Reviews, TV

Get acquainted with ‘The Affair’

Dominic West as Noah and Ruth Wilson as Alison in The Affair (Keyart). - Photo: Steven Lippman/SHOWTIME
Dominic West as Noah and Ruth Wilson as Alison in The Affair.

It feels like there just isn’t enough sex shown on TV nowadays, right? Of course, I say this in jest before I fill you in about titillating new drama The Affair, which debuts tonight on Sky Atlantic. And there’s a few good reasons why everyone is talking about this intriguing Golden Globe winning show aside from the abundance of sultry sex scenes and its immaculate casting of Dominic West (famed for his role in The Wire), Ruth Wilson (known for playing Jane Eyre and Alice Wilson in Luther) and Joshua Jackson (Pacey in Dawson’s Creek, don’t ever forget!).

Labelled widely as the classic ‘he said-she said’ tale, The Affair tells the story of unfulfilled husband and struggling author Noah Solloway, alongside the grief-stricken Alison Lockhart, who meet one another when Noah and his family arrive in the Hamptons for a holiday at his wealthy father-in-law’s estate. Unable to distance themselves, Noah and Alison embark on a sensuous and intense love affair, becoming dangerously entangled in one another’s complex lives. As they fall further in love with each other, the show reveals the hidden secrets of what appears to be a perfectly serene small town and two very different families and lifestyles, exposing once more that appearances can be ever so deceptive.

What is striking about the show is that the hour long episodes are split and told through the perspective of Noah and Alison, which at first appears immensely confusing but as the show progresses, hints quite strongly at the show’s aims. Through flashbacks we are told about the affair and what occurs outside of it, while in the present, Noah and Alison answer the questions of Detective Jeffries, who is inquiring into a murder investigation (we don’t find out till much later who has died, and why Noah and Alison are linked to it). The show’s writers have claimed they wish to tackle subjective reality, and The Affair does indeed show how our memories of the same event can frighteningly differ from those who also experience them.

Of course, for the progression of the plot, the different ways in which Noah and Alison view their affair and the devastation that is caused by it is equally misleading and doesn’t match up, and with an on-going murder investigation, the show does not provide answers as to who we should believe and why. Through changes in costume and dialogue, discrepancies in memory and the alternative narrative of two closely intertwined lives, we are forced to question everyone and everything we are witnessing through the lens of Noah and Alison. It does all get very Broadchurch-y, in that there is a cliffhanger at the end of every episode and various characters all hiding secrets – some are hinted at and just as quickly glossed over, and some things are so glaringly obvious that you still miss them.

The Affair is dark, complicated and erotically charged in all the right ways. It is far from being simplistic in its goals and focusing merely on a summer romance between two characters. Instead, it intricately envelopes the characters surrounding Noah and Alison’s illicit relationship into the main and often misleading narrative to great effect. Catch it tonight on Sky Atlantic at 9pm.

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