There is so much fun to be had with subjective point-of-view. Some of my favorite dramatic questions include:
- Is this narrator mentally unstable?
- Is this narrator lying to manipulate me or because they truly believe in their version of events?
- Did this event really happen this way or is this how someone imagined it to happen?
Sadly, as of right now there are no clues that any of the main characters of The Affair are insane or murderous a la The Cask of Amontillado, but who knows? This show’s got an interesting take on an affair told by both the man and woman involved, and their memories of how the shenanigans got started is quite different.
Premise. Interesting. I don’t think we see enough manipulation of memory biases and other forms of subjective storytelling in TV. The last show that came close was Awake, a brilliant but complicated show in which we questioned which was reality and which was the protagonist’s dream.
Tone. Dark as hell. One of the Noah’s kids pretended to commit suicide in the beginning of the story, and after Noah and Ali meet and go their separate ways after he checks out their snazzy outdoor shower, Noah seems to observe Ali being raped by her husband, but we realize once we switch to Ali’s perspective that she wanted him to bend her over the car and it was consensual, which seems like a forced plot necessity that doesn’t quite ring true. In the end of the pilot, we also realize that this is a police investigation. I think the tone works for the show because if it were happy-go-lucky or anything too light then it would have nowhere to turn.
Characters. I find myself wanting more from the characters. While I think the performances were great, I can’t help but feel Ali’s character was defined by her grief for her lost child and nothing more. I don’t think I can really see her as a character outside of that, and I don’t get a picture of what she was like before. Noah was a little one note (strong, loyal father) but the discrepancies in his memory of himself saving his choking daughter and Ali’s memory of her saving his daughter could mean that he maybe views himself as the noble hero but actually isn’t.
Longevity. The story engine of this show is whether or not Ali and Noah will sleep together and what are the consequences of them hiding their inevitable affair. To be honest, there almost isn’t much to go off of here, and the “Next Time On…” preview at the end of the episode hinted at an interesting twist with a murder of some sort which could provide a new story engine (albeit a slightly contrived one.)
The idea doesn’t quite seem to fit traditional TV storytelling, which is why it will be interesting to watch it continue. However, I’d like to see more character development with Ali and what her inner wants/needs are and how they’re driven by who she was before the death of her child.
The show is worth a watch and has a promising start, and I’ll be curious how the show progresses.