The Affair, Season 2, Episode 2: “202″
Written by Sarah Treem
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Airs Sundays at 10 pm ET on Showtime
The affair of Noah and Alison left two marriages in disarray, the Solloways and the Lockharts, with the latter marriage also having had the spectre of a dead child hanging between them. While the second season premiere focused on how Noah and Helen were handling their separation and divorce, this week’s episode shifts the focus to Alison and Cole, examining how each of them is coping with this major upheaval in their lives. The result is another strong episode that opens up some fascinating story ideas and directions for both characters.
Alison’s displacement from Montauk and how she adjusts to it is a fascinating aspect of this week’s episode. While the need for change and a shift away from Montauk was perfectly understandable from Alison’s perspective last season, the place had held her entire life until that point, having pulled her back time and time again. Thus, her difficulty adjusting to a new place, especially without a specific sense of purpose the way Montauk had the Lockhart ranch, her waitress job at the Crab Shack, and her grandmother. Now that she has a job, however, how that affects her relationship with Noah will say a lot about the long-term prospects and how Alison copes with things. Her reactions to both Noah and Cole are very telling, and it’s clear that she’s not finding what she needs in either relationship. Noah’s trial, however, indicates that not only is she still with him, they both have a child together, which may mean that either Alison finds the happiness that she’s looking for in the relationship, which is borne out by how they end things this week, or that she’s sticking with it and considering it the best she can do. No matter what mindset she’s in, the difference in how both Cole and Noah perceive their interactions with Alison, and how she perceives her interactions with them, shows that things are not as smooth with her as others think, and if and when others pick up on her true feelings will say a lot about whether she ends up truly at ease or not.
Watching Cole and how he copes with the aftermath of the divorce is also interesting. While the dissolution of his marriage was perhaps not as unforeseen as the Solloway marriage was to Helen, Alison’s departure did come on the heels of a lot of other tumultuous events, including issues with the drug trafficking and the loss of the ranch that was the family’s livelihood. Thus, it’s understandable that Cole would have a hard time with things, and try to bury himself in work and avoid his family so he can continue to ignore his situation. What’s quite intriguing about all this, however, is that he doesn’t seem to blame Alison for his situation. Even though she left him and told him about the ranch debt, both directly and indirectly contributing to his current state, he doesn’t seem to be angry with her, despite being angry with everyone else. While Alison reads their interaction differently, the fact that he sees their meeting as calming, and finally sleeps after she closes the door on their marriage, shows that he doesn’t seem to bear any ill-will towards her. With this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how he develops from here on out. He is the only one, out of all the four participants, who is emotionally invested in the murder of Scotty not just because Noah is accused of the crime, but because Scotty was his brother. At the same time, however, having let go of Alison and having expressed a desire to see her happy, seeing Noah arrested likely causes conflicting feelings in him. How he deals with things in the intervening years, and how his relationship with Alison develops, both seem to be promising aspects of the season.
Overall, the decision by the writers to focus on the Lockharts and the Solloways individually in each episode is already paying off in deeper characterisation for both Helen and Cole, and the show is better for it. It’s interesting to hear about Bruce’s plans to separate from Margaret, and it’ll be interesting to see how that affects both Margaret and Helen’s relationship with Noah. As Bruce explicitly states Noah’s separation from Helen as the catalyst for his decision, both Margaret and Helen are likely to blame Noah, which may sour the relationships even further. The key issue this would cause for Noah would be with regards to custody of his children, and how that fight plays out has the potential to make for a compelling watch, particularly with regards to how the children feel about any decision that’s taken. Seeing Scotty still alive also throws a wrench in the works, as it throws into question the entire timeline of the show. With both Noah and Alison now out of Montauk, and Noah separated from Helen and thus having no reason to revisit Montauk, his presence in the town is a curious anomaly. His potential interaction with Scotty is similarly odd, and suggests that Noah’s interactions with the Lockharts may not be over yet. While some antagonism between Noah and Cole is to be expected, though Cole’s reaction to Alison this week suggests he has let go of any animosity, there’s no current reason for Noah and Scotty to cross paths, let alone be on opposite sides of it. How their stories develop, as well as how Cole deals with events going forward, will be intriguing to see as the season continues.