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An Affair To Remember: A Sneak Peek at Showtime’s “The Affair”

Why do we cheat? It’s the age-old question we have all pondered hard to really understand, especially when so many of us have such perfect and happy looking lives. However, when two people engage in an extramarital affair—whether emotional or physical—the pain of such an act is inevitable, because it’s never just about two people indulging in their unsaid wants or needs. With countless ways to lose what you hold dear, the pain is inevitable and ever damaging.

Set in Montauk, New York, Showtime’s The Affair explores the emotional and psychological effects of an extramarital love affair between family-man, school teacher and author, Noah Solloway (Dominic West); and Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson), a 15 year diner waitress trying her hardest to piece back together her life and marriage in the wake of tragedy.

{Image Credit: Showtime}

In the pilot, Noah and his family are heading off to spend the summer at his father-in-law’s home. Along the way, the family stops to eat at a diner, and this is where our protagonists meet for the first time. Though it may look complicated, it’s interesting and charming to see how the show diverges into two tracks through the memory of Noah and Alison in a “he said, she said” sort of angle. Through both accounts though (and an added touch to the recollection of wardrobe changes), we see the core of this blossoming  affair and how these two characters are genuinely drawn to each other in their own ways.

With the show cleverly employing the “Rashomon” type structure, this “he said, she said” drama dives into what truth can look like to those under a microscope. It’s an evident fact, but there at least two sides to every story in life and with romantic relationships or extramarital affairs, probably more so because we don’t have access to what our lover is experiencing firsthand when we’re not around. There’s a whole other world in which they live in that we never get to see, and there’s a lot to understand between those layers.

While it may look like a sex-injected show about succumbing to one’s passions and carnal feelings with someone you sincerely click with, the show is actually much more about the relationships in a marriage than an affair.

Noah may appear to be happily married to his wife Helen (Maura Tierney), but in the premiere episode we see him as a man who gets quite a bit of attention from other women (and enjoys it) but feels frustrated at home in several ways. Noah even goes so far as to showcase a bit of resentment towards his wealthy and successful father-in-law, Bruce (John Doman). Dominic West best known for his performance as Jimmy McNulty on HBO’s The Wire is spot-on as Noah and delivers another great performance as this insecure individual who is seemingly content with his life, but equally restless (“All men are restless.”). We’ve seen him play characters like this before, but he does it well and stands out with a “je nais sais quoi” type of  allure. Tierney as West’s wife is good in her role, but we don’t get to learn much about her except for the fact that she’s still hot for her husband—when time permits, of course.

Alison may come off as a seductress and vixen in Noah’s memory, but we learn through her own she is a very meek and damaged character. As someone who married into the large, boisterous Lockhart family docked on the shores of Montauk, Alison and her husband Cole (Joshua Jackson) have great difficulty connecting after a tragedy bruised their union. Ruth Wilson and Joshua Jackson play quite well at a young couple who are trying to work through the pain, but can’t seem to see eye-to-eye. Wilson best known for her work on British television is enigmatic in both realms, while Jackson plays the quiet frustration very well. We learn through both of them how easily a tragedy can break a couple down. With Cole finding comfort and peace from the pain through sex, Alison seems jaded, but curious for an escape from her reality.

The performances from all the actors, including Noah and Helen’s kids are extraordinary, as they should be in order to complete the process of retelling a very seemingly similar account. These people living in Montauk, enjoying a summer getaway are complicated, generous and flawed, but each of the actors shape and influence their characters with such detail, giving them strength and verve.

The mystery behind this series adds an extra special layer to the provocative Showtime drama, shying away from network cliches seen with shows like ABC’s Betrayal or Scandal. In a postmodern wrinkle through time, the affair is depicted in flashbacks from both Noah and Alison’s points of view, with a startling yet interesting look at how different the two truly see each other. Through these flashbacks, we learn that Alison and Noah are being interrogated by the police, but we are unsure as to why. In many ways it feels like the pilot of True Detective with Matthew McConaughey answering questions for law enforcement officials, but in this case we don’t get much further information except for realizing time has surely passed since the incident. But what incident? Was there a murder or a suicide?

{Image Credit: Showtime}

With the original script written by writer-producer, Sarah Treem (House of Cards) from a story co-created by Hagai Levi, The Affair is one of the season’s most highly anticipated dramas this season. Striking a fine balance between character development with top-notch casting and tone, The Affair is interesting and sexy, but it’s also the most clever and saddest drama this Fall. There is great room for storytelling with the way these characters are crafted. Even though the pilot was a tad slow, it held interest tightly and made good use of plot devices and framing, helping push the story forward to unfold over time. With this technique, it’s allowing each encounter to mold extended tensions (and possible foreshadowing?), which definitely adds to the element of mystery.

The Affair tells the story of an extramarital affair amid two very different marriages from multiple points of view, exposing heartbreak and pain in the guise of a summer fling. These restless individuals are putting their marriages on the line for just a moment in time. Can it be forgivable though, or is it broken beyond repair? With the bifurcation of shared moments, the Showtime series shrouds the extramarital liaison in great mystery. But what viewers should look out for in the upcoming episodes is the important question in this show—whose account between memories is more trustworthy? There are always three sides to every story: his, hers, and the truth.

Are you willing to be a part of The Affair?

The Affair airs Sundays at 10pm on Showtime. Check your local listings. For more information on the series or to preview the pilot in its entirety for free on their website, check out Showtime’s The Affair, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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  1. An Affair To Remember: A Sneak Peek at Showtime’s “The Affair” | westlifebunny - October 12, 2014

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