FYC: Showtime’s Brilliant ‘The Affair’

The Affair

Showtime’s The Affair has been ignored by the Television Academy. Let season two’s brilliant turns change that.

In the autumn of 2014, Showtime unveiled The Affair, an ingenious show that rewrote rules for storytelling. During a time when viewers were surrounded by excellent and challenging television, The Affair stood out as original and profound. It was met with high critical reception, many branding it as the best new show of the 2014 fall season. The Hollywood Foreign Press doused it with Golden Globe nominations and and awarded the program two wins, Drama Series and Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Judging from how well it was received until the point of Emmy nominations last year, The Affair was poised to be a big player for primetime television accolades. But it was shut out and did not receive a single nomination from voting members of Television Academy. This was cause for devastation for fans of this superb show.

The Affair returned for a second season, one that was reached higher and farther in its ambition than did the concise and compact first season. The twelve episodes produced in The Affair’s second year represent the uncompromising tenacity and of the artistic team that works on the show. Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi’s series has only grown stronger and more resonant with maturity. The current Emmy cycle is the time to salute The Affair for what it has accomplished and brought to television in the past two years. If the Television Academy does not honor The Affair this year, it’s quite possible they never will. The show would then join the ranks of The Americans and The Good Wife as an Emmy-snubbed artistic masterpiece that is innovative and much smarter than the social climate it was created in.

When we talk about achievements in the arts, it’s quite possible none match what The Affair has done with its premise. Over the course of an hour, the series tells the same story from the perspective of two characters. Something that is easy to forget when one is watching the show is that the viewer is being exposed to two subjective narratives, and the truth, essentially, is being withheld. It’s a dazzling and novel method of telling a story, one that’s intricately drawn by the writers, directors, actors, and everyone who works on the show. The Affair is not an easy production to construct, but the crew  makes their elaborate effort appear natural and easy, which benefits the show on a greater scale, allowing for the emotional lives of the characters to densely breathe.

The reason the second season of The Affair was so impressive is because of the intrepid narrative expansion. The writers not only allowed us to see the story being told from the perspectives of the show’s two main characters, but we were granted permission to witness the story from the point-of-views of spouses of the leading characters who were damaged by the events from the first season. Allowing for not only Noah and Allison but Helen and Cole to headline their own stories was such an effective move by the creators that I distinctly remember the visceral emotional reactions I had after watching most of the episodes months ago. And to keep challenging themselves, the show’s writers dropped the premise for one episode and allowed for a more objective tale be told in the most historic episode of in the story of The Affair thus far, episode 209.

There is so much power in the pain and passion The Affair showed this season. Aside from the new formula the show as using, The Affair dug deeper and wider with the plot it put forward. The second season was more epic and told a longer story chronologically than season one. In covering so much ground in such a short span of episodes, things changed rapidly and in big ways, and characters were moved in unpredictable directions. The second season was always grinding out new ideas and never grew stale.

The area of The Affair that shines through any missteps it might take is the acting. Assembled is a group of actors with sharp capabilities, in particular with those who play the four central characters. Ruth Wilson followed her sublime work in season one with another lofty punch, unveiling Allison’s more independent side and hammering in dramatic emotion like few other actresses are able to. Dominic West was given a darker narrative to run with as Noah in the second season and it provided him an opportunity to develop the character in an optimal way that showcased his acting abilities. Joshua Jackson is also memorable and leaves a greater impact than he did in the previous season.

These actors deserve consideration in their respective categories, but the real star of The Affair in this past season was Maura Tierney, who won a Golden Globe for her work this year. Helen instantly became the most interesting character on the show, and Tierney delivered raw and soulful portrait of a woman who is self-destructing under personal suffering. If nominated, Tierney could walk away from the Emmy ceremony with a trophy in hand from her work in “204” alone.

It’s poetic. It drips of class and refinement. No other show has displayed the drive and audacity that it has. The Affair has earned a right to be considered fully and seriously for Primetime Emmy nominations. Members of the Television Academy, please look to Showtime’s series for merits and vote it into the club this year.

Potential Nominations
Drama Series
Ruth Wilson, Lead Actress
Dominic West, Lead Actor
Maura Tierney, Supporting Actress
Cynthia Nixon, Guest Actress Drama
Kathleen Chalfant, Guest Actress Drama

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