[This is a review of the series premiere of The Affair. There will be SPOILERS.]
Much like David Fincher's highly successful new film Gone Girl, Showtime's latest drama superbly focuses on the nuance that exists in our everyday relationships - specifically those between men and women. The Affair is thankfully so much more than its title suggests, filled with a few twists you might not see coming.
At first glance, this series created by HBO alums Sara Treem and Hagai Levi (In Treatment) appears to be nothing more than a story about a restless father looking for some excitement in the form of a beautiful young stranger. The Affair clings to that old trope until half-way through, when the narrative switches perspectives to the female point of view. This is where the story gets interesting.
Throughout this nearly hour-long pilot a voice (possibly a detective) is asking both Noah (Dominic West) and Alison (Ruth Wilson) what kind of people they used to be, or who they were at a specific moment in time. It's difficult to say what exactly has happened, or how much time has passed between the past and present - perhaps someone was murdered? Either way, we do know that Alison has a child, which she did not in the flashbacks. Her story, for this reviewer's money was the more compelling of the two.
That is not to say that Noah's story lacks merit, but it's a perspective we've seen too much of in recent memory. Interestingly enough, The Affair would not work as well as it does without the male perspective first. Treem and Levi do a wonderful job at lulling the viewer into a state of restless familiarity with Noah's view, only to suddenly take us into the mind of Alison. For viewers, the question now is whose story do you choose to believe? So far, Noah and Alison appear to each have their own demons, but who's the victim in this scenario?
Another vital strength of this series are the strong performances led by the talents of Dominic West (The Wire) and Ruth Wilson (Luther). Both British-born actors excel in these roles, each possessing characteristics that will either make you fall in love with them, or despise their very existence. In a way, they have to play two different versions of themselves throughout the season, depending on who's telling the story. It's a subtle art to master with Wilson and West putting on a clinic.
The rest of the cast, which include's Joshua Jackson (Fringe) and Maura Tierney (The Good Wife) fill their roles nicely, but it's too early to tell how crucial their stories will be in the long term. The Affair appears to be trying to set up an engaging mystery, yet Alison and Noah's relationship are still the main draw for this premiere. A "who-done-it" can be fun, but a story about the psychological stresses and desires of a relationship is what could make this series stand out from all the rest.
If you enjoyed Fincher's Gone Girl, or Showtime's critically acclaimed Masters of Sex series, then this is a show you'll want to check out. Mysteries aside, West and Wilson's performances are reason enough to give The Affair a chance. For those of you who saw the premiere, what did you think? Stay tuned to see what happens next.
The Affair continues next Sunday @10pm on Showtime. Watch the first episode in its entirety below:
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