The Affair is not what you would describe as a light show, but there were plenty of laughs to be had at the PaleyFest New York panel this week. Showrunner Sarah Treem and the cast discussed the new season including how adding Helen and Cole’s points of view has expanded the world of the show by offering up four different takes of the overarching story. The general conceit is touched upon with the idea that there is no one ‘true truth’ being offered up and instead we are now getting four different versions of one affair and its impact.
Plus find out which actor gets the most shit in real life about their character (spoiler alert – it is Dominic West).
The new POVs mean we get to move beyond the central love story and Dominic West mentions how in the first season Noah and Alison were falling in love and so generally they were on the same page. With Helen and Cole their feelings toward this relationship come from a place of betrayal and so their versions are in contrast; sometimes wildly so as we saw in the mediation and when Cole returns some of Alison’s things. It is no longer a case of spot the difference with clothes, hair style and tone, but a completely different take on an experience.
These extreme differences worked better for me in the second episode in the Cole/Alison encounter because there was a lot of wish fulfillment from Cole’s view; it was all about reconciling this relationship ending in a cordial manner and accepting that it is over. For Alison, Cole is menacing and a bit of a dick; this justifies her decision to leave. The box (which I’m guessing belonged to their child) is absent in Cole’s story and his day was already pretty bleak without this reminder.
Degrees of favorability come up and how generally the best version of a character is in their own story. This isn’t always the case with Joshua Jackson pointing out Cole’s day involves cocaine, drink driving and an aggressive run in with his brother. He also mentions a random blow job, but this scene didn’t make it into the second episode and this is one of the many jovial moments from the panel. While I don’t need The Affair to become all laughs all the time, it would be good if they could inject a sprinkling of the humor as this is a group of actors who have really great chemistry off screen as well as on. From this panel I know I need some more scenes between Cole and Helen; evidence in the photos below.
The Affair is a show that I find really interesting and infuriating at times in part because of the narrative structure and the storytelling device. This season is already more in the interesting column over infuriating as a result of the new perspectives and giving Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson more to do. Ruth Wilson also points out that Alison’s sadness has been dialed back a bit this year (“for you guys as much as me”) and while some of the standout scenes dealt with Alison’s all consuming grief, this is a welcome move.
Prior to this discussion the PaleyFest audience have just watched the third episode (airing Sunday 18) so there are a couple of ‘huh?’ moments in what they are referencing, but nothing particularly spoilery. Dominic West discusses the challenges of underwater acting so I will be keeping an eye out on his facial expressions during that scene.
At the end the cast are asked which of the other characters they have previously played would they like to see spend a day in The Affair universe and both Ruth Wilson and Maura Tierney come up with funny answers. But I don’t want to spoil it so just watch the panel here for that and enjoy the rest of this lighthearted affair (I will see myself out).