Wait, so this was the big season finale?
Color me confused – by the decision to end the season like this, but also because I can’t really hate on this episode since I honestly thought it was good – just not season finale material. However, the initial disappointment of having the major story of the season merely glossed over (and basically skipped entirely in favor of a short time jump) quickly dissipated, because the Noah/Juliette/Whitney plot line was really well done.
[I have to admit I’m a bit biased, because anything Alzheimer’s-related tugs on my heartstrings every time. Having lost my amazing grandma to the disease after a decade-long battle, the thought of anyone having to go through this kind of prolonged suffering is enough to make me bawl like a baby. So excuse me while I get on with it, or I’ll never finish this post.]
I guess we’re supposed to assume that Noah’s painkiller addiction, severe hallucinations and everything else plaguing him since his release was quickly cured by way of some french TLC, which is just plain ludicrous. If Alison had to spend six months in a mental institution because she feared she might be responsible for hurting her daughter, then how long would Noah be required to stay after ACTUALLY hurting himself? Is drug addiction something people just get over? If all the A.A./N.A./12-step programs movies keep shoving down our throats have taught us anything, then I’d guess not – or, at the very least, it would take more than Noah’s questionable willpower and Juliette’s non-existent expertise on the subject.
Unless mental issues can be cured with the help of a french academic specializing in medieval literature, I just don’t buy it, and it’s a cheap cop-out, especially given how much weight this entire storyline has been given since day one. To recap: we sat through 9 whole episodes this season, watching a sadistic prison guard torture Noah, both physically and psychologically, only to find out that he was actually a pretty non-violent father to an autistic child, and every single instance of stalking since Noah got out of prison was entirely in his head, culminating in the big reveal last week, that Noah actually stabbed himself in the neck.
I could get on board with what the writers seemed to be going for with this season’s story arc. Noah finally had to face his demons and personifying them seemed to work for the plot – as well as visually, for the sake of the audience. However, it does create certain plot holes that are hard to get past, notably the incompetence of a police department that presumably scoured the place for evidence but couldn’t figure out his neck wound was self-inflicted. I’m no expert on forensics, but I’ve watched enough crime shows/movies and read enough books to know that figuring out that the angle of the blow was wonky shouldn’t be too hard.
Anyway. The way this finale played out, it’s as though we’re supposed to accept that the Alison/Cole storyline, just as Noah’s arc (ha!) has somewhat come full circle and is mostly resolved for now. However, certain things are either open-ended for further exploration, or left up to the imagination.
For starters, how exactly did Noah’s relationship with Juliette progress to the point where they’re taking overseas trips together? Last time they were together, she’d just killed the mood by discussing her marriage and Noah was still battling his demons. Over the course of a couple of months, it seems like the two got much closer, and it’s easy to draw parallels to Noah’s affair with Alison: just like before, a person in an unhappy marriage is attracted to the vulnerable and broken and tries to fix them. Unlike Noah’s approach to a grieving Alison, Juliette seems to be much more successful in helping Noah with his issues. Although we only got snippets of the underlying causes of Noah’s malcontent in his marriage to Helen over the years, this week we take a much deeper look into Juliette’s marriage to Etienne: a much older, brilliant professor, who dismissed monogamy as a “bourgeois conspiracy” and barely paid attention to his young wife, and a vibrant young woman who had to grin and bear it until she had to deal with an ailing husband who was barely coherent any more.
Although I had my objections about Noah and Juliette when this subplot was first introduced, the way their affair has progresses actually works.
The irony of taking the story to Paris, the quintessential ‘romantic’ city for any love story, isn’t lost on me. Juliette tells Noah he hasn’t seen the real Paris yet; is this a metaphor for the “real” Juliette and what actually motivates her character, which he only finds out at the end of the episode? Possibly, but again, it somehow worked, and a big contributing factor was showcasing that she, just like everyone else on this show, is also a deeply flawed individual.
Which brings me to Whitney. Noah has been redeeming himself in our eyes for a while now, but his kids have been a different story. Although he did take steps towards mending fences with Martin in a previous episode, it wasn’t until his time with Whitney and this week’s final moments that re-established him as a decent father figure and restored some of the trust he had lost since his affair with Alison.
What was particularly impressive about the way Noah handled the situation with his daughter and that despicable, unfortunately named sleazebag she works for/sleeps with, was the fact that he finally showed restraint. God knows he had every reason to treat Furkat as a punching bag – after all, not only did he witness that jerk hit his daughter, he also owed him for knocking him out back in NYC. But he chose to put Whitney first and not indulge in any vengeful instincts, and that (to me) shows as much growth as Alison’s entire story arc since she returned to Montauk.
From this point on, we see a completely different father/daughter dynamic, with Whitney’s defenses gradually weakened as he tries to dispense advice while semi-explaining his own actions in his marriage and affair, gives her his take on ‘true love’, and finally decides to go back to the US with her rather than stay with his grieving girlfriend. He is rewarded with an invitation into the house, a smile and a thank you, which is a hell of a lot more than we’d normally expect from Whitney, after seeing what she thought of her father since the affair.
The season’s final scene was subtle yet telling; Martin invites him to a day out with his younger siblings, and Noah peers into his old house as Helen, reunited with Vic, gives him one of her signature obnoxious looks. I guess we all know who the biggest jerk on The Affair is now (well, Furkat, but Helen is a close second at this point).
Did we need some background information about Helen and Vic’s reconciliation? Probably, but I’d rather know how everything played out with her children since she revealed their father’s innocence. Still, the closing scene was poignant enough that these subplots can be left unexplored in view of the bigger picture.
Noah’s transition from the brink of insanity to what appears to be a healthy state of mind was too abrupt, especially considering how much weight was given to Juliette’s story rather than his own. Paris part felt a bit disjointed but, in the end, the story was powerful enough to make up for the unevenness.
A solid episode overall, I just question the decision to close the season with this.
I usually try to keep this space free of any personal stuff. However, in case this week’s post is riddled with typos or other mistakes and inconsistencies, it’s because my beloved cat, who’s been the light of my life for the past 14 years, was just diagnosed with a terminal disease and I’m faced with the impossible decision of letting go, because I refuse to prolong her suffering. So yeah, if this post is a mess, it’s because I’m a much bigger one right now.