Review: The Affair, S4 E4

Are you watching The Affair? Picture: Steven Lippman/SHOWTIME

Are you watching The Affair? Picture: Steven Lippman/SHOWTIME - Credit: Steven Lippman/SHOWTIME

Are you hooked on season four of The Affair? Read our review of the latest episode.

Oh The Affair – what are you doing to us?

When I saw season four advertised I wasn't sure I was going to watch it because, honestly, I've been feeling a bit ambivalent towards the show for a while now.

Much as I still had the hots for Joshua Jackson from his (swoon) Pacey days, I'd felt for quite a long time that The Affair had dragged on (and on and on) to the point where I just didn't care anymore.

Who cared about jagged-edged, po-faced, Helen and all her neurosis?

Who cared about narcissist skirt-chaser Noah (Dominic West)?

Who cared about po-faced pouter Alison (Ruth Wilson)?

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And, more to the point – what the hell was the point of all those scenes in Paris last season? And who cared?

The Affair's writers have made it increasingly difficult for us to have any ounce of empathy for their characters and the tangled webs they've woven over the past three seasons. Flaws have been laid bare. We've seen their deepest, darkest moments. We know their secrets. And, yet, at the end of season three could we happily say we liked any of them?

How much more could they string these stories out? Could they actually make us care?

Having now watching the fourth episode of season four I can say it's a resounding yes.

This season is somewhat more self-reflective. It's like a dark veil has been swept aside, and the foursome are emerging from the chrysalis out of The Affair and into the future.

They are facing up to their demons like grown-ups and learning, for once, to deal with them. I'm actually starting to side with each of them, even Helen (now that's saying something).

Yes, she initially lost the plot last week and went into full-on Helen mode after Vic's shock cancer revelation. But having understood, seemingly for the first time, that she genuinely loves him and he's not just a crutch for all her woes, sitting in the car towards the end of episode three, she actually listened to Vic - and really heard him. She got it. Sometimes she needs to take other people's views into account.

I'm not sure a band aid baby will do anything to solve their problem though.

After a huge fall from grace and serious illness last season, Noah has comfortably settled back into the role of high school teacher and latched onto a kid he sees as having real potential. As with Helen, it's the first time in a long time we've witness Noah caring about anything other than himself and his own wants and needs.

He's no Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Minds) but he is out to make a difference.

Shame he hasn't wound down his womanising ways - and with the head teacher of all people! Will he take a step away from her to help his student instead? Let's watch this space.

And onto this week's episode which throws serious shade on two lesser characters – Louisa and Ben.

Pacey (sorry, Cole) has always been enveloped in this looming manliness. He's a patriarch. A boss. The husband. The man. The caretaker.

In this episode we see a softening of Cole who, instead of beating the crap out of the kid who stole his wallet and covered his face with permanent marker, dragged said kid to an AA meeting.

Old Cole would have definitely given him a hiding. There is an effort to be a better man. Even down to visiting his estranged mother for advice about wife Louisa who is on the verge of leaving him.

Louisa has backed Cole cowering into a corner. He either acknowledges that she 'matters' to him by having Alison declared 'on paper' an unfit mother, or he loses her for good.

I couldn't help thinking of Louisa in this episode as a wicked witch. Like Snow White's stepmother – she wants to be the fairest of them all in Cole's eyes.

Yes I sympathise, but this man came with a whole load of baggage, including a daughter who does need her mother.

Cole agrees in a very non-Cole way, to go walkabout for a while for clarity. I don't see what good that's going to do. The audience knows, and deep down so does Louisa, that a huge chunk of Cole's heart and soul will forever be tethered to his childhood sweetheart. She's entwined in his DNA and they are, through their shared past and tragedy, one another's anchor. I'm not ruling out a Cole-Alison reconciliation.

Now onto Alison, who's trying desperately to heal and better herself through a new career. She is definitely growing on me.

It's taken a long time but she appears to be on the road to recovery when in strolls last week's charming veteran Ben – a soldier in shining armour.

In Alison's version of events Ben is a benevolent, deep-thinking chap. The kind of clean-cut, polite young man you wished you could have taken home to meet your folks.

He's a decent man. A man who wants to better himself – which means no booze and no sex.

He's held Alison's hand. Listened to her tell stories and dreams she's never shared before. There's an almost implicit sense of trust between them. And it's the first time she's kept her knickers on in all the series' so far! Despite several steamy near misses, Alison even went so far as to tell Ben this week she likes not having sex with him.

Things were looking up. Until good old Ben betrayed us in Cole's story.

Gone is the polished Abercrombie look. And in AA he reveals a vicious cycle of women, drink and drugs (now he didn't tell Alison about those).

When it came out that he's very much still married, I'm sure I wasn't alone in wanting to give him a big fat slap about the chops.

Is he really 'separated' from his wife (because we all know what that usually means)?

I left this episode feeling truly sorry for Alison. Here was a man she could finally move on with, in a healthy relationship, and she may not know him at all.

I wonder how this one's going to pan out?

The Affair continues on Sky Atlantic next Tuesday, 9pm.

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