The Affair, season 1 episode 3 - review: It shouldn't be so hard to like Noah and Alison

I just wish I could root for the two married people indulging in a destructive affair. Is that too much to ask for?

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The Independent Culture

It’s awfully clever this, eh? It’s like Harold Pinter watching Run Lola Run with Ruth Rendell, while on holiday in the Hamptons. However, now that Sky Atlantic’s latest diamond encrusted US drama The Affair is a full three episodes old, I’m longing for a bit of heart to go alongside the brains.

While it’s satisfying to watch Noah (the United Kingdom’s Dominic West) and Alison (the United Kingdom’s Ruth Wilson – take that Uncle Sam!) spin the narrative this way and that – in his version she’s a short skirt wearing temptress, in hers’ she’s a dowdy waitress pursued by a bored husband – I find I can’t warm to either of them.

We now know that the (former?) lovers are embroiled in a murder investigation and we were given a big suggestion as to whodunit and, more importantly, whowasit. Having the two tell such dramatically different stories, where the other is painted in an unflattering light, is certainly good meaty stuff but it robs us of the chance to root for the couple. I’ll admit it, what I really wanted from The Affair was to watch two people fall inextricably in love and engage in a slow, torturous, wonderful, disastrous affair.

But this is a minor gripe because what we do have is something very good indeed. Montauk and its people were very much centre stage this week, as families feuded over planning permissions and the changing face of the town. Alison’s husband (brave grieving father if you believe her, jealous brute if you believe Noah) argued for preservation over progress. Dawson’s Creek alumni (and haven’t they all done well? Apart from Dawson, obviously) Joshua Jackson is doing a lovely job as the swollen-cheeked, tinderbox Cole who wants nothing to ever change. At the moment, he may or may not be dead/a killer.


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Dominic West as Noah Solloway and Ruth Wilson as Alison Bailey in The Affair

However, away from the excitements of town planning and murder in cold blood, I was most interested in how Noah’s, as yet unwritten, second novel is going to shape the events of the series. Like many arrogant, affair-having male novelists before him Noah is obviously going to write the novel about his affair. Seeing as it’s currently in its infancy, it will be fascinating to see how much the affair inspires the novel and vice versa. Of course, we were tossed a juicy helping of fresh meat when Noah told his new agent that the novel ends when ‘He kills her. I don’t know how. Or why.’ Indeed you don’t, Noah. Hmm.

This feels like it really wants to be Proper Grown Up TV (you can tell that by all the shagging) and the early signs are that this is a series that could have serious mileage (kudos too for the great score, especially Fiona Apple’s theme song). I just wish I could root for the two married people indulging in a destructive affair. Is that too much to ask for?