June 17, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Affair”


THE AFFAIR:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

It’s a bit surprising to be talking about a 4th season of Showtime’s THE AFFAIR at all, and not just because the ratings have always been mild, and the series has never attained the buzz or awards attention that prestige TV aspires to.  The Affair seemed to reach a fairly natural ending by the end of Season 2, as its titular relationship between Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson) cooled down to a troubled marriage, and the murder mystery that bound the story together was solved.  Season 3, which took place a time-jump later, seemed formless (truly, what was going on with Noah’s French lover?) and desperate (worse yet, Noah’s stalker).  The writers even seemed to tire of the show’s signature gimmick, fragmented points of view presented side by side that were contrasting and sometimes directly contradictory to one another.

Nevertheless, Season 4 is here, and the premiere hour, written by Co-Executive Producer Sharr White and directed by Mike Figgis (once upon a time, the filmmaker behind Leaving Las Vegas), is less baroque than last year’s saga, although also more banal.  As was often the case after The Affair expanded its viewpoint characters beyond Noah and Alison, only some of the regulars made appearances.  After a brief flash-forward prologue (someone is missing!), the action took place in Los Angeles, where Noah’s ex-wife Helen (Maura Tierney) and her new husband Vic (Omar Metwally) have moved, and Noah has followed to be with his younger children.  In Noah’s narrative, Helen is bitchy and manipulative, cutting him off from his kids (she tells them Noah’s new house is where Charles Manson used to live); in Helen’s, Noah is boorish and Helen herself is deeply insecure (she repeatedly imagines earthquakes), coping with Vic’s monstrous, previously unseen mother, and with feelings about her son’s apparent homosexuality that she knows are politically and psychologically incorrect.

As is always the case on The Affair, the performances were full-bodied, especially tricky because the main actors have to play alternate versions of their characters.  Individual scenes can be intelligent and nuanced.  (A lengthy session between Helen and her very LA therapist was a reminder that series co-creator Sarah Treem was also a writer/producer of In Treatment.)  But stories about divorced parents who don’t get along and their growing children are familiar, with little of the insight here of a series like Better Things, and by now Noah and Helen have been exposed so often for their narcissism and emotional carelessness that there’s little meat left on those bones.  The final beat of the episode implied a plot turn that could be interesting, and one assumes Emily Browning wasn’t cast as Helen’s neighbor merely for the brief turn she had in this episode, so things may park up as the season goes on.  And, of course, we have no idea what’s going on on the other end of the country where Alison and her ex Cole (Joshua Jackson) are.  The season’s introduction, however, didn’t feel one with confidence that The Affair still has sufficient reason to exist.

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."