Well, we finally got the finale we were waiting for, and this one came with a couple of unexpected twists.
For one thing, we finally got to see how Scotty’s hit-and-run went down. I must admit I was leaning towards Alison as the culprit lately, and in a sense I guess I was right. What I didn’t expect Helen’s involvement, nor did I ever believe that out of the three of them, Noah would be the least culpable.
For another, it seems that, at the last minute, Noah managed to redeem himself. Is he still a self-absorbed entitled jerk in the midst of a mid-life crisis? Probably so; he would have an incredibly hard time shedding that image – carefully built over the show’s two seasons with layer upon layer of obnoxious and selfish behavior – in just one episode, but in the end he pulls it off.
Let’s take it from the top: after a refreshing dose of variety in choosing whose perspective we would be privy to this season, we’re back to the familiar format of Alison and Noah’s memories. Unsurprisingly, the recent ‘trend’ of showing us their vastly different account of events continues in this finale. In this episode’s case, it is both enlightening and confusing.
In terms of giving us both sides of the story regarding the circumstances of Scotty’s death, the device works brilliantly in giving us every bit of information we’ve been waiting for to piece it all together: we not only get to see how it all went down and how Noah handled the situation afterwards, but also why Scotty was in the middle of a dark country road in the first place.
When it comes to Alison’s big reveal about Joanie’s paternity, however… well, that’s different story. What’s puzzling is that, much like the diverging account of events we saw a couple of episodes ago, Noah comes off as a much bigger jerk in his own memories than he does Alison’s. Similarly, Alison comes off as very cold and unapologetic in her own memories, whereas in Noah’s she’s a remorseful and utter wreck and someone we could definitely empathize with when she finally admits that Joanie isn’t his.
On top of that, the time and place of the confession is completely different in each of the two segments.
Noah remembers the incident as a heartfelt, regretful revelation that’s triggered by watching her ex husband getting married. It would be hard for anyone not to feel overwhelmed in such an awkward situation: her ex husband/current business partner is getting married; her lover’s ex-mother-in-law is paying for the wedding; her ex’s entire family is naturally in attendance, as is Noah’s ex wife. And she has this huge secret on top of everything, which she’s been keeping for well over two years now. Noah’s interpretation of what led her to tell the truth was perfectly reasonable: she fled the ceremony to collect herself, and when Noah sought her out and tried to comfort her, she just couldn’t keep the truth inside any longer.
His own train of thought was also on par with his character; his “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I never want to see you again” line was gold, as was his righteous indignation at the fact that she cheated on him, whereas he never cheated on her (not exactly accurate, but I can see why, not going through with it the night he almost hooked up with Eden would not count as cheating in his mind). I can’t say I blame the guy for being indignant, really; especially after finally admitting – to Helen – that he never really wanted a kid in the first place: he’d done the father thing, and Alison just sprung another one on him, possibly as a way to lock it in. Instead of living the dream, the honeymoon period was over before it even started. He got stuck with taking care of someone else’s baby while Alison was “commuting” from Montauk and doing her thing at the Lobster Roll.
In Alison’s memories, the revelation was nowhere near as dramatic, and neither was Noah’s reaction. It was also not a case of a guilty conscience, but an effort to take control of the situation before Scottie made good on his threat to expose her. Her whispered confession and Noah’s hand slipping off her shoulder spoke volumes without the need of a drawn-out discussion, but I hate how detached and matter-of-fact she seemed. It made her impossible to sympathize with – as much as Noah’s memories made me feel sorry for her. She was not only more or less composed; she was also obviously feeling far more threatened and fearful than regretful.
Equally puzzling was the fact that, according to Noah’s account on that night, he was done with Alison before the wedding was over, whereas Alison’s memories include no such finality (well, no actual conversation, really).
Who killed Scotty Lockhart?
The way things turned out, however, it didn’t much matter either way; in a twist of irony, the tragic event of Scotty’s death is what brought the two closer together, much to my surprise after Noah’s initial reaction. Despite the many instances we’ve had ample reason to doubt Noah and Alison’s true feelings throughout their affair, it seems that this very connection is what ultimately keeps them together in the face of disaster. If we had doubts about how real their love was from the beginning, we don’t any more – at least not on Noah’s part. Cheating and Joanie’s paternity aside, it looks like they’re in it for the long haul.
As far as storytelling goes, the writers did an excellent job of illuminating the sequence of events that led to Scotty’s death and the subsequent cover-up. Unlike the various gaps and discrepancies in Noah and Alison’s memories of their relationship, the two segments fill in the blanks beautifully; after an entire season of hints and red herrings, it was refreshing to finally get the whole picture in one go.
It also paints a very successful picture when it comes to assigning blame for Scotty’s death, by showing us how much (or how little) almost everyone had a hand in it:
Helen was obviously to blame for driving under the influence; hitting Scotty might have been impossible to avoid even if she were sober, but diminished reflexes definitely didn’t help, and neither did her snap decision to just keep going and convince herself she just hit a deer. (Also, even if it had been just a deer, what kind of heartless person, inebriated or not, doesn’t stop?)
Alison was also to blame for pushing him into the road. Did she have malice – or the presence of mind – to deliberately push him in front of a speeding car? Nah, but accidental or not, her role in the accident was just as significant as the person behind the wheel.
Scotty was definitely to blame for what happened; if anything, he brought this on himself. His decision to blow his is sobriety and try once again to play his ace by threatening Alison obviously was unsurprising (and it did give us a wonderful rendition of House of the Rising Sun – seriously, check out the pipes on Scotty!). But making a move on Alison and getting all rape-y? That was a new low, even for a strung out junkie who feels like the world owes him something.
