The Affair – review (Spoilers)

An affair isn’t just an affair according to the show affair. I’ve weirdly enjoyed this dark romantic tv series with Dominic West (Noah) and Ruth Wilson (Alison) as the central characters, juggling infidelity with self identity crisis’s . West’s character is married with four kids and meets Wilsons character on a family holiday break. Wilson’s character struggles with self doubt and tragedy. He’s a writer, she’s a waitress and they fell in love. What I like about it, is the all encompassing approach to infidelity and how we respond to it. The society we live in today shapes the way we’re supposed to behave, especially when it comes to sex and relationships, but one of the things we’ve found important in our search for love is the establishment of trust between two people. When this trust is broken, the fragility of the human condition is truly exposed. I know there  are various views to relationships with asexuality, sapiosexuality and  polyamory becoming increasingly popular with the current generations, but a certain level of trust is always paramount to any relationship.  The affair shows us the traditional approach to love being sabotaged by the traditional way to cheat, but as the show unravels the true motives that drive the behaviour are explored with brutal honesty.

Why did they cheat? Sexual attraction played a part. Excitement for something new. Travelling to new places. Boredom. It seemed like the drive for Noah to cheat was purely surface. The show started off with the ‘men think with their dicks’ narrative and that was the narrative the viewer was sold until later on in the show where the deep dark crevices of the soul were purged to uncover the true reason why he acted out in self destruction. This shocked me, as the character arcs for Noah and Alison were slow reveals taking you one turn and then going completely left. Alison is just as culpable as Noah in their affair narrative, and for me her character makes the viewer feel sympathy as well as disgust, as you see her deal with the consequences of her actions. The consequences for everyone were catastrophic in the affair, and even though the characters make horrendous choices which we see them try and work their way out of, the friends, family and random people they come across during their journey are also dragged down into the mud with them.

That’s how real life is. People are naturally very selfish, and one of the things about learning to deal with your problems yourself and growing as a person is that it takes the pressure off the people who surround you. Self sufficiency is not just important for achieving goals and becoming a more capable person but once you have mastered relying on yourself, it is intrinsically altruistic. In the affair however, we get to peer through the warped lens’s of individuals who submerge themselves with selfishness. The director has tried to depict and explore selfish nature at its core, and as we go on the perilous journeys with the main characters the increasingly grey band of morality shows its familiar face. The characters fuck up, but does that make them bad people right? The story develops in a way where seemingly selfish people, malevolent individuals, are forced to face their own demons through the reckless behaviour and poor choices, and this resonates with the viewer.

The writers gave the main characters inherent flaws. Parts of their personality that were wretched to the bone, but then layered those skeletons with the day to day. Wife, work, kids, partying, drink, drugs, reading, riding, sports etc. Life basically, but the soul still has to bear the weight of the true nature of oneself, and that can be too much to deal with. The subconscious has to live with the truth day in, day out, and uses the debauchery as a way to tunnel out, but it’s no bullet train. Its Andy Dufresne’s slow crawl through the belly of the beast, painful, messy and exhausting. The path is difficult yet restorative, and we can see the characters get glimpses of light and then get thrown back into the mess of their own minds time and time again. The characters constant strive for redemption and acceptance, shot down,  makes us feel empathy for people we shouldn’t really empathise with.

Exploring the world of love, lust and relationships is fun and well executed in this show which I highly recommend. The acting is high level, the script is well executed and the production is dazzling. Infidelity is a touchy subject because we all have either cheated, been cheated on or at least thought about cheating and the effects can be devastating. The idea that the person you love, who loves you too, can flirt, love or fuck somebody else, whilst with you is sickening, but happens. The affair connects with the viewer on a dark level, but the realism keeps you hooked. With so many washed out series concepts out there, it’s nice to have a new perspective on a part of human nature which we find so interesting at best. The shows which sometimes make you squirm but still watch are shows that worth your time investing in. The affair is three seasons in, and I hope they will make a fourth.

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