Hello, everyone. My name is Sara and I am neither married, in the throes of an extramarital affair, nor living somewhere out in the far-flung Hamptons and yet here I am, your humble recapper in Cheatersville. Population: at least 2.
If you’ve watched this premiere episode, you know that The Affair means to do things a little differently—with a he said/she said approach to how two people currently not married to each other ended up entangled. How this all comes about changes slightly depending on our (probably not so reliable) narrators. Consider this show the Rashoman of infidelity.
But first, let’s meet our adulterers. First up, we have Noah Solloway, played by Dominic West—who, depending on who you are, will remind you of the good ole McNulty days on the The Wire or as the dashing cad in such Oxygen classics as 28 Days and Mona Lisa Smile. Noah is a schoolteacher and novelist with four children and is married to Helen, played by Maura Tierney, who should remind absolutely everyone of the greatness of NewsRadio and Maura Tierney in general. They somehow manage to live in an insanely beautiful brownstone in Brooklyn (more on this later) and seem to be pretty happy. We learn that Noah likes to wake up and go for a swim before Helen even wakes up—rebuffing comely young ladies at the local pool and coming home ready to give his wife a morning… wake-up call.
The show wants us to know right away just how hard it is for these two to have sexy times together. At 7:16 a.m. they get about 35 seconds of quality nookie in before their children demand their attention. Kids! What can you do.
About these kids: Martin is really bummed about going to grandpa’s—who we later learn is a big deal Hollywood type—for the whole summer because it “sucks.” Noah points out that there’s two tennis courts and a sauna there, which categorically does not suck. Real talk. Martin also tries to fake a hanging, which is entirely creepy and weird, so who the hell knows what is wrong with him. We do know he hates his grandfather, and Noah admits he does too, but at least Martin stands to inherit some of it. Hmmm.
There’s a younger boy, Trevor, who wants to read Noah’s book, but we learn quickly that it might be too dirty (or “grown-up”) and that also it did not get great reviews. There’s also the oldest, a classic sulky teen named Whitney, who insists on wearing her sunglasses in the car though you can still just feel her rolling her eyes. Also, apparently smokes pot a lot. And rounding out the brood, we have little Stacy who is inadvertently responsible for Noah and Alison meeting. Which brings us to adulterer number 2…
Here’s Alison, played by Ruth Wilson, whom you might recognize from last year’s Saving Mr. Banks or Luther. Alison is married to scruffy surfer Cole—who, I’ll just warn everyone now, I’ll have a hard time not calling Pacey. Because, you guys, it’s Pacey! (Or, more accurately, Joshua Jackson.) Anyway it becomes very clear that all is not well in Alison and Cole’s beautiful house by the sea. We know this because Alison cuts oranges, showers, and even has sex with her hot husband all with a heavy cloud of sadness around her. It’s a particularly hard day for her, we learn, because it would have been the birthday of her son, Gabriel, who died at the age of 4 in 2012. And Cole and Alison are having a difficult time as each is handling their grief in entirely different ways. Alison tells the police in the present/future that she was 31 years old at the time her affair/mess started and that she had given herself to age 35 to get better. Later, Cole gets mad as she arrives late to a family dinner—that the great Mare Winningham, who plays Cole’s mom, made lasagna for—at her lack of effort in working past her grief, and rightly points out he lost a son, too. This is tough stuff.