Note: This review contains spoilers from The Affair‘s Season Two finale.
So they both did it.
The Affair‘s Season Two finale revealed that Scott Lockhart (Colin Donnell) was killed by Maura Tierney’s Helen who was driving Noah Solloway’s (Dominic West) car… but only after Ruth Wilson’s Alison (accidentally?) pushed him directly in front of the car to rebuke his sexual advances. Not to be outdone, however, Noah ultimately and very dramatically proclaimed that he killed Scott Lockhart during his trial in Montauk, unable to choose which woman to protect.
The Season Two finale was a breathless episode, one that I am still processing honestly. It featured fantastic character moments between both Helen and Noah, leading viewers to imagine a potential rekindling of their tortured relationship, and Alison and Cole, solidifying his love for Luisa and forever closing the door on his love affair with Alison. Every actor here was on top of their game in this exceedingly well written episode, penned by series creator Sarah Treem. Dominic West, in particular, had a few very nice, emotional moments as he reacted in a very negative way (in his version anyway) to Joanie’s parentage. Not to be outdone, Ruth Wilson – who has taken a bit of a step back this season given Maura Tierney’s increased role within the series – gave a master class in acting as she told Noah (in her version) about Joanie’s parentage and silently shattered as he took his arm off her shoulder. It was a shot to the gut, perfectly executed and underscored by Colin Donnell’s drunken yet poignant rendition of “House of the Rising Sun.”
As with last year’s finale, the question of the wildly different takes on the same events still perplexes, but, ultimately, lingering on the question is a distraction from the beauty of the series. The narrators here continue to be dangerously unreliable as they shift events, color conversations, and shade the truth to make them look so much sharper, so much more in control, than they actually are.
The Affair‘s second season has, in effect, catapulted it into a much more mature, more accomplished series. Season One was driven by the thrill of Alison and Noah’s affair in its early stages, so Season Two’s focus on the aftermath of their choices can only result in a darker, more serious tone. Still, the continued focus on women, particularly mothers, and the often unpleasant exploration of Noah Solloway made Season Two a tougher, more rewarding experience. From this emerges Maura Tierney as the queen of it all, giving a beautifully complex performance over the season. Her Season Two journey saw a transition from mental breakdown to acceptance to rebuilding a life on her own terms, away from the shadow of her meddling and neurotic mother.
If Season Two is recognized for anything at all, then let it continue to be Maura Tierney’s fantastic and raw work. The choice to broaden the series and incorporate hers (and Cole’s) perspectives was the right choice. We have reaped the rewards.