November 20, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Affair”


THE AFFAIR:  Sunday 10PM on Showtime

The second season of THE AFFAIR took some risks, and they largely paid off.  (Dramatically, if not in the ratings.)  The series widened its universe beyond the viewpoints of illicit lovers Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and Allison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson) to include their respective exes Helen (Maura Tierney) and Cole (Joshua Jackson).  It also resolved what had been its central mystery, revealing that Helen had been behind the wheel for the hit-and-run killing for which Noah was being investigated, although he ended up taking a plea bargain for the crime anyway.  All this improved the show, but made for some uncertainty about where Season 3 was going to go.

There are only partial answers in tonight’s season premiere, written by series co-creator Sarah Treem and directed by Jeffrey Reiner.  Unusually, the hour keeps us entirely with Noah, with Helen making a supporting appearance, but Alison only an answering machine voice and Cole nowhere to be seen at all.  There has been a 3 year time jump since the events of Season 2, and we pick up with Noah out of jail at his father’s funeral, attempting to make his way in a new life as an ex-con, unhappily back to teaching, and trying to maneuver boundaries of political correctness with his female students, although on the bright side, he’s also pursued by literature professor Juliette (Irene Jacob).

Noah has never been The Affair‘s most engaging character, despite West’s attempts to probe the complications behind his frequent narcissism and insensitivity, and spending the full episode with him makes the hour feel particularly long.  It doesn’t help that the campus setting is familiar, even for Showtime (Californication spent a whole season with Hank Moody teaching and seducing in equal measures), and that even the very fine young actress Sarah Ramos (from Parenthood) can’t breathe much life into the role of Noah’s most sullen student.  Juliette’s instant attraction to Noah also feels like a contrivance.  A last-minute act of violence follows fragmented flashbacks to Something Bad that happened to Noah in prison, apparently involving one of the guards, and that’s meant to set the stage for a new series mystery, but at this point it’s not a particularly involving one.

With all the other major characters yet to reach the spotlight, The Affair may well improve as its season continues, and even the sub-par premiere is beautifully acted and has some precisely calibrated moments.  But Showtime’s track record at sustaining its long-running dramas (Homeland, Masters of Sex) is spotty, with Shameless as the exception rather than the rule.  It’s hard not to feel a little worry as The Affair‘s first Season 3 steps seem to falter.


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."