And wasn’t Cole also a little blame for triggering this reaction in Scotty? He should know better than to antagonize someone who’s clearly unstable. His newly-rehabilitated brother’s anticipation of becoming actively involved in Cole and Alison’s business venture was not only the driving force behind his decision to go to rehab; it was also the one reason he had to stick with it. (And really, would it have hurt Cole and Alison so much to just appease him and maybe assign him duties at the Lobster Roll? It’s a restaurant, not a hedge fund – and the two small-town entrepreneurs-in-training are not exactly renowned for their business acumen anyway!).
Every single one of those four characters’ actions contributed in Scotty’s death – and oddly, Noah was the one who was the least involved in it.
[As a side note, the sequence of events was very reminiscent of Fargo: like the brilliant mini-series, what we have here is an accident that could have been avoided, and a situation that becomes more and more impossible to handle with every (bad) decision the characters make.]
What was also interesting was how similar Alison and Helen’s first instincts were: Alison pushed Scotty, saw him get run down before her eyes, froze, and then fled. Helen realized she hit someone, obviously knew it wasn’t a deer, and practically begged Noah to flee the scene. And surprisingly, the resident douchebag was the only one not at fault, the only one who did the right thing and stopped to see what happened, the one who desperately wept in Alison’s arms when he returned to the Lobster Roll, and the one who ended up being under suspicion of murder (and vicious public scrutiny) this entire time. Who’d a thunk it?
This final episode of Season 2 was successful not only in providing answers, but also in giving us plenty of significant moments between the main characters.
Despite whatever feelings Alison still has for Cole, she chose to let him go; her encouraging words to him when he was having cold feet about the wedding was a very touching goodbye.
Noah and Helen had their own moment on the beach; it’s been evident before that, as much as Noah may withhold from Alison, he has no problem opening up to Helen. This rare moment of tenderness was a lovely glimpse into what those two might still have between them. Who knows what that hand-holding in the car might have led to if they hadn’t been so tragically interrupted by Scotty being pushed into the road?
Noah & the ladies
And in the here and now, Noah has a difficult decision to make: the two women in his life are responsible for a man’s death, and he’s being blamed for it. One is the mother of his children, the other is the woman he almost left for being the mother of someone else’s.
The fact that he’s taking the fall for Helen would have been predictable even if we hadn’t known, via flash-forwards, that he has stuck to his story since he was first arrested; what was surprising, was that he was handed a perfectly plausible line of defense by his lawyer, and yet he now decides to take the fall for Alison, too. When Alison tells him he has to choose, seconds before walking back into the court room, she is asking him to choose between her and Helen. Instead, Noah chooses between himself and the women he loves.
Did he redeem himself for all the dickishness of the past two seasons? If you ask me, the answer would be a (reluctant) yes. He may have consistently been a complete jerk to everyone around him, but at the end of the day, he stepped up when it mattered most. Even in the weeks leading up to the wedding, he was being very un-Noah-like: he gave Alison the time and space she needed to work on her business; he took care of “their” baby; he didn’t just up and go to France to research his book, but included her in his tentative plans. And now, not only did he protect his ex wife and mother of his kids, not only did he stick with Alison despite the cheating and the lies, but he’s also willing to face a prison sentence in order to keep them both safe.
On the other hand, we have two women who are pretty much equally responsible for the death of another human being, taking zero responsibility for their actions and perfectly content with watching the man they supposedly love being dragged through a murder trial to cover their asses.
This might explain their demeanor in hindsight – such as Helen’s breakdown a few episodes back or Alison’s inability to concentrate on the MCATs. Then again, there were plenty of ‘superficial’ reasons or character traits to explain their conduct. There was also no inkling of remorse when it all happened to suggest that there might be more to Helen’s drunken hair-salon disaster and little fender-bender (except maybe Noah’s reaction to her getting behind the wheel whilst drunk again) or to Alison’s flakiness, other than what we’ve come to know and expect of them in the first place.
If you asked me three weeks ago who the biggest jerk on TV is, I would have said Noah, hands down (at least until the new Walking Dead villain shows up in the second half of the season). Last week, I was on the fence; Noah might be a dick, but I basically can’t stand Alison any more.
This week’s finale didn’t offer much new insight into Alison’s state of mind, but it did reveal more about Helen. The snippets of the future we saw in the flash-forwards were obviously supposed to give us the impression that Helen was the ex wife who selflessly stands by the guy who ditched her and secures for him the best legal defense money could buy. By now, it’s as easy to to perceive her as a loving partner providing support for the father of her children, as it is to just cynically assign her the role of a guilty woman’s attempt to absolve herself of the responsibility of a drunken hit-and-run.
Then again, at least Noah has a lot to make up for when it comes to Helen. Covering for her could be less about showing nobility and altruism and more about atoning for his past sins.
But does he really have all that much to make up for in Alison’s case? If anything, he and Alison were even when she cheated on him, and her continuing lie about who the baby’s father is has definitely tipped the scale in his favor as far as I’m concerned. Yet she’s the one who asks him to take the fall for her seconds before a material witness is called to the stand. And in the end, she’s the one he potentially sacrifices his freedom for.
So yep, I stand by my take on each character’s jerk-factor from last week: we have a new front runner, and her name is Alison.
Apologies for how jumbled most of the sentences in this post are; I’m tired and sleepy and have been sitting at the computer far too long today. I’ll probably edit the crap out of it when I’m less sleep-deprived.
*Edit: Not sure it’s less jumbled now, but it makes sense to me…