A Hunted Noah Dominates ‘The Affair’ Season 3 Premiere

The Affair Season 3 kicks off with a Noah-focused episode three years after the shocking Season 2 finale.

Showtime’s relationship drama The Affair returns tonight for its third season. Famous for dedicating episodes to dual perspectives on the same material, the premiere focuses instead on Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and his latest tribulations. Noah’s shocking proclamation of guilt at the end of Season 2 resulted in a 3-year stint behind bars. It’s a cliche to say that the experience changed him, but the outside world seems to have changed far more. The Affair Season 3 premiere settles on reintroducing Noah and the audience to this vastly altered world, and, in some ways, The Affair feels like a completely different show.

The Affair Season 3 premiere opens at the funeral of Noah’s father. There, Noah botches his eulogy by distractedly admitting to the distance between the two men. Later, a casual funeral-goer caustically informs Noah that his prison stint caused his father’s death. Perhaps connecting the dots, Noah tries to reconnect with his children, particularly Martin who takes a hardline stance on his father’s incarceration. He also tries to pacify his sister’s family after receiving his father’s house in the inheritance. None of it works. Everyone carries some degree of grudge against Noah.

Underscoring this familial drama is the presence of a mysterious man in a baseball cap. The hidden figure lingers just out of reach in nearly every scene, exponentially escalating Noah’s anxiety. We later discover that the man (Brendan Fraser) appears to be a prison guard, but the connection between the two isn’t immediately drawn. Closing events in the episode potentially indicate that their relationship was not a good one.

Affair Season 3
(Photo: Phil Caruso/SHOWTIME)

As different at The Affair Season 3 premiere felt, you do fall back into the Solloway world fairly quickly. Credit the clear and engaging writing of writer/producer Sarah Treem. The series already demonstrated an ability to grow and evolve over its short run, so there’s little surprise that Season 3 feels even more different than those before it. Distancing itself from the obsessed-upon multiple perspectives seems like a wise choice as we orient ourselves to the apparent theme of Season 3 – the rehabilitation of Noah Solloway. However, moments exist – particularly its unexpectedly bloody close – that feel completely removed from the soul of the show.

The introduction of Noah’s colleague Juliette Le Gall (Irene Jacob) as a potential love interest also initially feels like a step in an awkward direction. Perhaps that’s due to the unresolved questions around his marriage to Allison. Perhaps that’s due to my personal disdain for academia. There is one scene in particular where academics discuss “courtly love” at a dinner party that felt like bamboo shoots up my fingernails. Is this satire? Is this heartfelt? I’m not quite sure.

Still, I will always trust the creative team behind the series. Noah Solloway never emerged as one of my favorite characters, so the team faces an uphill battle with me. I wanted more time with Helen (Maura Tierney). I wanted Alison’s (Ruth Wilson) perspective. All of these things will come obviously, so maybe I’m being impatient. A premiere focused on the martyr Noah Solloway wasn’t something I particularly needed, but I’m ultimately glad to return to the show’s world. Just don’t leave me stranded on Noah’s island too long please. It’s a sleazy place to be.

The Affair Season 3 premieres tonight at 10pm ET on Showtime.

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