Three episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
The Affair‘s near-flawless navigation through a seismic, necessary genre shift – one that outstandingly reshaped this initial romantic drama into a crime thriller of sorts at the onset of season 2 – unequivocally jumpstarted the show’s faint pulse following the conclusion of its first, inimitable season. The most notable alteration was its expansion from an exclusively dual POV narrative in season 1 to the inclusion of an additional, important pair of character perspectives in its second season. These appendages unlocked a sea of possibilities for The Affair, most important of which was a range that extended beyond the confines of its embryonic storyline. Now, a season on from the preliminary tinkering, The Affair has once again modified for the better.
What once felt like a modern re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet (complete with feuding families), in season 1, has dissipated. The similarities between Shakespeare’s tragedy and creators Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi’s sexual opus progressively receded as the second season came to a close, culminating in the death of our protagonists’ once uncontaminated, impenetrable love. Subsequently, the show laid forth new, exciting paths for our central quartet – not so much for their benefit, but for the viewers. Season 3 forces our mainstays to tread where their choices have led them, making The Affair just as addictive as ever.
Episode 1 places us alongside Noah Solloway (Dominic West) a couple of years down the road. He now sports an unkempt, yet utterly gorgeous beard highlighted with grey and white. The events of Montauk last season have certainly taken their toll on Solloway, who’s seemingly aged a lifetime since the courtroom proceedings. We’re definitely dealing with a changed man, not the optimistic Noah Solloway from season 1, nor the driven, courageous, accountable man from season 2.
Fresh out of prison for a crime he didn’t technically commit, Noah finds himself in New Jersey, teaching a group of overly-sensitive millennials, trying to piece his life back together. He becomes romantically entangled with a fellow professor; a French, medieval literature expert named Juliette (Irène Jacob) almost immediately. But Noah’s freedom isn’t all sleeping with French women and ripping young, aspiring writers to shreds, judging by the violent end of episode 1. Noah is being stalked by a prison guard named Gunther, played by Brendan Fraser, who has ties to Noah’s past in the slammer. What The Affair is withholding from viewers this season might end up costing Mr. Solloway his life.
In episode 2, we’re re-introduced to Helen (Maura Tierney), whose relationship with Dr. Vic Ullah has progressed to a point where the two are now close enough to be visiting Noah and Helen’s daughter Whitney (Julia Goldani Telles) together. Whitney has since moved in with a much older, albeit less wiser and frankly idiotic lover. Helen is still feeling responsible for her ex-husband – and really who can blame her, considering he took the fall for a murder she partially committed? One can’t shake the feeling that Helen still has hopes for a reunion with her former lover.
Eventually we return to Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson); to say she’s had a rough couple of years since the trial would be quite the understatement. Surprisingly without Joanie by her side, Alison finds herself locked in a battle with her ex-husband and Joanie’s father, Cole (Joshua Jackson), and his wife Luisa for the right to see her daughter. She’s still haunted by the death of Gabriel and not fully absolved of what happened between herself, Noah, Cole, and Helen, and it seems that Alison may need to exorcise her own demons further in order to return to any sentiment of normalcy.
Toward the end of season 2, The Affair hit its highest point, posing some serious existential queries. The show – a descent into the qualifications of what makes a good man, and what makes a great man. – succeeded by simultaneously serving as an excavation of what society holds to be taboo and what it considers to be decent. Is there admirability in reverie, or complacency? Is there damnation in disrespecting virtue, or greatness in the boldness of such a rejection? Unfortunately, it looks as if the third season has put these large ideals on hold, in favor of further disrupting and dissecting its already decimated protagonists.
The Affair continues to peel back the layers of its centerpieces, revealing no shortage of captivating secrets, humanistic tendencies, and shocking scandals. The show certainly lost its selective intimacy by expanding the narrative, but it gained a future by doing so, an end that definitely justified the means. Fueled by a bevy of strong central performances led by the always impeccable Dominic West, consistently clever writing, and Marcelo Zarvos’ deft musical accompaniment, The Affair continues to defy expectations with a fervent third outing.
After flirting with scandalous soap opera in season 2, The Affair has returned to a more tempered, more focused narrative in season 3 - and the show is all the better for it.