JoJo Whilden / Showtime

The Affair Has A Requiem For A Daydream

What if you spent an entire season thinking that someone else was out to get you, when all the time it was you, you pill-addled nincompoop? Noah's about to find out.

Our Players

Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Philip Michaels.
Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Lisa Schmeiser.

The Talk

So the good news, we've resolved two plotlines none of America really cared about: Who stabbed Noah Solloway? and Will Helen ever tell people she's the one who hit Scotty?

And the answers are "Noah stabbed himself because he's having intermittent psychotic breaks with reality fueled by lingering guilt over assisting his mother's suicide" and "Helen tells people and their first reaction is 'Shut up!'"

I can't disagree with people telling Helen to shut up.

So here's the thing -- and I want to add, the speech where she admits to Vik that she was fine with Noah taking the fall because she wanted him to pay for blowing her up her life is a big three-minute chunk of Dispatch From The Planet Duh -- at this point, what does Helen have to gain by saying anything? I don't believe that the truth shall set her free. The damage is done. She should have gotten, like a dream journal and an anonymous Reddit account and worked out her feelings that way.

A couple of things about the Helen segment stood out. First -- the return of Vik!

[sighs audibly] He's so dreamy.

I'm torn up about it because, while he's a welcome presence in any episode, I'd already mourned him and moved on. It makes me sad to see our beautiful stallion being penned in by Helen's abundant issues.

So this episode also clarified for me why the best course of action with any ex is to simply decide they don't exist any more and behave accordingly. It's kinder to everyone. Helen did Vik no favors with her bombshell apology-and-confession value meal, and I feel really sorry for the poor guy whose gall bladder is about to come out, because holy crap, is Vik going to be distracted.

I hate to disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure Vik is 75 percent cylon and therefore suffers not from your human distractions.

Also, he's a beautiful free stallion. Part man, part cylon, part stallion.

And the other thing about Helen's sequence? This is where I finally lost patience with the show's same-scene-different-perspectives schtick. For example, the Helen and Alison scene from last week featured Helen's giant art-gallery glasses, some Long Island iced teas, and some friendly chit-chat about the paternity of Alison's most recent child. This week's scene features a sultry, straight-talking Alison throwing back shots and dispensing wisdom.

Eric Liebowitz / Showtime

Eric Liebowitz / Showtime

I am going to gently dissent, for a few reasons. First, I liked how, in last week's scene, Alison finally sees herself as a peer to Helen -- which is a first in their scenes together. I thought it was a nice bit of Alison characterization that was not gratuitously mean to Helen. This week's scene was one of the most insanely pro-Alison things we've seen on the show, and I was kind of enjoying how weird it was, after nearly three seasons of writing Alison as this hostile, depressed, erratic, oversexed, lonely loser. We got an Alison who's basically a functional human being. The novelty was shocking. And I think it goes to show how far Helen has fallen too.

Here's why I don't care for it: It's a parlor trick. It's a crutch to excuse inconsistent writing and inconsistent characterization.

So how do you answer the writerly notion that the show is representing individual, highly subjective points of view?

At a certain point, you have to pick a side. Otherwise, it's just Unreliable Narrator: The Series.

We may as well segue into the Noah segment on that cue. And it was basically 30 minutes of pills 'n' guilt 'n' subconscious demons come out to play. And it bored me silly. I realize actors live for this showboat-y nonsense and I suspect the writers are all congratulating themselves on how they tied together Noah's guilt over his mom and his guilt over his affair and blah blah blah, but it all reads like a Choose Your Own Adventure book as written by M. Night Shyamalan where literally every page is "What a twist!"

Well, we're at a disadvantage here since we are violently disinterested in what is clearly the character that fascinates everybody on the writing staff. My whole problem with this segment is that it's essentially a whole big "Psych!" on Noah's plotline this season.

The one twist I did like? Is how the real John Gunther is a loving, functional family man who protects his family, who treats an unhinged Noah with compassion, and is -- in short -- basically winning at the "Who is a decent human being?" contest. I am not sure that's intentional on the part of the writers because they are so invested in the idea of Noah as a tragic hero, but what I saw in this episode was someone who was faced with something legitimately terrifying -- an unhinged weirdo stalking his wife and upsetting his different-needs child before ranting like a demented Erskine Caldwell novel -- and reacting with calm compassion. And that's more aspirational than anything Noah's ever done.

Whilden

Whilden

On that note, let's do our episode LVP and MVP. I'm giving the MVP to the Solloway child who looks at a cocktail-toting Grandpa and says, "Starting early, aren't you?" God bless that child. It's the first time I haven't wished the Solloways were barren.

The LVP is Noah. For Christ's sakes, man. It's not like there were a shortage of candidates to stab you. Why did you have to jump the queue?

My MVP is actually Alison, who manages to talk Helen out of doing a series of really dumb things, including announcing on Montauk's Craigslist who Scotty Lockheart's real killer is. The LVP here? Gotta go with Noah, because this show has inadvertently built the case that everyone he comes into contact with would be better off without him.

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