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The Affair: Season One (2014)
DVD Released: 8/4/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Stephanie Long, Posted on 7/23/2015
I don't know if you have heard, but according to Hollywood, being married is the worst thing that can happen to a person. Especially if you are a man. If you watch enough television and movies, there is no doubt that once you get married, you rarely have sex anymore, your children will suck the life out of you, and your wife will live to emasculate you. Rarely does Hollywood ever attempt to show how complex marriage and love really is- in TV/movie land, marriage equals death to our happiness and personal identity, in turn making affairs inevitable, if not downright understandable.
Showtime's new series The Affair attempts to delve into the reasons behind an affair, as well as the chaos it creates in the lives of everyone involved, by telling both sides of an affair between two characters- Noah and Alison. Noah (Dominic West) is a struggling writer and teacher who takes his family of four to Montauk where his wife Helen's (Maura Tierney) successful writer father owns a toney home. On the way to their summer vacation, they stop in a local restaurant where waitress Alison (Ruth Wilson) works. An instant attraction happens between Noah and Allison, even though both are married. As the series progresses, we meet Alison's husband Cole (Joshua Jackson), whose family owns a working farm in which Noah's older son gets a summer job. Alison and Noah's marriage is tenuous following a tragedy two years earlier that both have trouble understandably being able to move on from. Noah's oldest daughter also catches the attention of one of Cole's brothers who works at the farm. The pieces are set in place from episode one for a complex, psychological examination of marriage, sex, and family. Throw in a murder mystery as well, and you have The Affair.
Some of the best dramas on TV have been made by HBO and Showtime, and The Affair has been well-received by many critics. It uses an interesting premise of showing Noah's version of events during one half of the show, and Alison's version during the other half. The show takes awhile to pick up speed, but when it does, there is enough interesting elements to hook most viewers. The actors are terrific, with Wilson and West making their characters multi-dimensional- they can go from making their character empathetic in one scene and unlikable the next depending on whose version of the story is being presented. Joshua Jackson (oh how I just love Pacey), is also quite good as a cuckolded husband who walks a fine line between care and concern for his traumatized wife and exasperation and frustration at her growing distance from him. However, the drama itself is never elevated to something special.
Part of the problem with the series is the fact that both parties involved in the affair see things from their own perspective and often the viewer is not sure what is the true story. Is Alison a temptress who looks for sex as a way to entertain herself, or is her personal grief so deep that she uses the attention she gets from Noah as a way to fill a deep void in her life so she can truly feel again? Is Noah's wife Helen a privileged woman who patronizes those below her station in life, or is she a supportive wife who only wants to encourage her husband to be the writer she knows he can be. Is Cole a loving support for Alison, or part of her difficulty moving through her tragedy? One would assume the truth is somewhere in the middle, just as it is in real life, and this "which version is the truth?" conceit is what makes the series initially very appealing. But the show does not appear to know for sure, and this difference in point-of-view is not as pronounced as the show progresses into more of a mystery surrounding a murder, as well as illegal actions taking place on Cole's family farm. It begins to lose the psychological intrigue into the affair and its aftermath as it becomes more about who could have murdered one of the characters. What starts out as compelling becomes tedious and less engaging as the series progresses.
The Affair: Season One could have used a third, more interesting perspective on DVD courtesy of Showtime Entertainment. The four-disc set contains all ten episodes of the show's first season. (Although, it should be pointed out that Disc 4 contains only bonus episodes of other Showtime shows and nothing related to The Affair.) The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times and no defects from the source materials. The colors in the show are intentionally muted, but they look fine, as there is no bleeding or oversaturation, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, as the image is rarely soft, but the picture is somewhat flat at times. Overall, this rivals HD broadcast quality. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The party and beach scenes offer up some mild surround and stereo effects who show pretty good separation. Otherwise, the bulk of the sound comes from the center channel.
The Affair: Season One DVD set contains only a few extras. We get a "Character Profile" for each of the following: Montauk (3 minutes), Noah (2 minutes), Helen (2 minutes), Alison (2 minutes), and Cole (2 minutes). These brief pieces include clips from the show and some comments from the actors. In "Tale of Two Costumes" (3 minutes), Costume Designer Caroline Duncan shows how there are subtle differences in the characters' clothing depending on whose perspective we are getting. The final extra is a series of text "Biographies" for West, Wilson, Tierney, and Jackson.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long