The Affair Season 1 Episode 1 Review: The Beginning

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We know immediately that The Affair isn't just going to be a series about an affair.

Why? Because on The Affair Season 1 Episode 1 - within the first 10 minutes - we were listening to a voiceover from Noah Solloway as he answered questions from an authority figure. How did the whole mess start? What's the mess?

With the success of first the novel and now the movie, "Gone Girl," the timing of this series is interesting as it uses a similar storytelling style. For some reason, even given the obvious clue of the voiceover questioning, it never occurred to me to think about how the story was being told.

Alison Is Questioned - The Affair

There were so many clues! There wasn't one scene throughout the first half of the hour that didn't include Noah's presence. We were seeing his memories though his eyes. 

He was the type of man who believed (whether it's true or not, who knows) a young girl at the public pool came on to him. His memory of the first time he saw Alison was also tinged with doubt when he told Det. Jeffries that he remembered Alison's smile, while he imagined looking at her ass.

By my account, it seemed Noah and Helen were happily married. They were plagued by the things all marriages are plagued by: kids interrupting their sex life, the nasty father-in-law, the feelings of inadequacy (it doesn't even matter why). I like to think Helen's laughter during sex and meant she was utterly comfortable with her love for her husband. 

When the tables were suddenly turned and the day started over from Alison's perspective, I was hooked. Men and women see things so differently. It seems that differing perspectives, marriage and affairs (Gone Girl and Satisfaction) are on the radar of the entertainment industry and I couldn't be more pleased. I've always been a fan of the he said/she said of things.

It was the little details that really sold the premiere. The outfits Alison and Noah were wearing on the beach -- Noah recalled a skimpy sun dress while Alison recalled wearing jean shorts and a shirt -- how they each perceived their initial encounters so differently. Their stories were close, but different enough to wonder why.

Noah remembered seeing Alison as a sexy being, with long, wavy hair and a short skirt. A bit of a temptress who came to their rescue when their daughter started choking. Alison recalled a man with a large family, a good father, snuggling his little girl. The choking incident made her vomit.

Noah's view of his life was summed up by this statement:

Noah: I, I was a happy man back then. Proud of my family. My first book had just come out. Everything I dreamed I'd achieve as a young man, I'd done it.
Det; Jeffries: But.
Noah: That's just it. There is no but. When I look back, I can't tell you why it happened.

Being fulfilled is often a theme of affairs, and I'd guess from the onset that we're seeing a man who feels less than the man he thinks he should be. He's looking for a little reassurance. Perhaps the laughter from Helen and the interrupting kids help. He and Helen are happy, but there's something missing.

Alison's recollection of her marriage never included the indication that her husband Cole didn't love her. In fact, it was just the opposite. He loved her, made love to her, wanted her to be satisfied -- she just wanted to hold hands during one encounter and next she just wanted sexual fulfillment. She was craving something, and he was reaching out, but we didn't learn in the first hour what it was she needed. Perhaps to forget.

In Alison's version of events, not only did she recall Noah as a family man, but she was taken aback when he shared his name. Alison's deceased son was named Gabriel. In some religions, Noah was believed to be the moral man of the angel Gabriel. Alison put a lot of faith into signs (the name, tarot cards) because she lost true faith.

Alison admits to Det. Jeffries that she held Cole's recovery after their son's death against him. She couldn't move on and it angered her that Cole did, even as another part of her envied his ability to recover and continue living.

Alison: It hurts.
Cole: i know it does, babe.
Alison: Just. Make it stop!
Cole: I don't know how.

Right now we have the understanding an affair will begin, but it hasn't yet. If we ever get the views of Helen and Cole, we might be able to draw more conclusions about the reason the pair are being interrogated, but I don't expect that.

I want to know what happened. I want to see more from their different perspectives; how they recall the same events and their variations; why and how they entered into an affair as well as why they're being questioned.

Love, fidelity, marriage, fulfillment (sexually, emotionally, intellectually), family and loss are just some of the themes being studied. There is a full story on hand to be told and there are enough details laid out on the table and just as many held back to drag viewers in again. From the preview, it seems we'll continue to see Det. Jeffries get to the "truth" about the affair.  

I find myself drawn to psychological dramas, and examining relationships is particularly compelling to me. The cast is incredible and the acting in The Affair is top notch. So far there is a lot being asked of both Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. Their ability to express such range playing similar scenes was impressive. They make me wonder if it's even possible to get two people with individual slants on a relationship to agree upon the details in the end. I'm buying what they're selling.

What did you think of the premiere? Are you interested to learn more about Noah and Alison, to watch their lives intertwine and find out why? Does the exploration of their relationships seem more interesting or the mysterious reason they're being questioned? Let me know your thoughts!

1 Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Affair Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Noah: I, I was a happy man back then. Proud of my family. My first book had just come out. Everything I dreamed I'd achieve as a young man, I'd done it.
Det; Jeffries: But.
Noah: That's just it. There is no but. When I look back, I can't tell you why it happened.

Noah: When's she going to college?
Helen: Twelve years.