward should make for a fascinating watch. With Noah declaring himself guilty, Alison no longer has the one beam of support that exists for her outside Montauk, which is a beam that was becoming shaky as it stands, no matter which perspective is was seen from. This could cause her to gravitate further into Montauk and the Lobster Roll, but Scotty’s death and her belief of being complicit in it could cause her to pull away more. How Alison reacts to this change next season promises to say a lot about how she’s changed in the wake of her affair with Noah.
Overall, this has been a strong season, though not without its missteps. The marginalisation of both Helen and Whitney over the last few episodes, particularly the former, has been a glaring issue, especially given that Helen is one of the four main characters of the series. Whitney’s removal from the situation altogether is a concern for a number of issues, chief among them being the fact that Noah having seen Whitney at the party has still not been corroborated by anyone else, and Whitney’s concern about being ignored by Noah remains unresolved. Whitney’s lack of appearance at the trial is also worrisome, as she is a legal adult at this point, and regardless of her feelings towards Noah, there hasn’t been any indication that she cares about him so little that she wouldn’t be troubled by the prospect of him facing a lifetime in prison. Even if she is in such a mindset, the fact that the trial revolves around Scotty’s death, someone she’s pursued as seen from both Alison and Cole’s perspective, would indicate some degree of investment in the trial, all of which makes Whitney’s absence from the last few episodes particularly glaring. Just as glaring is the loss of Helen’s perspective following the introduction of her new relationship. To not see how Helen continues to handle the duties of single parenthood while dealing with her own parents’ divorce over the course of the year and a half, especially given Whitney’s growing distance from Noah and her own budding relationship, is a real shame, not only because of the loss of a key character and the reduction of Maura Tierney’s presence on the show, but also because it would have been an interesting contrast to Cole’s growing relationship with Luisa and the settling of his relationship with Alison. Despite these concerns, however, the season closes out well, and with a third season already confirmed, it’ll be interesting to see how these characters further develop now that the mystery of Scotty’s death has now been resolved.