7 Changes We Need to See in ‘The Affair’ Season 4
Showtime’s The Affair returns for its fourth season this week, but before it does, we have some serious requests.
At its best, the psychological drama takes a bruising look at how people try to live by the truths they’ve made up for themselves. At its worst, it’s an uneven and disorienting mess that runs its characters in circles. Season 3 muddied the water in several ways, starting and ending with Noah (Dominic West) — the show’s most frustrating character.
If the show is to bounce back in the upcoming season, it’s going to have to make some significant changes. Here are some major problems we’d like to see solved.
Change Noah’s storyline
Let’s just address this off the bat. The show’s Noah Problem went bad from worse last season when his hallucinations were manifested by an old, festering wound. We discovered that after his ailing mother begged him to, he assisted her in her suicide – a memory that haunts him to this day.
Delving into Noah’s mental health proved to be troubling at best. On one hand, the story aimed to excuse the repulsive behavior of a failing father and husband. And on the other, it tried to peel back on the origins of a man bent on upending his life. But on some level, it felt extreme and unnecessary.
In the new season, we’d like to see Noah tread a more stable path. We want to see him get out of his own way and the way of others, and maybe try to not make such a mess of things.
Get Alison back on her feet
Alison (Ruth Wilson) has had a rough go since the beginning of the show. She reached a breaking point last season when she abandoned her baby daughter and admitted herself in a mental institute. There’s something to be said about female characters who can bounce back after hitting rock bottom.
Her journey has been fascinating to watch, as we’ve oscillated between liking her and resenting her, sometimes both in the same breath.
It’s clear that Cole (Joshua Jackson) and Alison will always be drawn to each other. Their shared pain over losing their son resulted in their inability to fully remove themselves from each other’s lives, despite the damage done to their marriage.
But, we’d like to see Alison rise up and take responsibility for herself and her choices, and maybe not get sucked back into a relationship with her married ex.
Take a break from the core relationships
This might be a tall order because the show truly orients itself around the fragmented lives of Noah, Alison, Helen (Maura Tierney), and Cole, and how they’re intertwined together. But part of Season 4’s logline is about these characters’ attempt to move on (as if they can truly do that before the series finale).
If that’s really the case, we’d love to see our core four settle into new relationships, be it romantic or platonic.
It’s probably true that as long as the show goes on, none of the characters will truly escape one another and the inevitable grief that follows them, but some distance could be a good thing, and in this situation, it might be necessary.
Give Helen some autonomy
Helen’s emotional downfall is the fact that she can’t stop being in love with Noah, and it’s hard to watch. Her loneliness and desire for a destructive man paint a picture of a woman not totally in control. She revolves her entire world around him, even neglecting the needs of her children in the process, let alone her own needs.
And that needs to change. Helen needs to take a stand for herself this season. When Helen is able to break her cycle with Noah and step into an uninterrupted life with Vic, then she’ll truly be free.
Show less Whitney
Noah and Helen’s oldest child oddly got a lot of real estate in the show despite being unbearable. Whitney’s (Julia Goldani Telles) turn as the rebellious, irreverent daughter-from-hell grew tired over the course of three seasons. It’d be fine by us if we see Whitney in small doses in Season 4, as long as she shows real growth and maturity.
Repurpose the memory structure
The most intriguing part of The Affair has always been the use of point-of-view, how two characters could experience the same event yet extract and internalize completely different things from it. But now, it feels like the show has been continuing this tradition without it adding to anything. The use of multiple perspectives needs to be reinvigorated somehow.
Find something to do with Luisa
Another frustrating element has been the characterization of Luisa, (Catalina Sandino Moreno) Cole’s wife, who turned into an insensitive jerk over the course of last season. Her highly questionable actions — like keeping Alison away from her own child and blaming her for her mental health issues — feels like the show’s obvious attempt to make Cole cheating on her with Alison more acceptable. But having a pestering wife – who used to be quite charming when first introduced — doesn’t excuse Cole’s affair, or his inability to let go of a doomed relationship with Alison.
It’s unclear what the show intends on doing with Luisa — not making her a point-of-view character was a wasted opportunity — but it’s clear that the show has never been interested in making her a character in her own right, but rather as a means for Cole to choose between his past and present.
The Affair has the ability to be visually and tonally rich. It can sweep us up in its lyricism, its ability to explore complicated, selfish feelings and decisions. But it can also get lost in itself and try too many things that don’t work. Hopefully, Season 4 can reinvent itself or return to the storytelling that made it so enthralling to watch in the first place.
The Affair, Season Premiere, Sunday, June 17, 9/8c, Showtime