August 20, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Affair”


Behind the scenes events threatened to overtake the narrative of THE AFFAIR this season.  Midway through the run, Showtime announced that next year’s Season 5 would be the series finale, making the current season something of a preface to the end.  It then developed that original lead actress Ruth Wilson had asked the producers to let her go (all parties are being a bit cagey about the circumstances), which prompted the death of her character Alison, presumably–given the show’s insistence on subjective truth–at the hands of her latest married lover Ben (Ramon Rodriguez).

Anyone hoping for that storyline to be advanced in tonight’s season finale were out of luck.  The episode, written by series co-creator Sarah Treem and Staff Writer Katie Robbins, from a story by Robbins and Jaquen Castellanos, and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, was a supersized effort that broke the series mold a bit by including three chapters instead of the usual two, but little of note occurred in the first pair.  Noah (Dominic West) finished his derailed college trip to Princeton with Anton (Christopher Meyer), and after Noah’s reunion with another of his old flames, now the head of the Princeton English Department, Anton prompted one of the show’s discussions about fiction and personal responsibility by writing and publicly reading a character sketch that painted an unpleasant picture of Noah.  Cole’s (Joshua Jackson) section included Alison’s funeral, the highlight of which was his seizing the urn with her ashes and bringing it to the cemetery where their young son had been buried.  He then quickly decided with second wife Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno) that they would break up but remain together on paper so that she could get her US citizenship.

As if to make up for those desultory chapters, the final section was loaded with melodrama, so much so that at times it was just a degree or two south of black comedy.  Helen’s (Maura Tierney) very bad day included a health crisis for Vik (Omar Metwally), her doctor boyfriend dying of untreated pancreatic cancer; an encounter with Vik’s resoundingly disapproving mother (who was visibly delighted to find out that her son’s oncologist was his preferred ex); and at long last the return of Helen and Noah’s utterly narcissistic daughter Whitney (Julia Goldani Telles), featured in the opening credits all season but little seen.  But none of that was the best part:  that was reserved for the news that Sierra (Emily Browning), Helen and VIk’s New Age actress next-door neighbor, who’d slept (separately) with both of them, had managed in her one-night stand with Vik to get pregnant, fulfilling the one wish he’d hoped to see granted before his death.  So Mazel Tov, Vik!

The Affair is very well produced, with a cast full of fine actors, and periodically they make their characters resemble feel people with real emotions.  Certainly the season’s penultimate episode, a 2-character showcase for Wilson and Rodriguez (written by Treem and directed by celebrated theater director Sam Gold) about Alison’s last night on earth, was an impressive piece of work.  But much of the season seemed to be going through the motions with little point or direction.  Noah’s affair with Anton’s mother was a retread of his campus romance in Season 3, Louisa seemed to be driving Cole away for the hell of it, Vik’s death wish came out of nowhere, and the episodes that sent Cole and Helen on very Californian spiritual journeys seemed hardly to be related to the series at all.

In short, there’s no reason to mourn the upcoming end of The Affair, particularly since Wilson won’t be participating.  It was a series that probably should have ended when its titular relationship and original murder mystery were resolved in Season 2.  Perhaps the knowledge that next season will be the last will spur one last burst of narrative inspiration, but everyone, including the cast, will benefit from moving on to their next ports of call.  This Affair has lost its passion.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."