So let’s recap: Helen is not just an asshole, she’s a freaking imbecile. Even her idiot daughter, still dating her obnoxious sugar-daddy of a boss, has more sense that Helen, and that’s really saying something (although I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree).
That’s not to say that Noah isn’t an idiot himself at this point: not only is he actively looking for trouble, trying to track down Gunther, but he’s neck-deep in his Vicodin addiction and can’t tell where reality ends and his hallucinations begin.
Of course there are extenuating circumstances that partially excuse both their behaviors at this point; after all, Noah only got hooked on pain meds as a result of being abused repeatedly by his psychopath prison guard, who shattered his shoulder. And Helen… well, Helen is obviously, hopelessly still in love with her ex husband, which is idiotic in an of itself if you ask me.
Despite my initial dislike of Noah and his selfish, cheating, irresponsible ways, his prison stint has redeemed him enough to make me feel sorry for the poor bastard. Helen, on the other hand, hasn’t really earned my sympathy since we first met her as the scorned wife. Had she taken responsibility for the crime Noah was eventually imprisoned for, or made any effort to mend the fences between her ex and their children, I would actually feel sorry for her. Hell, before the latest “revelations” about the beginning of their relationship, I would have gladly pinned everything solely on Noah’s mid-life crisis and wandering eye. However, as we see in the last few episodes, the blame doesn’t lie solely with him.
I could concede that it’s quite easy to be blinded by your emotions, even to the extent where you don’t realize you’re being used; I could even argue that Helen’s refusal to quit on her failed marriage, even after all these years, was nothing more than the childish reaction of a spoiled rich girl who’s used to having everything she wants. But this is obviously not the case here.
Helen is old enough to know better. Enough time has passed since the affair, the divorce, Noah’s marriage to Alison and his stint in prison, to give her perspective on the situation. Nothing about his attitude towards her, up until last week’s episode, had given her reason to keep hoping for a reunion. In fact, he was downright hostile to her on several occasions – his resentment obviously growing since his hardships at the hands of Gunther, for which she was indirectly responsible for.
So what does she do? She runs to his aid every time, unable to resist the urge to take care of him. That would have been admirable, if not for the fact that her undeniable feelings for him cross the line into stupidity: she cheats on her partner, who has been nothing but sweet to her and her children; she enables his drug habit instead of getting him the help he clearly needs, ignoring her boyfriend’s advice and professional opinion; she hides him in her basement and lies to her family; she “forgives” him for everything – which seems so hypocritical considering that his current situation is pretty much a direct consequence of his questionable decision to try and make amends by covering for her; and finally, she takes advantage of his weak, drug-fueled state and throws herself at him, in much the same way she did with Max in the previous episode. She’s reckless, utterly annoying and self-destructive, and her misguided loyalty to Noah would be pitiful if it weren’t so damn infuriating.
The show is taking great pains to convince us that Helen suddenly went from a semi-sympathetic figure to a downright loathsome character in basically no time at all, while also forcing Noah’s human and vulnerable side down our throats. It’s lazy writing but it’s somewhat effective, because she’s easy to hate, just like he was for the majority of two seasons.
Whether the tables will be turned again by the end of this season remains to be seen. I’m actually more curious about how the Gunther “mystery” will be resolved; is everything we’ve been seeing through flashbacks just another version of the show’s split perspective device, presented from Noah’s skewed point of view? Or are his memories accurate enough, but skewing, along with his drug habit, his perception of the present? That would be my guess, but it still doesn’t solve the mystery of the stabbing. As much as we can explain away the stalking incidents, the car crash or his dive in the lake, his close call was very real, the neck wound still not healed.
I really hope the show doesn’t go for the cheap reveal that maybe Noah did it to himself – but after turning Helen into villain, I wouldn’t put it past them. Given how everything (and every major character) tied into the previous big mystery of Scotty’s death, I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow the Lockhart family was involved in the attack, and Gunther was nothing but a red herring (it would be disappointing, however, especially since the show goes out of its way to get us invested in Gunther’s character).
With 3 more episodes to go before this underwhelming season comes to a close, I’m not exactly excited to see what’s next, but I do hope they turn it around and end Season 3 with a bang.
- Aside from the obvious choice of Helen, let’s not discount Whitney’s awful boyfriend as a contender for the ‘biggest jerk’ award. Sure, he’s a peripheral character with no real bearing to the actual story, but his obnoxiously egomaniac personality packs a much bigger punch than his small onscreen presence would account for.
- Obviously Vic isn’t the bad guy in his and Helen’s relationship, but isn’t he being kind of a dick here? Not by leaving – that’s the choice any sane, healthy person would go for under the circumstances – but in the events leading up to the breakup: after all, he’s not the one who’s suffered any injustice at the hands of Noah. If Helen is so willing to forgive her ex husband (and granted, he’s in the dark about the significant sacrifice Noah has made to that end), is it really his place to be so hostile and judgmental? It’s definitely not his place to dictate what she can and cannot do in her own home, stupid though her decisions may be.
- As much as I almost love to hate Helen, as enjoyable as it might be for some viewers to see Noah pay for his past mistakes by completely unraveling, I’m frustrated by how much Alison, Cole and Luisa, who are far more interesting than Helen ever was, are relegated to peripheral characters for the majority of the season so far.
- Apparently The Affair has been renewed for a fourth season, and I’m stumped as to what’s left for it to explore after the current plotline is wrapped up (presumably) by the end of Season 3. What’s true for most shows applies to this one as well: know when to quit when you’re (kind of) ahead, studio execs!