Mon 26 Dec 2016, 10:00
The Affair Season 3 is on DStv, but if you missed out on Seasons 1 and 2, you can stream or download them now on ShowMax.
In the two years and three seasons since its premiere, gripping drama The Affair has won three Golden Globes, made a star of leading actress Ruth Wilson and forced a lot of viewers to question their trust in their own memories... and their relationships.
One of the most striking and true-to-life elements of the show is the way we are given access to the same events from the perspectives and memories of the two people involved, leaving us to wonder whose memories we can trust, and whose point of view is closest to the truth.
And when it comes to unstable people, rocky marriages, fledgling passions and a mysterious death, this kind of uncertainty can have devastating consequences.
With Season 3 currently airing on M-Net Edge and available on DStv Catch Up, we thought you’d like a reminder of the ways The Affair portrays flawed marriages and their breakdown differently to anything we’ve ever seen on TV.
When Noah and Alison meet, they’re both reliant on their in-laws.
Noah Solloway (Dominic West) is an author in the grip of writer’s block when he, his wife, Helen (Maura Tierney), and their four children arrive on Long Island for the summer. Noah and Helen have been married for 20 years and have a marriage of equals - unless you count Helen’s father’s wealth. The family is staying on Helen’s family’s estate for the holiday, and Noah resents being financially dependent on them.
Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson), meanwhile, is a Montauk local, a waitress whose husband, Cole (Joshua Jackson), has inherited his family’s ranch, which he runs with his brothers. We don’t know why, at first, but Alison and Cole are currently living with Cole’s overbearing mother. While the couple don’t necessarily have an affectionate relationship, we can see that Alison is dependent on - and close to - the Lockharts.
With both Noah and Alison deeply invested in their in-laws’ families, we realise immediately that neither of them would risk their marriage unless it was for something really explosive.
Noah and Alison both carry heavy baggage.
We realise immediately that these are not two people who just happen to have married the wrong person, only to discover their mistake when they meet each other, sailing off happily into the sunset together.
They’re much more real than that.
When Noah meets her, Alison is grieving, filled with immense sadness - and guilt. She and Cole have been through the worst few months that any couple could go through, and, although she puts up a good front, she is clearly not coping. She hints quite early on in the series that her past wasn’t a bed of roses, either.
Although Noah doesn’t share her particular pain, he is in a professional quandary with his second novel, which he’s struggling to get off the ground, and is constantly reminded of his inferiority next to his father-in-law, Bruce.
So when the sparks fly between Noah and Alison, we can understand why they would both be looking for a moment of relief from their real lives.
Their affair has real consequences that go beyond their own marriages.
Of course, Noah and Alison’s affair has the effect of breaking up at least one of their marriages (don’t worry, no spoilers here - we won’t tell you which!), but, just as in real life, their affair’s ripple effects spread out much further than their own spouses.
Noah’s eldest child, teenaged Whitney, starts acting out and flirting with danger as she senses the trouble at home. She’s like a ticking time bomb, and we’re just waiting for her to take one step too far.
And since Alison’s marriage and her relationships with her in-laws is almost interchangeable, we know that if her husband, Cole, finds out about the affair, she’s going to lose her home and pretty much the only family she’s got - and that the whole town will find out about it before long.
But the most dramatic consequence of all may be tied to the police investigation into the death of an unknown victim. From the cops’ interest in Noah and Alison, we can only assume that their relationship had something to do with it.