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Monday, January 30, 2023

‘The Affair’ digs deeper into overdone concept

An affair is a universal concept; a taboo that has been frowned upon in a society that stresses monogamy. Known to wreak havoc and stain reputations, it’s the big no-no to anyone in a committed relationship. A quick fling could quickly and mercilessly ruin everything you once took for granted. It stems from passion and almost always ends in tragedy, yet it is constantly happening all around us. Why jeopardize all that you have? Why betray the ones you love? Why betray yourself? These questions are explored to the fullest in Showtime’s “The Affair.”

It is common knowledge that affairs are easily exploited and overdone in primetime television. You are probably wondering what makes this show worth seeing? The answer is in the details. “The Affair”brings something new to the conversation by exploring multiple sides of the same story. This unique approach was rewarded with a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama along with Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for Ruth Wilson. The narrative in the first season centers on Noah (Dominic West) and Alison (Ruth Wilson), two adults in committed relationships that risk it all to be with each other. The episodes were split between Noah and Alison’s differing perspectives reflecting the same order of events. The variations between the two narratives magnify details that expose a surprising amount of insight into relationships. The “he said, she said” accounts give interesting divergences to each tale. These differences can be as minute as the tightness of a little black dress to the wallpaper of a hotel room. The team behind the show even had a therapist specializing in affairs as a consultant, proving that each deviating detail is deliberate and has thought behind it. The characters are so likeable one moment and unlikeable the next and the differing perspectives only emphasize and explore this change. The show does not make it easy to pinpoint a protagonist and antagonist, making you question your own values and perspectives as a viewer.

Season one felt surreal, dealing with the initial excitement and passion of the beginning of an extramarital affair. This new season ditches the picturesque sleepy town of Montauk, migrating to the chaotic New York City where the show shifts to study the ugly repercussions of divorce. Coming from a divorced household, I recognized this episode as a convincing depiction of how many separations can be. Divorce can bring out the worst in everyone, different colors of a person come out that you didn’t know existed. It is survival mode when your whole world shifts on its axis and everything you took for granted as a permanent and safe fixture in your life is instantly gone. This episode recognized that divorce is difficult for everyone involved. The writers took a new narrative direction this season by adding the perspectives of the (now) ex-husband and wife, the carnage of the affair. This format adds to the already present flash-forward dealing with an unknown killing involving the characters. These glimpses of the future come as more confirmation that a devastating ending is almost inevitable.

“The Affair”is a series that, on the surface, appears to offer a simple, familiar and overdone concept, but looking deeper, is an exploratory study of love. It treats love not as a saving grace but as a violent, destructive force that can tear everything apart in an instant. Watching the series is similar to viewing a train wreck in slow-motion; you know what will most likely happen but you cannot look away. As hinted by a dark cloud ominously looming ahead in the final scenes from this episode, a storm is coming, and you won’t want to miss a catastrophic second.

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